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On Good Intentions May 9, 2013

Posted by Toy Lady in Musings, Rochester.

No, this isn’t going to be a mea culpa or a load of excuses about where I’ve been lately.  I’ve been busy, I’ve been tired, and I’ve been blowing my nose a lot.  Not much to talk about there, is there?

However, I did read an article the other day that made me stop and think about whether I’d pay more to support a local business.

Like most people these days, we generally try to be as budget-conscious (read: frugal) (re-read:  cheap) as we can, although, again, like many people, we each have our, well, shall we say indulgences?

Currently, my biggest indulgence seems to be sock yarn.  For every Christmas gift project I buy yarn for, I seem to be buying enough extra, “undesignated” yarn for at least a couple of pairs of socks. 

So naturally, when the question was posed, I did stop and think – quite a bit.  In this age of big-box stores and internet sales, it’s often almost impossible to get the “best price” locally anymore, unless you count the Walmart down the street as “local business,” though I don’t think anyone really does, do they?

I do realize that I’m fortunate to have access to our great Public Market – where farmers and other vendors gather year-round.  Ah, but the key there is “vendors” – they’re not all local farmers!

Um, obviously not, if I can manage to bring home artichokes and citrus, huh? 

But many of the vendors are local farmers, and in a number of cases, I’ve made a deliberate choice to support the small businesses – but not in all cases.

I’m not going to pay $4.00 a  dozen for “organic free range” eggs, when regular old eggs are half that at the supermarket.  However, I’m happy to pay an extra $.50 for DIFFERENT eggs that are cage- and antibiotic-free.

I just can’t see paying $10 a pound for homegrown beef at this point, though it’s under serious consideration once the freezers are emptied.

Asparagus – last week, I paid DOUBLE for asparagus that had been picked locally the day before in preference to the stuff that had been picked who-knows-when and shipped in from Mexico.

Okay, so the food thing is easy – locavore, fossil fuels, blah blah blah.

But there’s a little more to it, isn’t there?  What about stuff that’s not made, grown, produced, whatever, locally?

Say. . . what about that sock yarn that I’ve been so in love with lately?  There are not a lot of superwash sheep grazing around the greater Rochester area, let me tell you!

So what about that?  Things we need (let’s just agree that we need sock yarn, okay?) but must be imported from SOMEWHERE, in SOME manner.

I’ll be honest – THIS is where where I really had to do some honest soul-searching – when it came to my sock habit.  How sad is that?

Sure, I could probably hunt out some old lady who spins yarn from her own homegrown sheep – I guess.  And quite possibly, not RIDICULOUSLY far away.  There are both Amish and Mennonite communities within a couple of hours of here.  I’m probably not gonna do that, though.

Then there are local yarn shops – there are two that are easily (the most minor of detours) on my way home.  And the people there are SO nice.  SO helpful.  But MAN, the yarn is expensive.  And truly, the selection, well, they can’t stock everything, can they?  And apparently socks aren’t even the only thing people knit!   But I am reasonably confident that, if I ever had a question on anything I was doing, there would be someone here, in one of those shops,who could help me out.

There is, of course, the Big Box option – and, even worse, the online Big Box – what an individual store may or may not stock, I can certainly get from their online versions, if I wanted to.

This is my dilemma – shopping at the local shop is the most expensive, cost-wise, but it also provides the best service, AND it does the most to support my community.  But WOW, it can be expensive.  

Shopping at the Big Box, while the product may be a bit (or a lot) cheaper,  customer service is virtually non-existent, AND any profits will end up far, far from here.

BUT that Big Box does, at least, employ my neighbors.    Hmmmm. . .

While those aren’t the ONLY two options, they’re certainly the most local ones.  There’s also the online mom-and-pop shops – stores that do mail-order that are, in fact, local yarn shops, just not local HERE.  But their profits stay in their community, rather than going into the corporate pockets of some multi-national conglomerate.

What’s a gal to do?

What about you?  Do you prefer to shop locally, even if it means spending a little more, or would you rather save the money?


1. Anne - May 9, 2013

These days it’s mostly about money. I’d try to shop the local farmer’s market more, but honestly, they’re selling a lot of stuff that is trucked in. I mean, we really don’t get field grown tomatoes in NC in March. And for those people around here who claim to ONLY buy local produce, I say apparently you don’t eat bananas. Ever.

In reality, we buy very little that isn’t food related. Oh,and on the customer service issue. I get that you might need CS in a yarn store or something specialized. But recently there was hubbub that the most expensive grocery in town might be bought out. Oh no! They have the best customer service! Uhhh, I can’t remember the last time I used CS at a grocery store. I walk up and down, and put things in my cart. Then I pay and leave. Once in a great while I might have the fish guy wrap up a piece of tuna. That’s about it, and definitely not worthy paying premium prices.

I’m thrifty ..frugal .. cheap. I do what I can, but I don’t agonize over it.

Toy Lady - May 12, 2013

Anne, I certainly get what you’re saying, and for the most part I heartily agree. 🙂 But as for customer service – we have a local, privately held supermarket here that, when the chain’s management changed hands, it was very obvious, just by the CS. Where there used to be friendly people who were around and willing to help with *whatever* (a problem with a prescription, can’t find something, even offering to carry groceries to the car, that sort of thing) now there’s a lot more shrugging and “I’m sorry, ma’am” – not that I necessarily want to pay a “premium” for the service, but I certainly do expect a certain minimum, you know?

2. kayatthekeyboard - May 10, 2013

It varies. I do buy local, free range beef and chicken, and it IS more expensive. But there’s just one of me, plus occasional guests, and it’s not like it’s going to break me. I like that I’m not getting tons of chemicals and hormones, plus the taste is Well Worth the extra cash. I try to buy local, fresh veggies at the Farmers’ Market or through the buying co-op; again, it’s more expensive, but it’s Just Me, and it’s a question of taste.

The last half-dozen electrical appliances I bought, though, I ordered from Amazon or WalMart online. I loathe WalMart stores — they are a study in how frustrating shopping can be — but I’ll use their online system. I try not to buy clothing that’s made in places where I suspect they use sweatshops like the one that collapsed in Bangladesh recently, but I’m not as observant about that as I should be. So I guess I’m sort of all over the map.

Toy Lady - May 12, 2013

Yeah, I definitely know how that goes – me too. And while I definitely prefer to use Amazon or Walmart’s online store over the local stores (it’s like you’re being punished for something in there!) – if I’m buying something I can buy in person, I’d RATHER do so, knowing that those places provide jobs for my neighbors. I try, anyway.

3. Mazco34 - May 10, 2013

Okay, here’s the deal: We try to buy from local establishments as often as possible. That means hardware and such from a local Ace Hardware.
All our appliances were purchased from a store named “Better Living” in Jamesburg. And after the flood, that meant washer, dryer, refrigerator, freezer and 2 dehumidifiers. Gave us free delivery and installation.
In season, we buy all our produce from a local farm market. (Also doesn’t hurt that the owners of the local farm market puchased a generator for us after Sandy, along with 10 gallons of gas. Try getting that from a box store.)
We don’t like going to box hardware stores, but there are occassions when it is neccessary. (Local Ace didn’t carry toilets or wash basins)
We use the same contractors, because they are people I know from school and their work is performed correctly the first time.
As for WalMart, I’ve made my feelings known for that place here before.
We’ll pay the few extra dollars to a local establishment to keep them around,

Toy Lady - May 12, 2013

We’ve bought all our appliances from a local store – we love these guys! Like your guys, they’re actually helpful (as opposed to trying to SELL stuff), and they offer free delivery & installation too. It really does make a difference, and it helps that they’re competitive, as well.

You make a point, Maz, about keeping them around. So many mom-and-pop places disappear, replaced (or not) by stores with the Big Box mentality.

4. Judy Norton - May 10, 2013

I don’t have a lot of reason to really have to deal with repairs or appliances now that I live in an apartment and that is done for me but when I owned my town house I had my favorite repair people who were so nice and did such good work that it made up for maybe costing a little bit more. I do the Farmers’ market here for in season stuff but I must admit that my local/neighborhood Smiths store is so user friendly and many older people shop there. Several retirement home buses take residents there. I do not feel out of place with my oxygen on. It has a pharmacy and I love the pharmacist. It is also a winner for me as there is a full service post office branch inside as well as a branch of my bank and an under the same roof liqueur store. They give fuel rewards and their gas station is on the property so it is a win for me. Plenty of handicap parking too so the things that my life easier are right there. Interesting stuff here. Thanks.

Toy Lady - May 12, 2013

Judy, that’s what I love about the local stores – the business goes out of its way to inspire loyalty, not necessarily by having the lowest prices, but by welcoming you and even by providing the post office and pharmacist. I don’t know about there, but here, when local produce is in season, our local supermarkets source that, and they even tell you what farm the stuff comes from – and, in the case of corn, WHEN it was delivered. 🙂

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