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Dave Ratner of Soda & Pet City fame gets into Hall of Fame

By Jim Kinney |

SPRINGFIELD — Dave Ratner read aloud from a customer email detailing a bad experience at Dave’s Soda & Pet City.

It drove him nuts. And that’s why he’s in the Hall of Fame.

“You need to give the customer a reason to do business with you,” Ratner said “If I can build a brand that says you love Dave’s , hopefully you will feel too guilty to shop somewhere else.”

Ratner was recently inducted into the Retailers Association of Massachusetts Hall of Fame as both a reflection of Dave’s Soda & Pet City and his efforts lobbying on behalf of retailers at the state and national levels.

Ratner founded Dave’s Soda City in Springfield in 1975. About a year later, he noticed all the pet food stocked in supermarkets and he started to branch out. Today, he’s got seven stores, including a new pet-only store in Ludlow and 150 employees.

Lately his federal lobbying has focused on building support for the federal Internet Sales Tax Bill that would force retailers to charge sales tax on purchases made over the web. The bill, which Ratner and other brick-and-mortar retailers support, has passed the U.S. Senate but faces strong opposition in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“I’m at an immediate d 6.25 percent disadvantage to everybody else,” Ratner said. “Amazon, Petmeds.”

Of course, it isn’t realistic for someone to order a bag of dog food online. But his soda business is branching out to gourmet sodas sold online. And the lure of the Internet does draw customers for bigger-ticket pet items.

“You see it every day. People come in and look at all the aquarium filters. They can even scan the bar codes into their smart phones and find the exact same thing online,” Ratner said.

Service, friendly in-person service, is one way to compete.

Everyone who works for Ratner has to sign a paper saying their No. 1 responsibility is to give the customer a positive experience.

“It’s got everything to do with my employees,” he said. “If I have jerks working for me. I’m in big trouble.”

It also makes recruiting and retention a big priority.

“We have to go through a lot of pits to find that cherry,” Ratner said.

Dave Ratner featured in MassLive
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Posted in Articles, Leadership, Retail on June 17, 2013 by Dave Ratner.

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