Do you know, I was two classes short of having a minor in economics but I still didn't understand until THIS WEEK that one of the arguments against chain stores is that they send the community's money elsewhere. I got that a few days ago in a flash of insight (or possibly from a commercial on the radio I didn't know I was listening to) as I was driving along mulling. I am in my MID-THIRTIES.
I think part of the problem is that when there are so! many! emotional! arguments! against something, it distracts from the PRACTICAL stuff---and if I hear too much emotional stuff, I generally start assuming there ISN'T much of a practical angle. Like, I am actually NOT sympathetic when I hear that the chain stores are going to put "the mom-and-pop stores" out of business. I think "mom and pop" is an excessively provocative term, considering that chain and non-chain businesses alike are owned by all kinds of people, some nice and some not, some parents and some not, and their motivations tend to be the same: make money.
I DON'T feel like making voluntary donations to keep a smaller company artificially profitable when a larger company can do the same thing more efficiently. And in my experience, small-business customer service varies just as much as chain-business customer service: some are great, some are crap, and not much seems to have to do with whether they're owned by "mom and pop" or by an international conglomerate. Sometimes you get a jerk, and sometimes you don't; sometimes a company has good policies, and sometimes they don't.
But finally I heard it in more economics-minor terms: that all the money the citizens spend at the chain is therefore going out of state. If it were spent at a small, local store, the money would presumably be spent by the local owners at other local establishments; then those other local owners would spend THAT money at other local establishments, and thus the money goes around and around, profiting the locals and also profiting the local government as they take their cut with each changing of hands. OH! I see!
It's not so clear-cut even then, of course. For one thing, the branch of the chain is still located HERE, so they have to pay taxes here. I think. Don't they? Or is there something about paying income taxes only where you're incorporated or whatevs? Still, property taxes, surely. And of course they employ local people, which means the company takes some of their out-of-state money and spends it back HERE. But still, I GET IT: I am in my mid-thirties and I see why smaller local stores can be better for a community.
What I DON'T get yet is how "seeing why smaller local stores can be better for a community" makes any difference once the chains are already here and the local stores are already gone. At THAT point---and that's the point most of us are at---it's hard to know what use this knowledge is.
I AM willing to pay a small/reasonable "tax" to shop "a better way" (which is why I'm willing to consistently pay $1.99 at Target for something that is $1.87 at Walmart, or buy the $4.75 partially recycled paper instead of the $3.50 non-recycled), but I'm looking around and I don't see many options for the "spend local" idea. Non-chain groceries? Only from the farmer's market, and that's only certain things and only a few months a year. Non-chain Tylenol? Nothing but a overpriced-beyond-small/reasonable convenience mart, and also of course most of the money still goes TO TYLENOL, which is NOT local. Books? YES! But...again, much of the money still goes to the out-of-state publishers/authors, and also, the difference between local and Amazon goes beyond what I am willing to pay in the "small contribution to the larger good" category. Gifts? YES! But that's a small part of the budget, and also what about Etsy? I love Etsy. Most of Etsy isn't local.
You can see how all this might make a Target girl feel...compromised.
Gift ideas for an 8-year-old, part 2 of 2 - Last week I talked about the gifts we were getting/considering for Edward, who is turning 8 next month. This week it’s Elizabeth’s turn: not “girl gifts,” ...