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.
I don't post about shopping or *stuff* very much, but I did write about clothes once, and also about Ikea.
Top photo by Crew on Unsplash. Bottom photo by Ryan Plomp on Unsplash.
Your new town sounds like my dream town!
(I would love to buy more locally and handmade or from small business owners online, but the financial reality is that I can't always. So some things, like handmade-in-Stockholm baby shoes I splurge on, whereas most clothes and kitchen/home stuff I don't.)