Recently I read the book, “Cheap – The High Cost of Discount Culture“. In it, the author explains how the trend in our society for ever increasing quantities of ever cheaper goods is ruining us.I encourage you to pick it up and read it if you haven’t. Some say it’s a hard book to get into, and I agree that there were certainly dry parts, but I found it fascinating.
Basically, there is no free lunch. That cheap stuff you buy in Walmart costs our society more than is reflected on that price tag.
In my real life, I own a travel agency along with my husband. One of the challenges we occasionally run up against is where people get our advice, then use it to go online to some bottom feeder discount site that offers to personal service whatsoever to book their trip at a small discount.
It isn’t only travel agents either. The article explains how Target is tired of being used. A growing trend with consumers is to go to a local store to look at items, then going online to order them at a discounted price. In fact, in the Amazon app on smartphones there is a bar code scanner that makes this comparison quick and easy. The thing is, Amazon doesn’t have the cost of operating that store there in your neighborhood and employing those people who keep the shelves stocked and the store running.
Taking advantage of local merchants is easy, but is it really in our collective long term best interest? Taken to the extreme example, if everyone did that the local businesses would cease to exist. Think about a world where local business don’t exist. No help, no jobs, empty real estate. Is that really what you want?
This new awareness was severely tested when I asked for a wheelbarrow for my birthday. My husband would know nothing about wheelbarrows, so I told him that the people at Northaven Gardens would be able to advise him. Northaven is our local organic gardening shop. I want there to be a place like Northaven. I want to be able to go there and browse and talk to people who know organic gardening.
As it turned out, there was a small problem with the wheelbarrow he brought home. Not a big deal, and stuff happens, but I had to exchange it. So, I loaded up in the van and drove down there. They were friendly and gracious and quick to help. They even helped me unload the wheelbarrow and everything. The problem was that they weren’t sure they had another one in stock. So, I immediately got on Amazon.com to see if I could just order one. I am an Amazon Prime member so I get two day free shipping on every order.
What I found was that essentially the very same wheelbarrow on Amazon was about half the price. Since the wheelbarrow was in the three digits, this was not a small amount of money. Please believe me when I tell you it took every bit of willpower in my body not to just return the wheelbarrow and order the one from Amazon. I just kept saying to myself “Support Craftsmanship…Be the change you want to see in the world.”
So, whenever possible I support local business. I support local organic farms. I support craftsmanship.