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Commentary: How can bricks-and-mortar stores beat online sellers? Allow dogs

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Shoppers walk their dog in November 2019 through Yorktown Center shopping mall in Lombard, which is a dog-friendly mall allowing pets at certain times.

Shoppers walk their dog in November 2019 through Yorktown Center shopping mall in Lombard, Illinois, which is a dog-friendly mall allowing pets at certain times.

When I learned that our corner CVS and Ace Hardware didn’t prohibit customers from bringing their dogs along while shopping, I switched to these stores.

Now, instead of purchasing drugs and odds and ends from online sellers, as I had previously done, I patronize my neighborhood establishments.

If other outlets, like supermarkets or department stores, were to turn a blind eye or post a welcome pooches sign, I’d do the same maneuver. And I believe other dog owners would follow my lead. Consider the uptick in revenue for these local businesses.

While overall retail sales still surpass e-commerce, the rate of growth of each sector tells a different story: In 2020, retail sales rose 6.9%, while e-commerce rose 32.1%.

One charge against animals in the aisles is that they shouldn’t be anywhere near fresh fruit and vegetable bins. Protesters claim sanitation or disruption.

Has anyone watched a child zoom through the aisles grabbing cereal or juice boxes? What about adult customers, pawing peaches then rejecting and replacing them for the next person to peruse?

How about Macy’s? The department store chain has been closing stores across the country. My solution: Fire all the consultants and in their next promotion tout, “We love and welcome dogs!”

I contend that most dogs are better behaved than some children and adults. Dog owners who I know hold onto their dog with a fist curled and cemented to the leash. The pooch parents would never permit their pet to become unbound or be out of sight.

Consider distracted parents — you’ve seen them in many movies and TV shows where the child wanders off unnoticed. The mother is spinning around. She screams, Tommy! The store’s loudspeaker announces: A 6-year-old boy wearing a Disney T-shirt has been lost. Please bring him to the office.

Never have I seen a similar scenario for Bailey or Sadie.

I point to the pandemic with pairing people with their pups. You remember, shelters across the country were wiped clean of animals. If the populace were ordered to stay home, it would be better tolerated with animal companions.

When the general public is queried on their position in the debate, the results are about half and half. It’s not hard to figure out which part of the scale dog owners deepen.

Many folks, and perhaps even some dog owners, or my friends, would counter, what’s the big deal with leaving Doris alone for an hour or two?

Evidently, these questioners have never seen my dog award me an actual smile when she accompanies me to friends’ homes, the CVS, Ace Hardware or other places she feels welcome.

Certainly, Doris can stay alone. Our apartment will be as I had left it. Nothing will be out of place. She will be pasted to a pillow until she hears the front door open and my size 5 feet cross the threshold.

Then it’s a leap from her post and a rush to sniff and assure that I am the beloved person who has returned from who-knows-where and for who-knows-how-long. Contrast that with her relaxed glee when she’s with me out and about.

If bricks-and-mortar stores were to welcome pets it could be a challenge to online shopping. Corner stores, supermarkets and department chains have to think creatively to fight the advantages that shopping at home grants.

You likely enjoy the benefits of being able to shop around-the-clock, not worrying about driving, parking or public transit, saving time and avoiding crowds. A simple way to counter that: welcome dogs.

My 3-year-old rescue is not a service companion, but her presence reduces my anxiety as competently as my morning dose of Lexapro.

If I wanted to, I could register Doris as an emotional support animal. But I abstain from this action because my anxiety does not rise to the level that could justify the designation. Deriving comfort from Doris doesn’t entitle me to special treatment. Official ESAs are intended to aid those who suffer only from depression or anxiety’s most debilitating manifestation.

Would dog owners and their pets overwhelm establishments that are more hospitable to this twosome? I doubt it. Not everyone is like me, or others, who consider their dogs palliative, but not essential, pets.

In the mid-’40s, I remember Marshall Field’s announcing on the fourth floor of Chicago’s State Street store, “Mothers can bring their children … and let them romp in a large playroom while they shop.”

Substitute “mothers” and “children” for customers and dogs, and watch revenues climb.

OWH Midlands Voices April 2022

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Each year on April 28, Workers Memorial Day, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration and workplace safety advocates across the nation remember those whose lives ended because of the work they did.

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Joanne Li writes, "At UNO, we are on the leading edge of a growing national movement to bridge this degree-to-career gap by transforming traditional academic advising to a more high-touch, academic coaching model."

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Dr. Rebecca Firestone writes, "Rather than invest in a broad array of proposals that would have immediately helped everyday Nebraskans, including measures to provide direct payments to residents and lower taxes for middle-income earners, the Legislature prioritized a bill that promises major future tax breaks for the wealthy, property owners and out-of-state corporations."

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Jeremy Nordquist writes, "Nebraskans can’t wait any longer for lawmakers to support legislation that will grow the economy, close the workforce gap and support the health care system that keeps us all safe."

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Erin Duffy writes, "Early childhood professionals provide a critical foundation for child development and the economy. The health care providers, grocery store workers and teachers that we relied upon during the pandemic? Child care providers allowed them to keep working their essential jobs, secure in the knowledge that their kids were being cared for, taught and nurtured."

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Dr Donald Frey writes, "Abortion becomes an issue only if someone gets pregnant. Someone only gets pregnant if they have sex. You can’t legislate away sex. And the hard truth is, you can’t simply legislate away abortions, either."

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Dr. Justin Welsh writes, "Technology will never replace farmers' experience, instincts or hard work. But new tools can help farmers and ranchers overcome the unique and growing challenges of modern-day agriculture."

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John Hansen writes, "Farmers don’t have right to repair for farm equipment, when their tractors, combines, windrowers or sileage cutters breaks down, farmers are at the mercy of the dealership ... For Nebraska farmers and ranchers, right to repair is a financial, competition and fairness issue."

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A.J. Walts writes, "It is in the best long-term interest for our society and our progeny to continue to carry the torch of democracy that the founding fathers and mothers painstakingly sought to endow upon us. It is far from perfect, but remains the best governance model there is."

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Drs. Jeffrey P. Gold and James Linder write: "We know that taxpayer support of UNMC — and our ability to be not only a scientific, medical and educational powerhouse, but also an economic one — isn’t a gift. Your belief in us isn’t an obligation. It’s an investment, and we take our commitment to our communities that we serve very seriously."

Elaine Soloway is a Chicago-based writer.


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