The Burton’s Total Pet Mission
Growing up on the south side of Chicago, my family shopped in a downtown business area at a corner grocery store in our south side suburb. Those were the days when communities were more tightly knit than they are today. We developed longstanding relationships with local businesses and the families around us. We were neighbors with the shops and shop owners. In high school I worked evenings as an assistant to a pharmacist in a pharmacy called Raphael’s Pharmacy. My experience at that small pharmacy introduced me to the difficulties of running a small business. It also served as an example how some kindness and understanding by merchants was part of a community effort. He helped many people in need. It taught me that there is a lot more to being a merchant than stocking shelves. Mr. Raphael knew the drugs he was selling. He was a biologist in his own right. He also knew personally all the doctors in the area. In short he really knew his stuff.
I grew up thinking merchants have a responsibility to know what they are selling to their customers and why they are selling it. In today’s world the big box national stores like PetSmart, Petco, WalMart, Target, Costco and Sam’s Club have destroyed that concept. There is no passion for the good that they’re selling. Everything is inventory and bottom line. They don’t even try to be a reliable source of assistance or information. They prefer to avoid that part of the business because it requires engaged employees. Some put on a charade for marketing purposes, but in reality their knowledge proves only slight less shallow than an uninformed consumer.
People ask me “Where has customer service gone?” As our corner markets and small business went so too did our customer service. Big box stores have no soul. They use public stock offerings to force smaller businesses out of the competition. Small business for the most part takes their money from their wallet. People also wonder where decent paying jobs have gone. The loss of every one of those local businesses frayed the community fabric and took jobs away from the community. Managers gained experience from the ground up. These were good paying jobs that resulted in trained and informed employees. Employees had to learn because they felt an obligation to the customer. There was no one else to which they could pass the buck. Small business was (and still is) the training ground for bigger things. Moving jobs over seas isn’t the only criminal stealing jobs from this country. A big box store may put out 10 or 15 small businesses out of commission. The big box store can do it cheaper because they can negotiate better terms, based on bulk purchase, than smaller companies could ever imagine. These big conglomerate stores want to be paid to put products on their shelves, like they are doing the manufacturer a favor. They don’t care about the merits of a product. If they get paid to sell the product, they’ll promote it under the guise of expertise. I refuse to be a part of it – for better and worse. Manufacturers fuel these deals with big stores and then charge small businesses more (much more) for the same product.
As an example in the past two weeks (for the second time) Science Diet, owned by Colgate-Palmolive, offered me $7/bag off their large bags if I would sign a contract guaranteeing to make their products one of our top three recommendations. I did not do it. Our customers expect us to be bearers of truth, not sponsored misinformation. Consumers are being manipulated into buying certain products (good and bad) by these behind-the-scenes manipulations. I’m sorry to say that many veterinarians are also involved in these schemes.
Every product in our store has to stand the test of time before they get a Burton’s stamp of approval. By bringing your business to a particular store, you are essentially paying a merchant for their services. In addition to carrying the product, customer service and knowledge should be part of that service. We see thousands of pets. We talk to thousands of people and these activities give us experience. We never do on-site promotional set-ups like most of our competitors… unless, of course, we believe in the product being promoted.
In order for us to expand this knowledge-base for our Pittsburgh customers, we need your patronage. If you save money by going to PetSmart and Petco, by all means shop there. We’ve done our best to win your business with some of the best prices we can offer. But if the prices are the same, why not shop in your neighborhood pet supply store. Our people have a passion for what they do – they love animals and love helping customers with their animals. For us, our business isn’t just a job – it’s our goal to be one of those old-fashioned community threads.
FACTS ABOUT BURTON’S TOTAL PET
- We are based in Pittsburgh.
- We are the only pet store in Pittsburgh to have a pet care BLOG in addition to a locally operated Twitter and Facebook account.
- Our managers average 16 years in our company. 7 out of 8 managers have over 14 years of experience. 4 out of 8 have over 17 years of experience.
- We have 8 stores to help provide quality and continuity of service throughout the metro area.
- We have the largest selection of pet food anywhere.
- Burton’s office is located in one of the stores and he is a biologist with 45 years of pet care experience. He answers questions from customers every day.
- Burton hosted a pet care hour on the largest radio station in America for five years.
- Our managers’ knowledge is always available to our customers.
- Our pricing on 99% of our products meet or beat our competition.
- We have the greatest ability to special order products in the area.
Why shop anywhere else?