Here’s a pertinent question for the holiday season: do you prefer to shop at locally-owned stores rather than big box stores or online? If so, are you willing to pay a higher price to do so?
We lucked out in that our new town, Corvallis, has a great downtown and is plush with locally-owned stores. We can get most of our needs met by heading to a local shop either downtown or somewhere nearby. Most importantly, there’s a great toy store (and two other stores that sell new and used Lego). There’s also a hardware store, a kitchen store, a couple book stores, a record store (remember those?), a yarn store, several new and used boutiques and shoe stores, etc.
It’s nice to walk into one of these shops, talk with an owner or friendly salesperson, and enjoy a small, curated selection of goods. I like being in a cozy, well-designed environment. I like running into people I know, or finding an item made by a local producer, author, or artisan. I prefer the aesthetic experience of being in a small shop compared to walking into a big box store, with its glaring lights and sky-high ceilings and aisle upon aisle upon aisle of *stuff*. Baubles, gimcracks, and frippery. Maybe this is the real reason I cried at Target. Does anyone else find it a little soul-destroying to walk into one of these behemoths?
This means that I don’t have billions of options to choose from when I want, say, a pair of rain boots—but I don’t care. An endless array of choices does not equal happiness, says research everywhere. It also means, of course, that I pay more for things than I need to. Price-checking Leif’s birthday gift, which I bought at the local toy store, on Amazon.com (of which I am an affiliate) revealed that I could have saved nearly $15 had I purchased it online (and had the foresight to buy his birthday gift BEFORE his birthday!). I thought about taking it back, but couldn’t be bothered. I’m more willing to give my local toy store owner an extra $15 than I am to give Jeff Bezos any fraction of that amount. That, and I was too lazy to get back in the car to return the train set to the store.
I do shop online, of course. It’s 2017 and that reality is inescapable. Sometimes it’s easier to shop online, and often it’s cheaper. But it doesn’t do a single thing to build community, either economically or civically, and building community is important to me.That said, here’s a quandary we’re in right now: James tried on a pair of shoes that he ended up loving at a local store. They didn’t have his size, but they ordered them with no obligation for us to buy them. We found out that we could pay about $25 less to get them online, so I asked the salesperson if there was any way we could get a modest discount on the shoes. Obviously, I would like to save $25. Obviously, I would prefer to buy from the local store. What should I do? I’m willing to pay a bit more to buy locally, but probably not that much.
Have you asked a store for a discount on something you found cheaper online? Have you handled this scenario in another way? Have you just eschewed local stores already? Are you a business owner who has to deal with this new reality? While I’m willing to pay a bit more to buy locally, I’m not a charity who can hand out extra cash to businesses with uncompetitive pricing every time I make a purchase. I’m so curious to know if and how you address this dilemma.
The elephant in the room, of course, is that I can make these decisions. I can choose to pay more to express my values because I can afford to. We’re not uncomfortable, financially (though that depends on what you consider uncomfortable!). I am well aware that even having this conversation is a luxury, one that ever fewer Americans are able to afford. I enjoyed reading this piece for it’s funny, thoughtful insight into this situation.