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Going out of business: Don’t wait until it’s too late to help

When a local business announces they are closing their doors for good, the announcement is often greeted with a flood of comments from people sad that it is closing.

I’m sure the heartbroken business owners wonder where all those people were when they were struggling to attract enough customers to stay open.

I know I’ve been guilty of it — when Crazy Mike’s Video closed a couple of years ago I complained along with everyone else that Hermiston would no longer have a video store. But when I was honest with myself, I knew I only used them for rentals once or twice per year. It wasn’t fair for me to expect the business to stay open for my convenience when I was only contributing a handful of dollars per year to the cause.

Running a business is expensive. People who have never done it don’t understand the behind-the-scenes costs run far above the actual product they have in their hand. When you pay for food at a restaurant, you’re not just paying for the food, you’re paying for the rental costs of the building, utility bills, servers, cooks, dish washers, managers, bookkeeping, advertising, equipment to handle credit card transactions and more.

As a newspaper editor, I can sympathize with that. At least people expect to pay something for the food at the restaurant — many people are outraged at the mere suggestion they should pay for our product at all.

Having never gained firsthand experience running a business themselves, they believe that because they access the news on a screen instead of on a physical piece of paper in their hands, there is no cost to produce it. The articles just magically appear, without anyone being paid to research, interview, write, edit, photograph, sell advertisements, post it to the web and print it. Not to mention overhead costs such as publishing software and camera equipment.

Others understand the general idea of running a business, but don’t know anything about the economics of the newspaper industry, making suggestions such as “just sell more ads” as if the idea had never occurred to us before.

And so we join that great struggle that every local business owner knows: Crunching the numbers over and over again to see where we might be able to scrape up more revenue, rejoicing in the “good months” that allow us to continue serving the community and tightening our belts through the bad.

Communities get what they pay for in terms of shopping options. If you have a favorite restaurant, shop or service provider who you would miss terribly if they were gone, do them a favor and put your money where your mouth is. Good recommendations can be valuable, but at the end of the day words don’t pay the bills. Money does. Your money.

Shop local and eat local. The three extra dollars that you spent by doing so instead of buying online or in the Tri-Cities just might help save someone’s business.

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