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Holly Koerber: For small biz, indifference can have big impact

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I truly love being a small business owner in a small community. It is so refreshing to live and work in a place where so many go out of their way to encourage and support you. Both the corporate hotels and other bed & breakfast venues all work cooperatively to ensure those staying here leave feeling like there is something special about the Harbor of Hospitality. On busy weekends, I know firsthand how many hours these venues spend on the phone reaching out to other establishments to find a place for their overflow or guests with particular needs.

I hear the cynicism of the public at large about the selfishness and greed of others. Particularly easy targets of this hostility are “corporations” that appear to many to be indifferent, removed and uncompassionate entities among us. The truth is, businesses are a reflection of people, and according to the Small Business Administration, small businesses account for 54 percent of all sales in this country and they provide 55 percent of all jobs.

So the question becomes are we as people different now than at other times in history? Many people today have no idea who lives next to them. Without relationships with others, it is easier to be indifferent. That is one of the things I love about the South.

The front porches and detached garages here give one a bird’s-eye view of humanity and an opportunity to see and hear from others each day.

Recently, one of our local institutions offered us a multi-week opportunity to provide for a visiting professional’s stay. The agreement represented about 25 percent of an average month’s revenue for our small business.

As many of us here in this business do, we prepared personally for this guest, reaching out to our incredibly responsive tourism office, restaurants, the museum, TCOM, the Coast Guard base, the arts, local businesses and craftsman, etc. to introduce and provide the guest the full spectrum of opportunity here during the stay.

Upon arrival, the guest walked in and announced that her husband was also here independently for work with another firm. He had arrived earlier and checked into an alternative reservation that was made by his company and they were going to stay there until he left and then she would return. The entire conversation took about 15 seconds.

I was immediately struck by the absolute indifference this person had for any consequences to this announcement.

This couple knew they were coming to work here, that two arrangements had been made for their stay but felt no obligation to let anyone know in advance that they intended to use one reservation. I am sure the fact others were paying contributed to the consequences being irrelevant to them.

Our options were difficult. If we charged for the no-notice cancellation, a local institution was stuck with the bill and that could anger them enough not to provide us future business or cause their customers to ultimately feel the pinch down the road, as these kind of costs get factored into pricing.

The spouses are both in the business of providing services in an industry that has little tolerance for absorbing costs of no-show or no-notice cancellations. Trust me when I tell you there is no way they would agree to take a 25 percent monthly revenue hit and simply shrug their shoulders and absorb the cost.

I thought about the couple’s clients. If they are this selfish and indifferent to others, what kind of service providers could they be? I thought about the civic cause we had just supported because we calculated this revenue into our ability to give. I thought about all the no-show appointments and reservations other businesses face because, culturally, too many of us think little beyond the end of our noses. I thought about all the lost opportunities in my own self-absorbed life to be more considerate of the consequences of my actions.

The older I get the more the big picture is apparent and matters to me. There is no kind of entity or person, corporation or individual, industry or charity that is absent the nature of mankind.

Selfishness and greed are characteristics we all have. As my husband reminds me, it is our choice whether we feed the bad dog or good dog in each of us. I am grateful to be in a small community that still considers this and sees stewardship as an obligation. I am going to work harder to consider consequences of my own actions. I hope we all do.


I agree with Melanie. I'd

I agree with Melanie. I'd let the local institution know. It sounds like they had somebody coming in temporarily for a short term to do some work for them. If they offered to pay for their discourteous worker's stay, decline. It's not their fault these people were so unthinking and rude. When that local institution has someone coming in the future, you will be the first one they think of.


what a beautiful, positive, thought provoking column. Brava!


Holly, you need to discuss this with the local institution that made the reservation. It needs to know what sort of individual it is hiring. This sort of behavior is unacceptable and can lead to the death of small businesses.

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