I live in Toledo Ohio and have been building custom furniture for my clients for almost 25 years. I don’t do any advertising and I don’t have a store. I just have my shop behind my house and I use my living room as my showroom. I like the size of my company. It’s simple, small, and manageable. So you can imagine my surprise the other day when I was emailed by the TOLEDO AWARD PROGRAM. They said I won an award for the best furniture store in Toledo for 2021. Right away I was really honored and happy that my custom furniture was not only recognized but beat out the others! But then I started having doubts. How could I possibly beat the competition? The others are actual stores with salespeople, a big showroom, delivery drivers. I don’t have all of that stuff.
So I went to their website and read a little more about them. They said, “The Toledo Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Toledo area.” It also went on to say, “Our organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations, and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to recognize the small business community’s contributions to the U.S. economy.” https://toledo.2021-town-choicerecognition.org/AboutUsUb.aspx?
AH HA! So that’s it! The reason why I won was that I wasn’t a large national chain or franchised store but because I was a small local business. It all makes sense now. I don’t think there are too many full-time local furniture makers in my town. In fact, I might be the only one! Hahahaha. Okay, so I won the award because there is no one else. But a win is a win! Right?
I continued to read some more on how to receive my award. I had two options for my award. I could get the plague or the crystal award. And then I noticed. In order to get one, it was going to cost me either $150 or $200. WHAT?!?!? Who pays for an award? But it had a valid reason. The website explained, “As an Award recipient, there is no membership requirement. We simply ask each award recipient to pay for the cost of their awards. The revenue generated by the Toledo Award Program helps to pay for operational support, marketing, and partnership programs in support of local businesses. Congratulations on your selection.”
Oh. I get it. Okay, it makes sense. It needs money to keep the program running. But then I also noticed it had a “winners” page on their website. I thought it might be interesting to see who else in my town won awards for their business. And this is when I had no more doubt about this “Awards Program.” https://toledo.2021-town-choicerecognition.org/NotableWinners.aspx
On the “winners” page, there was no one from my town. There were companies from other cities that received their awards. Companies such as Best Buy, Merrill Lynch, Shell Oil, and Microsoft. Wait a minute. Those companies won the small local business award?!?! That’s odd. So I felt I needed some answers and had to talk to someone there. There was a phone number to call, (888-509-9915). Of course, no one answered. However, they did have a message I could leave, in which I left my name, number, and referral award code. But to no surprise, I never received a callback. So then I decided to email them and asked a simple question. “Could you tell me who nominated me and what it was that made me different to win?”
I did get a reply from James Anderson, a member of the Review Committee. James went on to tell me, “The selection process does not include nominations, voting, contests, or surveys. The Award Program uses only empirical data supplied by independent third-parties as input into our award algorithm.” I find it absolutely fascinating that they do NOT include nominations, however, they do have a page on their website where you can nominate someone. Maybe it’s something that goes into their algorithm? Or maybe it’s another way for them to send out a fake notice? Gee, let me think about that one. https://toledo.2021-town-choicerecognition.org/Nominate.aspx
James also went on to answer me by adding, “We have non-disclosure agreements with the companies that provide us the data. I’m sorry; I wish I could give you more details. After all award recipients have been notified, we will post the complete list of winners on our website.”
Ah, yes. Non-disclosure agreements. Well, I guess I can’t question that. But oddly, I did have a few more follow-up questions.
I replied by asking, “I noticed you mentioned you will place the names of the other Toledo winners on your website. Could you show me who won last year? Also, I noticed on the website page you said you wanted to feature local businesses. But on the winner’s tab, you have large corporate companies like Intuit, Best Buy, and Microsoft. Does that mean there were no local small businesses that sold computers, software, or electrical appliances in those areas? It seems odd to give large corporate companies the award for what should be for small local businesses. In fact, not one on the” winners” page was a small business. Why is that?
Also, I was wondering, since I won the award and beat out all the other local and national furniture stores in my area, I can be assured my business name will be on the winner’s page even if I don’t buy the award. Is that correct?”
Well, it turns out that apparently James Anderson, “a member of the Review Committee ”, or maybe the only member, must be busy, with his empirical data supplied by independent third parties that are inputted into his award algorithm, to reply to my questions.
In the end, I’ve come to realize, if you just do what you say, are good at what you do, and are kind to others, everyone will know about you. And that is better than any award that could sit on any shelf.
Chad Stanton- Owner of Stanton Fine Furniture