Merge's Blog

Strategic thinking leads to lasting business and professional success

Recently I had an experience with a local service provider that once again illustrated to me how some (so-called) business people simply can’t think beyond the short-term.  Back in March, I bought a gift certificate for a manicure/pedicure at the little nail studio in my neighbourhood here in Calgary.  I called a few weeks ago to book my appointment and was surprised when the person on the phone told me that she wouldn’t honour it.

“We’re no longer called Extreme Nails,” explained Emily.  “I bought the studio from the previous owner and it’s now called Excellent Nails.  Since this is a certificate you bought from the previous owner, it is no longer valid.”

[Note: the names of the studios and the new owner have been changed]

I suggested to Emily that since I was a repeat customer, it would be in her best interest to honour the certificate as the potential existed for me to become a regular customer at her shop, but to no avail.  As I hung up the phone, I mentally shrugged, putting it down to a poor purchase combined with some bad luck.  But then, a few days later, I walked past the store, and curious, I stopped in for just a minute.  Other than the name on the awning, nothing had changed – the furniture, the equipment and the layout were all the same; even the phone number was the same.  Perhaps more importantly, other than two staff members, there was absolutely no one else in the shop – not one single customer!  Over the next few weeks, every time I walked down the street, I glanced in, and invariably, Emily’s shop was empty save the people who worked there.  Emily’s shop wasn’t exactly bustling with trade!

So here’s my perspective.  My phone call to book an appointment was a gold-plated opportunity for the new owner to build some goodwill with a returning customer.  Because she wouldn’t honour a pre-paid certificate, she gave me a disincentive to stay; in fact, she gave me a huge reason to take my (frequent and steady) business elsewhere.  Given that she was just starting out (and customers weren’t exactly breaking her door down) you would think that she would value the opportunity to build a relationship with a potential client.  But I don’t think Emily could see beyond the short-term.  She simply did not “get” that long-term positive relationships, built one at a time, are what lead to lasting success.  While I sincerely hope that I am wrong, my prediction is that this shop will probably not survive for very long.  The real tragedy is that Emily will probably lose at least some of her investment, and it could have been avoided if she just thought more strategically.

What do you think?  Do you agree that Emily should not have honoured my pre-paid certificate?  Or should she have taken the opportunity to cultivate me as a long-term customer?


  • Yes, and yes. Honouring the certificate would have led to long-term customer — they go hand in hand.
    She’d obviously turned away many others the same way!

  • Glad to see you agree Kirsten. I actually walked by there again just the other day and unfortunately there are still no customers! I really wish she’d have thought in terms of the “bigger picture”!

  • what a pity , she not only lost you and other potential customers perhaps as well.
    ijust opened a boutique and I always try to use creative ways to draw in customers and for them to come again.
    And I am always open to learning from them and listening to their needs and feed back.
    And honouring the return policy as well.
    thanks for all your contribution

  • Umerath, I think your attitude will lead you to great success in your new venture! It’s been my experience that people who think strategically in terms of both customers and operations are the ones that have a great deal of success! I would say good luck, but I know that it’s not about that — it’s about effort and it sounds like you have that well under control!


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