Wednesday, August 17, 2011

They can afford it

I saw that comment recently. It was in regards to a large company and the feeling was because they were large, it didn't really matter if they lost money, because they could afford it. I've never particularly cared for that attitude. It seems to say that it's okay to take from someone if you think it won't impact their life. I ran into that feeling another time that same week. Only this time it was in regards to me.

Our store was robbed a few weeks ago. I wasn't at home, so I missed out on that 5 am phone call from the police. You know when the phone rings at that time, it's never going to be good. By the time I heard about it, the police had been and gone, the locksmith had been and gone, and everything looked normal.

But normal was gone. We spent time that weekend researching security systems. Don't get me wrong, we did have alarms and a monitoring system. The fact that it works well, the police station is 3 blocks from our store, and well, 5 am is kind of a slow time from them, all worked in our favor. We're fairly certain that it was about 4 minutes from the time the door was broken until the police showed up.

We also have assumed that the reason there was "only" the damage done was because of the quick response. So we looked at security systems, and then had to figure out the best place to put the camera's, so that we can at least have a chance of seeing who it is that cares so little about others they would break in and steal stuff.

There was an outpouring of support from regulars, friends, family and strangers that read about it in the paper. We had at least one person come in to make a purchase because they read about it in the paper. It was a wonderful feeling. and yet....

There is always someone, isn't there? There were a few comments such as, "well you have insurance don't you? so it's not like it really hurt you!" "it's not like you won't get that money back", (actually we won't. but thanks for your concern)

People make assumptions all the time. Some of them I don't understand. Everyone has insurance on their vehicle. They know about deductibles, but somehow they don't think about that with a business. We are out our entire deductible. That's money gone. We'll be able to claim it as a loss on our taxes, but it's not like we don't have to cover that expense. The product that was taken was already paid for, and we have to pay again to replace it. That's a big expense for a business. Your expenses are based on what you assume you're going to sell. To have to repurchase without selling throws that budget out of whack. Most small businesses don't have a huge cash flow. Money goes out just as fast as it comes in!

So we were out product, which means cash off the bottom line. We had to buy a security system and I'll answer another question here, this isn't something available for less than $100. We're not installing a web cam on a shelf. This is a serious system, but you can see for yourself at Sam's Club, they run from $250 - $1500. We had to get product on the shelf. The product that was stolen is the driving force of our sales. It's the reason a lot of people come in to the store. Not having product is the quickest way to drive people away. We needed it today. So that meant a trip to another store to purchase what they could share, and an emergency shipment from the distributor, with it's attendant costs.

Then we can add in the time. The 7 hours before we opened that day with no locking door before the locksmith got there. The hours we've spent with the police officers working on the case. I can only imagine what kind of time will be involved when they catch the person responsible.

And the other cost. The feeling of violation, the broken trust, someone that knew us, and knew the product (based on what they took, they knew exactly what they were doing) felt it was perfectly fine to take from us. The store isn't a hobby for us. It's profit isn't strictly for our entertainment. That profit pays our mortgage, it puts food on the table, and a couple of times a year, it's able to pay for some form of entertainment. We've lost those for a while.

I think people have an odd idea of how much money a business makes. I know I've encountered it before, we've had people ask what a good day was, asking if $75,000-80,000 was typical. I wanted to fall out of my chair in hysterics. I'll let you in a a little secret: a good day is less than 2% of that. Plus there is the minor detail that what comes in is not all profit. There are a lot of expenses that come out of that, and most days are not even "good" days. We don't expect them to be, it's not reasonable to think that all days are going to be high selling days.

So for us to lose most of a month's profit, yeah, it hurts. To have that denigrated because losing it means that we have to give up things, that hurts. I don't really expect people to "poor baby" us, but don't denigrate our loss. That's rude and frankly, a bit condescending. The sad part is those few rude comments stick around longer than the nice comments, and there are far more of them.

When I hear someone say, "they can afford the loss, they make enough" I wonder how much the speaker really understands what a loss can mean.

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