Besides shopping at local merchants, I love to purchase gifts from independent artisans and merchants online at Etsy, a certified B Corporation. Anyone can set up an Etsy shop and sell their handmade or vintage items, giving you access to a great variety of items from people with diverse skills and backgrounds. And with Etsy Local, you can even search by location to find Etsy merchants in your hometown.

Shopping at Etsy reminds me of shopping at my favorite local boutiques because of the great variety and unique handmade goodies you can’t find at the larger chains. Over the past week, I’ve had two memorable experiences with Etsy shop owners that made me remember why it’s so much more enjoyable to purchase from real people, rather than large corporations.

I recently ordered two necklaces from an Etsy shop that was running a buy one, get one free promotion. Nine days later, I hadn’t received the items, but I had been busy and hadn’t really thought about it. However, the merchant I purchased the necklaces from went out of her way to send me an apologetic e-mail, explaining that she had been on vacation and hadn’t thought to check the shop to see if there were any orders. She quickly refunded the money I paid for shipping and mailed my order that day.

I never expected to hear from the owner, and I was pleasantly surprised that she cared enough to contact me. It had not been long since I placed the order, yet the woman seemed genuinely apologetic and upset that she had made me wait. Large corporations have shipping delays all the time, but I have never received an e-mail from Amazon.com apologizing for a late shipment, and no large online retailer has ever offered a refund for my trouble.

In a world where we’ve become accustomed to automated responses and the warning “DO NOT REPLY TO THIS E-MAIL,” witnessing a real human’s concern was refreshing. The owner was worried that I may have ordered the jewelry for an event, and she did not want me to miss the chance to wear it. Can you imagine someone from Overstock.com doing the same?

In addition to my jewelry order, I ordered a customized anniversary card for my boyfriend from another merchant. When I placed the order, it was only a week before my anniversary, so I was nervous it may not arrive on time. I sent a direct message to the owner on Etsy asking her if it would be possible to have it within a week, and she replied within five minutes (despite the fact that it was 1am) assuring me it would arrive on time. Sure enough, I received the card three days before my anniversary, along with a nice note wishing me a happy anniversary and a free gift I had not ordered – a beautiful, handmade Christmas card.

Once again, I was amazed at the level of service and attention I received from this merchant. I had spent only six dollars at her shop, yet she still took the time to write me a note and was generous enough to give me a gift. The only time I have received a gift from a large corporation was when I spent a significant amount, and it was some small, generic item that I can’t even remember. And I’ve certainly never been wished a happy anniversary on a handwritten note. Because of this merchant’s excellent service, I intend to purchase her cards for every special occasion.

My experiences with Etsy merchants show that small businesses don’t have to spend tons of money or extra time to create loyal customers. As a small business owner, all you have to do is show customers that you care – that you’re human too, and you understand their concerns and needs: the social, emotional, and financial. You’re not always going to be able to offer the lowest prices in town or the largest selection, but you can always offer a unique, positive, and personal experience.