Business

How to support local businesses during the pandemic

are seen in downtown Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. The spread of the novel coronavirus has forced businesse
are seen in downtown Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. The spread of the novel coronavirus has forced businesses and restaurants to find new ways to continue working. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

We don’t know how long the health crisis, with its restrictions and social distancing, will last, but local businesses need your support amid the uncertainty.

The Better Business Bureau knows these are challenging times and challenges you to support your local businesses — with or without spending money.

All types of businesses are affected

This crisis is affecting all business. That includes places you may use every day, such as your local coffee shop or favorite lunch place, but also businesses that might not immediately come to mind.

The closures and cancellations have hurt services such as home improvement contractors, day care providers and dry cleaners as well as health care businesses, such as your dentist or chiropractor.

Even business-to-business fields — such as the graphic designer who designs your office’s brochures or the accounting firm that does the books — are feeling the impact.

After closing their doors and working toward reopening cautiously, businesses are helping to keep their customers and employees healthy.

But the loss of income makes it tough to cover ongoing expenses such as rent and salaries. These tips help ensure your favorite businesses have the backing they need to make it through these lean times.

Practical ways to support business

• Buy a gift card for later.

Many small businesses that had to close are offering gift certificates at discounted rates for when they open back up. Look on business’s websites and social accounts.

• Skip the refund and take a rain check.

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If you paid in advance for an event, such as theater or concert tickets, a class or a service, consider taking a credit for the future instead of a refund.

Businesses will appreciate not needing to issue so many refunds right now.

• Commit to future work.

Your contractor will appreciate you committing to future projects when business operations get back to some degree of normalcy.

• Shop (local) online.

Local shops and vendors still may have limited physical access, but many still run online shops and offer curbside pickup.

Check their websites for products and merchandise, making sure to verify return policies.

• Look for virtual classes.

People who work in training or professional development, from a fitness coach to a public speaking teacher, are finding creative ways to move instruction online. Your favorite yoga teacher may be hosting a Zoom class.

The same goes for professional training. Now may be a good time to brush up on your skills through an online course.

• Get takeout or delivery.

Many restaurants and breweries are now offering takeout as dine-in options are still limited due to social-distancing requirements. You can visit these local institutions by getting your food or drinks to go and enjoying them at home.

Not everyone has the financial resources to pay in advance. So if your own wallet is feeling the pinch, here are some free ways to support small businesses.

• Write an online review.

This is a good time to finally get around to reviewing your favorite business. Five-star reviews help companies rank well in search engines and on other listing services,

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This is an easy, free way to show your favorite small businesses that you support them. To write a review, go to BBB.org.

• Like and share on social media.

Help your favorite business reach a broader audience by liking and sharing their information on social media. This helps reach future customers and gains more exposure.

• Tell businesses that you appreciate their work.

These are tough times. Keep morale up by reaching out to businesses in your community and letting them know that you appreciate their hard work.

Bobby Hansen is regional director for the Better Business Bureau Cedar Rapids office; (319) 365-1190.

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Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.