The Invisible Cost Of Convenience

Here’s the story: A friend used to buy her arts and crafts supplies at a locally-owned shop until a Walmart sprang up nearby. The prices at Walmart were cheaper, and customers soon deserted the local shop and bought their embroidery thread and acrylic paints at Walmart. Not surprisingly, the local shop went out of business. Then Walmart decided there wasn’t enough profitability in having a crafts department, and closed it down. Now the people in that community have nowhere to go for their arts and crafts supplies.

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Here’s the moral of the story: The price you pay (or end up paying) for all-under-one-roof convenience and low costs is not always obvious. In choosing the big superstore, you sometimes end up with no choice at all. Not only that, but you are taking the business away from someone who might be more passionate about what they sell.

Of course, it’s hard to argue against convenience – particularly when parking is a pain, the winters are harsh, and everyone is in an unholy rush all the time. It’s so much easier to leave your car in the big parking lot and drive one of those big shopping carts around instead – filling it with new underwear, a few frozen pizzas, a birthday card for your aunt, toothpaste, dog food and a coffee table. Done!

Yup. I get it. But is it worth the cost in the long run? Whenever possible, I prefer to give my business (and hard-earned money) to someone who is genuinely passionate about what they sell. This might be less convenient, but it’s so much more satisfying. People who are passionate about what they make and sell – from pies to paint – are invested in having you as a satisfied customer. They care about their product; this generally means that if you need to return something, get something fixed, or even put in a special request, they’re more likely to be helpful. They’re not ALL about the bottom line, and getting customers and goods in and out as quickly as possible.

Another reason to not shop at superstores is that, because they buy in volume, they often end up corrupting the supply chain with exclusive arrangements that make it hard or impossible for their competitors. Like banks, they become so powerful that they are hard to go up against. That’s when local businesses and even consumers lose out. They make or break the rules, and customers have very little say in the matter.

Passion for people and products, not profit

The next time you make your shopping list, take a look at it and determine if there are any items that you could be buying from someone who is passionate about what they make or sell. Get your bread from that baker who started out cooking pies for her family. Buy your dog food from someone who loves animals, and allows your dog in his store when you shop. Pay a little more for your books at that struggling little store on the corner, because the gal behind the counter loves to discuss the latest novels with you. Go the extra block and get your picture frames from the local photographer, who genuinely loves what he does and needs to earn a little income to keep going. You get the picture?

I’m not saying don’t shop at the superstores. I’m saying make an informed choice. After all, you don’t work hard just to throw more money at a corporate CEO who has no idea who you are, and would care less if he did. That’s not meant as criticism, that’s just today’s reality.

Think about it. Passionately. 

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