26 November 2011

Buy Local?

Much has been made in recent times of the importance of supporting the small businesses in a community. Keep your neighbors employed, that kind of thing. It's a noble cause and as someone whose family owned and operated a consignment shop for 20 years, I certainly appreciate the premise of circulating your spending dollars where you live.

That said, there is one key problem to the Buy Local directive and that is that most of what we all want to buy isn't made locally. Let's be honest with ourselves: Few of us really have an enthusiasm for homemade crafts. We may find something from time to time that catches our eye, but for most people our regular spending goes toward food and entertainment. With food you can buy local--be it at a farmer's market or by dining at locally owned and operated restaurants. This, I wholeheartedly encourage.

Entertainment, however, becomes problematic. What difference does it make to me whether I buy The Sopranos on DVD from Best Buy or a small, independent seller? It's the same product either way. My concern as a consumer is to get the best price I can find and unfortunately for the indie seller, that's likely to be at Best Buy. You need customers to support your establishment? I get that. But I need to stretch my few dollars as far as they'll go. I won't apologize for this.

And, let's face it: I'm still helping to keep someone in our community employed. Best Buy employees live here, too, you know. Remember when Circuit City closed? Or Borders? Those were big chains, sure, and we can talk about how cold their shareholders were but those shuttered doors impacted people in our neighborhoods just the same.

I'm not trying to discourage anyone from patronizing their locally owned and operated businesses. I encourage it myself. But I also think there's something disingenuous about acting as though local businesses have something special to offer us. At the end of the day, most of them are either trying to sell us stuff we don't want or they're trying to sell us the same stuff we can get anywhere else.


  1. This pretty much sums up how I feel on the matter. It's tough to follow the "shop local" directive when a lot of what I purchase falls under the media category and is WAY cheaper at the bigger chains. I guess you could extend the idea a little further to the brick and mortar stores vs. Amazon, specifically Barnes and Noble vs. Amazon. Sure I would like to keep the book stores in business, but oftentimes I can get the book I want at a much cheaper rate and they will have the selection that the store itself lacks.

  2. Yeah. I just have a hard time moralizing where I buy my mass produced commercialized entertainment.