Smith: Step it up, small business owners

We always blame the evil corporations for the failure of small business, but how much of this failure is actually self-inflicted?

A few months ago, The Lamron ran an editorial encouraging students to support small businesses in Geneseo. It seemed like a no-brainer. Why not support local business? With high hopes, I set out on a quest to acquire materials for an oil painting stretch canvas from local stores.

My first stop was Sundance Books for three large canvases. I left an hour later with only two canvases and a bad taste in my mouth.

While the workers cut my canvases, they griped constantly, making sure I knew that they were going far above and beyond the call of duty to provide me with a service I was paying them for.

Next was Geneseo Lumber, and even after the Sundance experience I still hadn't lost my American-dream optimism. Surely these kind local woodworkers would accommodate my vision! Wrong.

Although I knew exactly what I needed, I was still treated like I was wasting their time rather than giving them valuable business. It was nearly impossible to find wood that didn't look warped, and it took a worker ages to get off his sawdust-covered rear and chop it up for me. I didn't even bother to ask him to cut it to the correct proportions - he was making it too clear to me that he wanted me gone.

Granted, these materials were fairly cheap compared to what I might have paid at a corporation-owned store. But after sawing my boards apart, nailing them into a seemingly perfect rectangle, and tacking on my "quarter rounds," I realized several things:

1. Apparently, they hadn't even sold me quarter rounds.

2. My canvas barely fit on its frame.

3. The wood for my stretcher bars was irreversibly, unforgivably warped.

After pouring hours of hard work and sweat into this canvas, I was left with a deformed mess of a painting surface that might not be salvageable. Why? Because our local businesses sold me inferior products. Not only was I met with horrendous customer service, but I was also provided with poor materials. And we wonder why local businesses can't compete with big corporations!

I work for the Sears Holding Corporation, but I've never treated even my rudest customers (and trust me, I get some whackjobs) with anything but the utmost respect and consideration. The Sundance and Lumber employees had no right to treat me like a nuisance. I wasn't asking them to move Mount Kilimanjaro; I was asking them to do their jobs.

I'm not trying to make a blanket statement that all small businesses are bad. I've had wonderful experiences at stores like Buzzo's and my favorite little gem, Joe's Comics. A few bad impressions made by a handful of lazy workers, though, can sabotage all the other hardworking entrepreneurs in Geneseo. Until these private owners shape up and make their paying customers feel appreciated, I'll feel no qualms about buying lumber at Lowe's.