Thursday, September 20, 2007

Thursday Tips: It never hurts to ask

Every Thursday is tip day.

First of all, I want to reiterate Sean's "thank you" to everyone who sent us comments, emails, phone calls, thoughts and prayers for Opal's successful surgery. It really means a lot to us that folks care about our little dog. She is sleeping off the effects of the surgery now and we are so glad to have her back!

Most RVers know that they can spend the night at many Wal-Marts. Other big-box stores such as Lowe's and K-Mart also allow overnight parking. Their lots are huge, so what does it hurt them? This tip is about asking to stay at much smaller businesses while you are on the road.

If you are a customer, it never hurts to ask permission to stay. Right now we are parked in the very small lot of Cloverdale Animal Hospital. The lot is only about 60ft x 60ft, so Odyssey really stands out here. The clinic is also quite small, with one primary doctor and 4-6 other employees.

When we made the appointment to bring Opal in, I asked over the phone if we could park overnight. The vet was mostly concerned that it would be too noisy for us and that the neighborhood wasn't nice enough. When we pulled up in the bus, he said we could keep Opal the night before and the night after surgery, which would calm her anxieties. Most patients would leave their animal overnight at the clinic, but since we WERE at the clinic, it was fine for her to be with us.

After we had the initial consultation and walked back outside, Sean noticed a 15 amp outlet on the side of the building. When he asked if we could plug into it, they were happy to have us do so. We parked along the edge of the lot and are only using two regular spaces.

Now I'm not saying that every RVer passing through Little Rock should stop at this clinic and use their electricity, but to show that small businesses can be very accommodating.

When we bought my Honda scooter in Arizona, we walked into the dealer at the end of the business day. Rather than rush through the paperwork, we made it clear that we were going to buy the scooter in the morning and oh, by the way, can we park overnight in your gravel parking lot? They were very gracious and showed us the best way into the lot. Again, this was a small business.

We ate at a small restaurant in the Outer Banks of North Carolina after asking first if we could spend the night in their lot. We explained that we wanted to have a glass or two of wine and would not be able to indulge if we had to drive afterward. It was mid-week and fairly late in the evening, so the manager was not expecting a big rush of customers. He knew we'd spend money on dinner and wine and granted us permission even though the parking area was quite small.

Don't think these privileges were granted to us because Odyssey is unusual. In the case of the vet, I asked on the phone before arriving. At the scooter shop, we did a "drive by" to see if the parking lot was even big enough for us and end up stopping down the street and walking back to the shop. They didn't see the bus until after the manager said we could stay.

If you are a paying customer, don't be afraid to ask to spend the night. Try these simple tips and you may just get lucky:

  • Ask for the owner or manager; in a small business it is usually pretty obvious who this is.
  • Be friendly and polite. If the answer is no, smile and say thank you anyway. There may be legal or insurance reasons why they cannot say yes.
  • Be aware of your timing. Weekends can be very busy for some businesses and having a big vehicle taking up space may turn away other customers. Your best bet is midweek or off season.
  • Park politely; don't take spaces near the front door or angle your rig to block an exit. Of course, never block a handicap parking space unless you are handicapped yourself. In that case, be clear with the manager that you need to be close to the door and display your placard.
  • Don't "camp." You want their business to look like it has a parking lot, not a homeless shelter. Folding chairs, BBQs, and awnings can send the wrong signal to their neighbors.
  • Be clear that you are only staying one night and will leave in the morning.
  • Ask if they'd like you to leave by a certain time to make room for their morning customers.
  • Make sure you leave nothing behind, like garbage, grease stains or divots in the asphalt from your levelers.
  • Thank the owner/manager again in the morning. I try to follow up with a written thank you note as well.

1 comment:

  1. Whew, that's a relief. Glad to hear surgery went well and only good thoughts and wishes for Opal while she recovers. She should be up and moving about gingerly in no time.


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