Monday, July 06, 2009

Support your local toy store

In this week’s baby bargainista column, Jenny discusses one of my favourite places: toy stores.

I’m a big believer in supporting local businesses. Sure, you can often find better and bigger bargains at chains like Walmart and Toys R Us, but I’ve been doing a lot of local shopping lately during my maternity leave, and it’s cemented for me that when shopping for toys, price isn’t always everything. Here are some compelling reasons to support your local store.

1. special orders
Recently I stopped into Mastermind’s Beaches location. A friend had recommended to me a bamboo mat, designed to fit any stroller, that wicks sweat away from baby’s back in the hot summer months, that she had purchased at that location a few weeks earlier. I was set on getting one because both my girls suffer from heat rashes and I figured this item would provide some relief. Unfortunately a lot of other moms had counted on it too, and the store was sold out; but a salesperson immediately set about special-ordering one for me – an option no Toys R Us clerk has ever offered.

2. knowledgeable staff
My local toy store, Treasure Island Toys, is a great example of how knowledgeable, friendly staff can make a shopping experience effortless and comfortable. Many’s the time I’ve stopped in to buy birthday gifts for girl #1’s cousins, classmates, and friends, armed with only a gender and age; the staff never fail to offer assistance within a few minutes, and always have a recommendation or two that’s appropriate for the child’s age and sex, taking out all the guesswork for me.

3. free gift wrapping
Treasure Island Toys also offers free gift wrapping – an incredible boon to busy moms, especially when faced with the often oddly-shaped packaging of many toys! Again, not a service I’ve ever heard offered at a chain store (except perhaps during the holiday season).

All these reasons have a common thread – unparalleled customer service. The service I’ve gotten over the years at big-box stores has been spotty at best; but the local stores I’ve frequented have never failed to surpass my expectations. I like a good bargain as much as the next person, but often (like when I’m hauling a hyper 5-year-old and a cranky infant along with me to the toy store) speedy, friendly, knowledgeable service that goes the extra mile is well worth the extra few dollars I might pay at the cash register.

Editor’s note: As I was preparing this post, I learned Mastermind has gone full force into social media and they seem to be doing a great job – they blog, have their own YouTube channel and you can reach them at @MastermindToys on Twitter.
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