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There are certain business transactions which continue to occur no matter what the state of the economy. The list of these is too varied and numerous to detail, and thus accountants, shopkeepers, and those who cherish archaic words refer to this collection of goods as “sundries.”

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While it’s certainly easy to envy those who reliably and steadily earn their profits from these transactions, there is something everyone can glean from suppliers of sundries. When luxury purchases fall by the wayside, it is the little things that take on tremendous value. Subsequently, service and reliability take on extra significance, even when there are no goods to be sold.

Recently at a convention hall in a major U.S. city, a vital sundry was at risk of disappearing and disrupting the progress of a trade show. For those of a caffeine-dependent nature, coffee is an absolute necessity at these events. This is evidenced by the long lines of customers not just in the morning, but also in the late afternoon, when a pick-me-up is essential to maintaining the flow of conversation on the show floor.

The length of time these customers will wait for a coffee, sometimes conducting much of a business meeting in the process, is a good indicator of the necessity of this transaction. If the wait turned out to be in vain, or supplies were exhausted, some level of rioting would surely ensue.

Thus it happened that a coffee purveyor in this convention hall continued to distribute coffees of all sizes and varieties even when their cash registers were rendered offline by some sort of technical glitch. The decision to continue serving the customers who patiently waited in a never-ending line was so sound that no questions were asked, and no exclamations were made. People merely ordered their beverages, and when they were informed that they would not be paying for said goods, but they were welcome to leave a tip if they would like, business carried on almost as normal. Unbelievably, there were no gasps, no shouts of “it’s free!” It was an extraordinarily placid exchange, most likely because customers were so grateful to be receiving any attention at all in such dire circumstances.

This nicety, this acknowledgement of services owed even in an extreme situation, is something many business owners can employ to keep in contact with customers in times such as when “flat is the new growth,” as many have said about our current economic situation. Simply returning a phone call quickly, or replying to an email with helpful information is a valuable service that will reflect positively on a business when the good times return.

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