Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Going High When They Go Low

I had the great privilege this past weekend—Memorial Day weekend—of helping out at my old business, Uncle Marty’s Shipping Office. As many of you know, I sold the business on January 1st of this year, but have continued helping as needed here and there for the past few months during an ownership transition period.

Since I founded the business in 2011, we’ve had a carrier franchise store on our same city block. That store and mine opened the same week, surprising each other, and our relationship has been…interesting…ever since. I’ve never viewed them as competition, as their model is total different than ours and the market is so great that we can each have ample space to do our own thing and grow alongside each other.

The original owners of that business were sometimes okay do deal with. They were often nice to my face, but on the back end we heard lots of scary stories from former team members of theirs, and we also did quite a bit of secret shopping and calling to find out that they were not kind in how they referred to our business, often telling people who inquired over the phone that they had to go elsewhere for the services we provided right around the corner. It was shady, but we took it as flattery because they were so obviously threatened by our presence. To be fair, there were six other independent shipping stores in the area at the time and five of the six ended up shuttering within a few years of us opening our doors—the sixth closing during the pandemic—so we must have been doing something right to gain market share! We did our thing and grew steadily in our lane.

That left just the carrier franchise store and us in town as retail shipping options, aside from the FedEx Office a few miles away and a few other non-threatening things like the Staples UPS counter and others. The carrier franchise store in our neighborhood was sold to new owners a few years ago and the new regime has been much more contentious and aggressive than the previous owners. They do business entirely differently than we do and their model is incredibly transactional while ours was always relationship-based. We wanted people to come back again and again and tell their friends, while they seemingly tried to get as much out of people on one visit as possible without caring if they returned or not. I don’t want to be so negative here, but this is something we heard over and over and over again by guests coming to our store with horror stories of how they were mistreated, disrespected, and gouged.

The old owners of the carrier franchise store were not the most organized or clean, but with the new owners that store looks like a bomb went off inside. It’s complete chaos with stuff piled everywhere—total disorganization. So, we’ve never ever thought of them as any sort of threat. Most people go there and leave immediately, then come to us raving about how much cleaner, neater, and kinder our store and staff are.

Under my ownership, we did our best, despite the animosity that was returned, to be respectful and good neighbors. I ran the neighborhood small business association for years and advocated for all businesses in our neighborhood, theirs included, and we sent people to their business multiple times per day with shipments that could only be processed there because of their exclusivity agreements with the carrier for whom they were a franchise store. We tried our best to be kind, even when they were often not; the new owners of my former business have kept the same mindset and have done their best to be respectful, good neighbors to that carrier franchise store as well.

All of this is to set the stage for what happened this past weekend while I was helping out…

There’s a 30-minute loading zone in front of Uncle Marty’s Shipping Office, which I advocated for for years at City Hall and which we were so grateful for when it arrived. Consequently, I also advocated for a loading zone in front of the carrier franchise store around the corner, and they also received one. (You’re welcome, store!) It’s awesome when it works, but often it is filled up with people parking in it for much longer than 30 minutes as people know our city has a very small-staffed traffic enforcement department and an underfunded and understaffed police department, so chances of getting ticketed are very low. Nevertheless, our staff was always very aware of its importance and we tried to set an example of only using it for loading and unloading as it is intended and not for parking.

As our busiest weekend of the year—Cornell graduation weekend when all of the students move out en masse—falls on Memorial Day weekend, the loading zone is a bear. People park in it for days on end, knowing they won’t get ticketed, and it blocks access to our business during the time we need it the most for incoming and outgoing trucks for all of the hundreds of shipments and storage boxes we move in and out daily. This last weekend, during that confusion, there was a white BMW SUV parked in front of our store in the loading zone all weekend, solid. We called the police multiple times, but they never came. Then, on Monday, the busiest day of the year when we were going absolutely crazy, we looked out to find the carrier franchise store owner sitting in said white BMW SUV, sleeping! Yes, sleeping! So, the new owner of my store knocked on his window, woke him up, and asked him to please move because it’s not a parking spot and he was blocking our business. In response, the carrier franchise store owner barked back and told him “Don’t touch my car.” So, I went out and told the man how incredibly gross and disrespectful it was to be parked there, sleeping, and obviously intentionally right in front of our business to block access. It really was disgusting.

The cops never showed up, but the man eventually moved his car. It just completely blew us away. In a world where good-neighborliness is so important and needed, this piece of work has chosen aggressive contentiousness and blatant dishonesty as his modus operandi. It’s so sad—truly heartbreaking.

Because the new owner of my former business is a good soul and shares my mentality of Michelle Obama-ing the situation, going high when others go low, he will do his best to just let it go, keep doing his thing, and keep growing and blooming as he’s been so good at so far. In fact, on that Monday when the carrier franchise store owner had time to nap and play petty games trying to block our business from operating, our store broke every record we had—all time sales, all time customer count, and Memorial Day records all in one. Reading reviews online from the day, Uncle Marty's got only five-star positives while they got only one-star negatives. So, I guess that just goes to show how doing business the right way, being kind, and not letting other people’s nonsense affect you too much really is the key to success.

I shared a quote in my weekly Wednesday Wisdom social media message today that really sums it up, from an unknown author: “A flower does not think about competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.”

So, bloom, my friends. Be kind. Do good by others. Build your neighbors up. Give them space and, even if they get in yours, take the high road. Karma is real and you want to be on its good side.


Marty Johnson is the Communication and Vision Coach at AYM High Consultants, a columnist, and an editor, producing the mail and business center industry's leading magazine, MBC Today. In 2023, he sold his popular and growing brand, Uncle Marty’s Shipping Office, and retired from shopkeeper life to focus on writing and coaching. Subscribe to his Ask Uncle Marty™ newsletter and read more at; follow him on socials @askunclemarty. #AskUncleMarty


This article was co-published on the AYM High Consultants blog and on on May 29, 2024.

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