Lessons from Amish Country (Popcorn)

We all have a pet business that we “can’t” live without. Mine is Amish Country Popcorn. A small company based in Berne, Indiana, Amish Country Popcorn sells over a dozen types of non-GMO, fluffy, crunchy, delicious popcorn. I order about 12-15 pounds per year, and the value I derive is significantly higher than the price I pay.

When the stay at home orders started rolling out, I realized that I’d be consuming more than my normal amount of popcorn. Then I had a slight panic – with specialty retailers and farmer’s markets forced to close, would Amish Country Popcorn survive?

I decided to do my part. Everyone in my immediate family was treated to a variety of Amish Country Popcorn. I scheduled Zoom sessions with friends’ kids to select popcorn for other friends’ kids. My paramedic neighbor got popcorn. An aide worker distributing micro-grants got popcorn. My realtor got popcorn. And my panic grew.

You see, every order was confirmed, packed, and shipped by the next business day – not a good sign. If Amish Country Popcorn was doing well, surely the customer experience would suffer. Most online retailers have a giant banner on their websites stating, “Due to COVID-19…” followed by a lawyer approved explanation for why you won’t get what you want when you want it. If you don’t believe me, try finding a jigsaw puzzle or crafting supplies or (yes I had to say it) toilet paper.

Then I received their newsletter. It shared a Bible verse, an acknowledgement of the current situation, a message of thanks to all who are helping, and these words: “We are thankful, blessed and humbled for the unprecedented busy season we have been thrown into as we supply thousands of homes with an inexpensive, healthy snack option.” I teared up a bit.

There will be a lot of losers in this crisis, but there will also be some winners. Many retailers have been thrown into a sudden “unprecedented busy season” and it’s revealing some serious cracks in their business processes. But rather than dwell on my frustrations with other businesses, I’d like to share three reasons why Amish Country Popcorn has locked me in for life:

1. Honesty. On their website, there is a large image stating they no longer sell 50lb popcorn bags. They are brutally honest about what they don’t have, which makes me trust what they claim they do have. And I have never ordered something only to be told later they don’t’ have it.

2. Customer Experience. As I said before, every order was confirmed, packed and shipped by the next business day. No exceptions. And I always got a confirmation email when something was delivered. They do what they say they will do, and keep you informed in the process.

3. Gratitude. It’s in short supply these days. But this tiny company goes old school by thanking customers for their business. There’s a good chance they’ve grabbed a few new customers during the pandemic, and they’re not wasting the opportunity.

It’s going to be a new world as we gradually crawl out from our homes. There will be winners, losers, learners, and innovators. As a customer, I’m deciding my new normal and carefully selecting who will be a part of it. And my new normal will definitely include Amish Country Popcorn.

What about you? What business has surprised you in this unprecedented time?

Note: other than the exceptional service and significant value described in this passage, I have received no compensation, monetary or otherwise, from Amish Country Popcorn.

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