Today I have an agenda. Not just any agenda, but one very close to my heart. Those of you who know me can attest to the fact that I rarely use my blog to complain, but I was out of phone numbers today and needed to blow off some steam so here it is.
You see, I spent all of today working. I did not see the sunshine or my children at all. From the time I woke up at 6:30 am, I have been busy running our family bookstore, Blue Thistle Books; entering products, answering 2 bazillion emails, and trying to stretch an ordinary 24 hours into 72. I also have the responsibility of caring for ailing parents. My mother has a brain injury that left her without the ability to walk and talk for a very long time. Now that she is better able to care for herself, she will reenter the hospital once again next week to have part of her esophagus removed. This has left me with the big unanswered question, What will my life be like next week? I guess I am part of what’s called “the squeeze generation,” and yet in this single parent home, there is only one person that is being squeezed.
I battle constant stress, have terrible headaches, and constant burning in my abdomen, no doubt also from my hectic-no-room-for-fun-and-games life. There is rarely a day that goes by that I don’t want to throw in the towel and call it quits because the knot in my throat is so large, it’s hard to swallow.
The reason I work at home, is so I, a single parent can homeschool my children. I did not decide to homeschool because of a desire to give up every waking moment of my day, struggling with bad attitudes, or a fondness for lack of sleep and an empty wallet, but because we live in a very bad school system, where my children were in danger. A school system where keeping order is the priority and education is a far second. A school system where my 10th grade daughter was threatened with a gun and not a single phone call from the administration was made to inform me of the incident.
Now, I don’t expect those of you who do not homeschool to care one way or the other about my personal choices or my lack of vitamin D. However, for those of you that do homeschool and understand my heart felt decision to keep my children at home where they are safe and can be taught godly principles, you just might understand what I am about to say.
When I started this business, it was my ultimate goal to provide excellent prices and excellent customer service and I feel we have done a great job in both those areas. Since the beginning, every email that I have received has been answered in a timely manner with a smile…yes, you can read a smile. Every phone call is returned promptly and courteously. Every sales receipt is sent out with a handwritten thank you, including my customer’s first name because… I want each one of them to feel important. Why? Because they are. Without them, I would be working a full time job and my kids would not have a parent at home. They would be part of the lost generation our country is raising.
Aside from those things, I deliver to my local customers, (all ten of them in CT – surprised? Me too,) despite the rising cost of fuel and I open my home to total strangers, just so they can see the curriculum before they purchase it.
Now I am not trying in any way to toot my own horn. My point in telling you all of this is, last week I opened my home to a customer – a customer driving a Lexus. Before leaving, the customer placed a special order for a new product and when it arrived he decided he didn’t want it. That product cost me $50.00 out of pocket to have him change his mind. He then asked how much another book was that he special ordered, only to complain that it wasn’t as low as the BIG GUYS. (This particular product was not one that we carried, I ordered it as a courtesy.) The customer said, “Well, the BIG GUYS sell it for $9.99.” The fact is, it cost me $10.16 wholesale just to buy it. If I were to sell it at $9.99, I would be loosing money. I wish conversations like this were the exception and not the rule, but it’s a story that’s all too familiar.
Now I’m not condemning those of you that shop at the BIG GUY, I just want you to understand, that we little guys, do not buy books and curriculum in palettes, we buy a few of an item, so we don’t get BIG GUY discounts. That being said, we are very close to the BIG GUYS on most items and on some, we are even lower. How is that possible? It is possible because I haven’t kept a 25% profit margin since we started, and after marking every item down to try and compete with the BIG GUYS, we may not make it another year.
Now beyond that, why should you shop at the little guy? I’ll tell you why? Because when you shop at the little guy, whether it be me or another small homeschool store, you are keeping a family alive. You are supporting them, so they can homeschool and feed their children. Isn’t that reason enough?
I know some of you are on a very tight budget, with only one income. I know how that feels, believe me. The only difference is, I don’t have someone to share the burden, yet I still make every effort to buy a gift or product at Etsy instead of the large department store down the street. I know there is a mother with children on the other end of that purchase that may need the money.
The fact is, if we as homeschoolers don’t keep the little guy going, we will all be buying curriculum that is put out by companies like Alpha Omega and Bob Jones.
Today, most curriculum is published by small family operations that are struggling to make ends meet. They work tirelessly, running to conventions and giving of their time to bring us the curriculum we love. And then there are the local homeschool stores that are scattered across the country. How many people go into those stores to view the curriculum and then go home to order it online from the BIG GUY online for a lower price?
Now I’m not saying there is any crime in looking for the best price, I used to do the same thing, but I then read an article that had the same tone as this post and I suddenly saw things a little differently. And now I am hoping that this post will cause you to feel the same way. So please remember this the next time you are shopping for your curriculum. And don’t worry about the BIG GUYS. They will do just fine without you. And thank you to all our faithful customers. You mean the world us.