After moving to Denver in 2002, I needed someone to watch my home when I traveled (pick up the mail, water the plants, bring in the trash cans). Fortunately, I found Will, an entrepreneurial 12-year-old with his own business cards and invoices — impressive! — who jumped at the chance to add me to his client roster. Fast-forward five years to the day Will proudly told me about his acceptance to a prestigious university.
Wait a second! What about me? I wanted to say. Who would keep my finicky plants alive, remember recycling day and know how many seconds it takes to turn off the security system before the sirens blare? Will was my go-to guy. I didn’t know his middle name, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if it were Dependable.
Of course, I didn’t say any of this. I told him I was proud of him and would miss him terribly and sent him off with a graduation gift. Sniff.
Losing a favorite business or service provider can be emotional, whether it’s the result of financial issues, retirement, a move — or high school graduation. These changes may leave us in a lurch or feeling a loss.
“We get attached to a particular business or service provider,” says Sherry Cormier, a bereavement trauma specialist. “Then when they shut down, we feel lost and often sad, missing what we got accustomed to. Sometimes we resist making a change because we are in a kind of mourning.”
Cormier herself went through such an experience. When she moved from Morgantown, W.Va., to Annapolis, Md., in 2011, she immediately joined a gym. She attended faithfully, met people and made friends. A year later, the gym shuttered. “I hung onto the old gym until they locked the doors for the final time, long after most of my friends had moved on,” she says. “I didn’t want to go to a new place.”
Los Angeles publicist Linda Williamson even wrote an opinion piece lamenting the shuttering of her go-to home improvement store, Orchard Supply Hardware. “I shopped there for 20 years. Not only was it convenient, but there were knowledgeable employees. One man in his 60s ran the hardware department. The guy in paint actually knew paint. Whether I needed a light switch or a toilet valve, I could easily find it,” she says. Shopping the closing sale “felt like a vampire eating the corpse of a loved one. I was genuinely sad. I lost a neighbor.”
Here’s how to cope when a business you do business with goes out of business, for whatever reason.
●Assess your legal options. Perry Sofferman, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., attorney who specializes in business law, says you should keep every receipt, warranty and contract, in case a business closes. “Read that contract. What does it say? If a plumber goes out of business, maybe your dishwasher is still covered under the manufacturer’s warranty,” Sofferman says. If a company files for bankruptcy, all bets are off, but with most licensed professionals and major retailers, state laws could affect the winding-down process. Should a business close its doors unexpectedly, you still may be able to track down people associated it through your state’s public records database. Search for “[Name-of-state] Business Entity” and then type in the business name.
●Get recommendations. You’ve trusted this business with something important to you — be it your home, garden, physical appearance or health. Make sure to ask the business or service provider to suggest a replacement. If they can’t, ask friends, family and neighbors for referrals. After 27 years, Teresa Mears had to find a new hairdresser when the couple whose Miami salon she frequented decided to retire. “I felt sad. They were interesting people to talk with,” she says. Mears used Facebook to get recommendations for a stylist closer to her new home and finally found a good one.
●Get contact info. Often, losing a gathering spot such as a gym or neighborhood retailer means losing friends and acquaintances. Before the business closes, exchange contact information with the people you see on a regular basis. If the connection to your provider (hairdresser, yoga instructor, nanny, etc.) was special, staying in touch socially, perhaps through Facebook, can ease the sadness. Remaining in contact with the patrons or employees of the business also can lead to other options: Cormier learned her favorite yoga teacher from her old studio was offering a class in her home that Cormier now attends regularly.
●Be proactive. If your favorite service provider works at a business that person doesn’t own, consider asking for their contact information in case they are suddenly let go or move on. My cousin Nancy Daily, who lives in Houston, was caught off guard when she called to make an appointment with her dog groomer of two years and was told the shop no longer employed one. The store manager wouldn’t pass along the groomer’s last name or any forwarding information. “I did some research but couldn’t find her,” she said. “Poof! — the person I can trust with my nervous dog is gone. Once I realized how good she was with Max, I should have gotten her contact information in case she left.”
●Say a meaningful goodbye. Let the business or service provider know — through a conversation, card or small gift — that they did a good job and that meant a lot to you. “By thanking them, admitting you feel sad and letting them know you care, you can achieve some closure and feel like you said goodbye in a good way,” says Michal Strahilevitz, an associate professor of marketing at Saint Mary’s College of California who studies the psychology of consumer behavior.
●Accept that you have to move on. Yes, losing a regular service provider can be sad or disruptive. But, as with any disappointment, “how you deal is important,” Strahilevitz says. “If it’s raining, you can’t stop the rain. . . . You can stay home and cry or put on a raincoat, go out and enjoy yourself anyway. Focus on what you can do to make it less bad.” As luck would have it, when I mentioned my housesitting dilemma to a neighbor, she suggested her daughter, who had just returned to Denver after graduating from college. To this day, when I’m headed out of town, I just give Sara the house keys and know everything is in good hands.