Friday, August 7, 2009

Buying Local

Money is very important. You should not waste it by paying too much for the goods you buy. So people drive out to the edge of town to go to the big box stores where prices tend to be very low. They want to get as much as possible for the money they have.

But now come the "buy local" people – you can find them in many cities and towns in the United States. They tell us to avoid the big box stores where the prices are really low. Instead, they tell us we should go to the smaller stores in our neighborhoods owned by one person or a family. Their prices may well be a bit higher, so why should I go there and "waste my money"?

Here are some reasons for thinking that buying from the local retail store is not wasting your money.

The local store has been there for a long time. Every time you go there, the same people wait on you. After a while they know your name; you know theirs. They get to be like your neighbors on the street. You get to know a bit about their families and their kids. They are part of the local community. You may know some of the people in the big box store but the odds are they will not be there very long. Buying in the box store is doing business with strangers.

There used to be a locally owned hardware store near my house. When I had a question about some problem in the house, the hardware store owner would be helpful--until a large chain came into the neighborhood and put him out of business. The employees in the large chain are, by and large friendly, but they often do not know a lot and do not stay on the job for more than a few months. The people in the chain hardware store never become part of the neighborhood.

You may pay a little bit more in the small store but that money is not wasted. It is the price you pay for living in a neighborhood where you know people and are known by them. It is the price you pay for getting free and competent advice when you have home maintenance problems.

Add to that that the low prices in the big chain store depend in part on employees making very little money. The money you save at the big chain store often comes out of the pocket of people just like yourself -- people who are trying to make an honest living. It is not wasting your money patronizing businesses that treat their employees decently.

It is important not to waste money but paying the very bottom price is not always a good policy. Quality of life is tough to measure but is surely worth some pennies.