By Alex Gladu
Shoppers and businesses should be on the lookout for costly scams; especially during retail holidays like Valentine’s Day. Fraudulent companies or individuals can make attractive promises in the form of discounts, speedy shipping or convenient online ordering. A tactic you might be less familiar with, some even pretend to be locally owned, taking advantage of events and promotional opportunities. Buy local scams can happen all year long, so it’s important to learn to recognize them.
Buying local seems to grow more and more popular with each year. In fact, according to a recent survey by Yodle, 82 percent of consumers already use small businesses, and 48 percent plan to choose more small businesses this year. As buying local becomes more popular, non-local businesses may want to stake a claim to the buy local movement by positioning themselves as independently owned.
There are several ways that a non-local business can trick consumers into thinking they’re local. For instance, business owners can register a telephone number in a certain area code, only to have it redirect to a national call center with a team of dispatchers and contractors based throughout the country. In this case, the business may appear local, but it actually operates nationally, with very little connection to your community at all. Similarly, national chains can launch spin-off businesses that claim to be local, but are actually just a subsidiary of a larger corporation. Businesses can further convince consumers of their local status with websites that “recommend” other local businesses and company names that suggest a connection to a specific city or state.
Shopping at locally owned businesses keeps money in your community and creates local jobs. When businesses falsely portray themselves as locally owned, they not only betray their customers and take money out of the community, but they also divert money and business away from the truly locally owned businesses that could be doing good for the community. Consumers are constantly bombarded with brand messages offering the best deals, the best service and the best products. Genuine locally owned businesses excel in helping customers find what they need year round, and consumers increasingly recognize the value that small businesses provide.
Whether you begin researching businesses online or head downtown, make sure the local businesses you support are as local as they claim to be. Be skeptical of any business that doesn’t list a specific physical location in your community. Don’t hesitate to ask for more information about a business if you are unsure. Local business owners and employees will be able to tell you their company’s history, values and expertise – and they won’t hesitate to tell their Main Street Story.