Day 1348 – Buy Local
Believe me when i say i want to embrace fully the idea of buying local. I want to support it badly for several reasons. First i want to feel like i’m contributing to the local economy; contributing to the real people who walk the same streets i do. Second i want to feel a degree of righteousness in my spending.
Well, sorry, but it just ain’t happening. For the most part buying local means A) you’re not getting what you actually want, B) you’re supporting a faceless landlord or business owner whose concerns are way beyond the borders of this town, C) you’re merely prolonging the inevitable truth that only a fraction of local businesses will ever survive their first year.
Ok, calm down, let me explain. This not some absolute that i live by and expect others to live by as well. Also it does not apply globally to a local market. I spend as much money as possible on local merchants, but in my first year in Boise i was ready to go over the counter after several local retail fiascos all of which were solved by retreating to my computer, credit card at the ready.
I despise almost all retail in general. Retail today is a totally arbitrary system that only manages to add levels of worthless stupidity and cost. I much prefer to treat purchasing like a multiple choice test where i have a problem in search of a solution, i analyze the problem, come up with the best solution i can think of, then set about finding that solution out in the world. This is why i’m HOPELESS in second-hand shops. I never go into a place of business unless i know what i want. The idea of “shopping” is for me an abhorrent waste of time. I realize this is largely to my loss. Many’s the time a friend has found something totally cool in a thrift store because he was willing to put the time in browsing the shelves. That’s another virtue i lack.
I am too acclimated to the internet and the concept that knowledge is power to poke around stores. Retail shops are like computers not connected to a big network: dead ends. Plus i’m a child of a child of the great depression. Needing something right now is just a sign of poor planning, thus i’m well equipped to wait on UPS to deliver my latest gadget.
So, i must concede that i am guilty of researching the prices of the Kitchenaid mixer i’ve wanted for years, and of buying it from Amazon dot com rather than the restaurant supply store down the street. I spent $299 where the kitchen store wanted $369 plus tax.
How can there be such a discrepancy in prices? The mixer uses a large amount of raw materials, from many different places on earth, transported many miles to where it was assembled. All this costs money. The cost of producing a given lot of Kitchenaid mixers is fixed, so how can the “retail” price vary so much? Simple, the money i paid didn’t pay for *that* mixer. Rather the price i paid was like a quanta of water being poured into a system. Provided the aggregate quantum of wanter in exceeds the quantum of water out we say that business is profitable and likely to survive. And this is where i have issues with the whole “buy local” idea. Unless you’re buying duck eggs from a local farm (which is one of my favorite things to do) your purchase is still just water into the system. Only now a little gets spilled on the floor of the local shop before entering the main system.
We don’t need more local retail. We certainly don’t need any more big-box stores with acres of parking lots draining rain water laced with hydrocarbons into the groundwater. For a local economy we need people-to-people services; we need a local economy built on something UPS can’t deliver.