Time to go shopping. Time to get groceries or birthday gifts or home goods. I search the ads in the Sunday paper (yes, we still get the Sunday paper), I look at my email and check the incoming from my favorite stores and... I sigh.
Bigger is not always better.
That's what I think. When ready to shop, I seldom - almost NEVER - go to Walmart. I call people who shop at Walmart 'walmartians'... and if you're one, I apologize but...seriously, do you know what you're doing? You're supporting big business when small business really needs your help.
While Walmart is the favored place to shop, with Targee' (fancy spelling of Target) a close second, I think, it wasn't always so. Back in the day, when I was a kid, we shopped for groceries and some home goods at the A&P - the Great Atlantic & Pactific Tea Co. They gave out green stamps - not loyalty cards. You licked the stamps and put them in books and when you had enough, you could get free stuff. It was our job, we being the kids, to lick the stamps and put them in the books. You had to have LOTS to get anything. Much like the loyalty points on my bank account... I have about 10,000 but it gets me little or nothing. I need 100,000 to get anything that's worthwhile.
My dislike of Walmart and my growing dislike of Target stem from the belief that these two giants think they own the world, and by virtue of that, they own me. I am limited, they believe, in where I can go to get good stuff at good prices. Of my weekly budget, they expect me to shop at one of their stores and 'save' money. Because they say I will save money.
Back in the day, A&P thought the same, I guess. According to a book on the subject, Marc Levinson's The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America, "In the 1920s, Levinson notes, the average urban family spent a third of its income on food, traipsing from dry-goods store to butcher shop to produce vendor in order to find what was needed to put together a meal. What that family got was often lacking in nutrition — without refrigeration, retailers found it difficult to keep milk, poultry and produce fresh and in stock. (NOTE: book is an affilate link)
"As A&P built increasingly larger and more diverse stores, leveraged its buying power and took advantage of advancements in refrigeration and mass canning techniques, it made shopping faster, easier and cheaper. By 1951, the average American family was devoting only 21 percent of its income to groceries and beverages. A decade later, it was just 17 percent."
On the surface, then, it's true. Shopping at an A&P (yes they are still in business in several states) or Walmart or Target, can save you money. You won't REALLY know if you're getting inferior goods, will you? The last time I shopped at Target, well... it wasn't a pleasant experience and the food we bought wasn't worth my ever going back there for any sort of consumable, again. Bigger is not always better, as I started to say way back in the beginning of this note.
The reality that bigger is not always better goes across industries. Grocery stores and big chain restaurants aren't always the best places to get the best products or food. I do frequent chain restaurants, like Red Lobster and Olive Garden and Chilis, but I also like a change of pace from their average, ordinary fare - and when I step out of that comfort zone to eat at a local restaurant, I discover what good food really tastes like. Just saying.
Here's what I think and you are free to write in and disagree - I think local, small shops are better for us than big chain stores. I think little has a lot to offer and even if the pricing is higher, when you buy local, when you support a store that offers more unique products and has honest to goodness customer service, you're supporting the future of your children.
It may mean you buy LESS because goods are priced a bit higher than the big chain stores. But, shouldn't we all be learning to do more with less? I mean, for the environment and more? You may not find exactly what you were looking for (being in the habit of buying 'this' or 'that'), but you will surely find extraordinary goods that may surprise and delight you.
In the end, I shop at our local grocery chain which, in essence, is a big box store of its own, I know. But, I also know they get their produce locally and they they support local businesses and they have pleasant, fun, happy people who check me out.
Bigger isn't better when bigger exists only to pick your pocket. That's what I think... Walmart and Target are in the business of picking pockets. That's my rant for the day. Learn more about A&P here. Study them - there is much to learn about business in general from their rise and fall.
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