Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Why I Shop Small Business

I know that some have wondered why I don't shop at Wal-Mart as a rule. I imagine that some even think that I'm doing so because I am "uppity" or "too good" or love to waste money. I'm sure the list of what others might think could go on and on. The reality is that saving a quick buck may not always be in the best interest of myself or my community. Every purchase that I make has long-term ramifications. That money goes somewhere.

I've radically changed the way that I shop for things in the last year or so. To give you an example, let me give you a run-down of my day:

I went out to buy groceries and cleaning supplies (I make all of my cleaners):

I started out at Target (yes, I realize this isn't small business) to get some new bedsheets (ours have holes and are worn beyond recognition) and paper towels and hopefully some spray bottles for my homemade cleaners. As far as I know, there's no small business in town that sells these items.

Next stop is Menards - Target didn't have the spray bottles. I get my spray bottles and move on.

I stop at Inner Wisdom. Now I'm enjoying myself. The shop owner's mother is there and she asks how my ankle is doing. She helped me pick out some natural remedies for my sprained ankle last week. I grab a couple of essential oils that I'm running low on - I use these in my cleaning recipes as well as for relaxation, massage, and aromatherapy.

Next stop is Innkeepers for a cup of coffee and sandwich as I know that I've been out for awhile and will get shaky if I don't eat soon. It's a local coffee shop that has really nice staff and an impressive array of food and goodies.

Now for Cornucopia and Uncle Billy's Bakery - the health food store. I pick up a few bulk spices for my menu for the week, some glycerin for cleaners I'm making, and some cheese and bread for a fancy version of grilled cheese I'm making later in the week. I chat with the new girl and discover that we graduated from high school in the same year.

And finally Hy-Vee - to round out my groceries. A few produce items that I know I won't be able to order from the Local Grower's Network (where I get my produce), a couple of pantry staples, and some baking soda and vinegar for my cleaners.

That's seven stops! Why all the trouble? I could've gotten everything but the sheets and essential oils at Hy-Vee. And believe me when I say that there's times I'm tempted as going to seven places is not quick!

However, there's a sense of community when buying from small business. As I've purchased from local vendors I've had a chance to chat with and get to know some of the small business owners in town. They're great people. I don't know that I've ever gotten to know a Target cashier the way that I've gotten to know some of these people. Also, the dollars that I spend at these local businesses help to keep those businesses here and keep dollars in the pocket of these hardworking people, rather than going into the corporate pot. Granted, I realize that Target and HyVee are corporations. Why Target over Wal-Mart? Wal-Mart is known for its socially irresponsible behavior. Granted, I'm sure that Target has done irresponsible things also. But I guess Wal-Mart is just known for being irresponsible and taking advantage of others. At some point though I have to buy the things that I need somewhere if I can't buy it from a small business.

I've always been interested in sociology. I think there's much to be learned from studying society. One thing that has been a disturbing trend in America is the loss of the sense of community. I strongly believe that the mindset of "saving a buck" at the expense of all else has contributed to this. That is what I meant by the money I spend having long term ramifications. We must stop thinking beyond our immediate pocketbooks and start looking at the long-term effects of our buying habits.

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