Finding good health through the honor system
As old-fashioned as a handshake
In this installment of Humor Hotel, Greg Schwem marvels at a local health improvement store whose owner demonstrates that the honor system still works.
I strolled into the small, empty health improvement store one humid Tuesday morning seeking a CBD-infused topical lotion for my aching back. “Strolled” is probably an overstatement; “gingerly crept” is more accurate. Back pain has that affect.
Music from the thrash metal group Pantera greeted me as I passed shelves carrying products with in-your-face names like BULK, LEGDAY and EXTREME MASS. Purchasing something called Axton Premium Hemp CBD Pain Cream seemed laughable by comparison. Still, I found the product and headed to the counter, expecting to see an employee emerge from the back. Instead, I saw a pen and the following instructions:
“Please take product as needed and fill out the product sign-out sheet. If possible, take a photo of the product taken.”
A different dimension
Seriously? I looked around. Was I a contestant on one of those “caught in the act” or “what would you do?” reality shows? We live in a society where we eye everyone with suspicion, carry guns (which some, sadly, use to solve petty disputes), and hide in homes protected by state-of-the-art security systems. Yet I, a new customer, was being entrusted to text my order and pay for it later.
Exactly the way Neves Nutrition owner Dion DeLude thinks business should be done.
“I believe in the old-school, handshake method,” said DeLude, 52, who opened Neves Nutrition in sleepy Lemont, Illinois, three years ago and has amassed a stream of loyal customers who enter the unlocked store at all hours, help themselves to whatever they want if DeLude is not around and settle up via emails and texts.
Some even use the store as a gym; DeLude has free weights – free to use, not to take – and a fitness machine on-site. High school athletes drop by for yoga classes and personal training sessions. DeLude extends credit lines to kids who are short of funds. Even they know nothing is free in life, though at first it appears to be.
“My wife works at the school,” he said. “Maybe they think they are going to flunk out if they don’t pay.”
Thieves beware; security cameras do guard the store’s interior; but DeLude has rarely needed them, relying instead on trust and honesty. It’s an incredibly refreshing business model and one that would certainly not work in, say, the Starbucks that faces his store. Imagine a sign saying, “Brew your own macchiato and kindly let us know if you added whipped cream.”
Neves Nutrition does no mail order business and has a minimal web presence. DeLude would rather spend his time growing the business locally, promoting the brands he carries, and educating customers on how those brands – even ones containing deer antler – contribute to improved physical and mental health. It’s a slight stretch from DeLude’s background supplying baby oil and Vaseline for skin and hair products, but it’s clearly where his passion lies. During our interview, DeLude convinced me that collagen peptides could cure my assorted aches and pains. I have yet to partake, but I know that a jar is only a sign-out sheet away.
If you’re a fiercely loyal Neves Nutrition customer, DeLude might tell you where he keeps the key to the establishment. He’ll pop in throughout the day and drive by at night to lock up if nobody is in the midst of a Pantera-fueled workout. Note to thrash metal haters: The store’s music subscription service allows users to choose their own tunes. Just make sure the remote is findable for the next customer.
DeLude freely admits Neves Nutrition might not make him rich, but he is content to continue operating on the handshake principle for now. The sign-out sheet, featuring customers young and old, serves as a daily reminder that his business is viable and necessary.
“You and I are friends now,” he said, upon seeing my name on the list.
And everybody knows you don’t stiff your friends.
Greg Schwem is a corporate stand-up comedian and author of two books: Text Me If You’re Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad and the recently released The Road To Success Goes Through the Salad Bar: A Pile of BS From a Corporate Comedian, available at Amazon.com. Visit Greg on the web at www.gregschwem.com.
© 2021 Greg Schwem. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
As an Amazon Associate, Boomer Magazine earns from qualifying purchases of linked books and other products.