Shop Local?

Eureka, CA. My home base. Lately a lot of commercials have been advising consumers to "shop local." Of course, you have all the usual reasons given. More money stays in the community. Preserve community spirit. Don't support the slave labor big boxes use.

It's all bullshit.

I used to buy into the shop local campaign, but I had to think about what mattered to me more. Consumers? Community? Workers? Business owners? Workers won out.

There's little doubt in my mind that more money stays in the community when you shop local. There's also little doubt in my mind that consumers save more when they can shop at a big box which buys in bulk and can offer lower prices. Business owners, big and small, profit when you stop in their stores no matter the size. Workers, however, are doing what they do for the money. (Know many workers who work at the mall or your local restaurant simply for fun?) So I had to think which business benefited the workers more.

Workers are exploited, period. That's all there is to it, but there are degrees of exploitation. At a big business workers often get benefits, have opportunity to advance, and have better job security. These things are sorely lacking at smaller businesses, which may actually call upon their workers to work harder (in order to make the owner more money).

In that sense, shopping at big boxes benefits the workers.

Big businesses lose the personal touch when it comes to their workers, however. Small businesses often tend to care more about their workers on a personal level. You become part of the family in most cases.

But workers are, for the most part, still just doing it for the money.

The outcome is the same. When you shop somewhere, be it local or national, you are making someone else rich. They are getting rich off your money and the hard work of others. Businesses exist to provide services and goods, and worker exploitation is concomitant. When you shop, you are promoting this atmosphere. Shopping local does little to change that. It's just more obvious that local business owners are all that much more desperate for your dollar. They see threats from big businesses, so they play upon that social guilt. I'm just amazed so many "progressive" types fall for the empty "shop local" slogan without giving the exploitation aspects of both local and national businesses as much as a glance.

Shop local is an empty term. When you watch our local commercials, look who is telling us to do that. It's many local small business owners. What they are saying is: "Give us your money. It's good for you. It's good for the community." They forget to mention that it's very good for them. Local businesses feel it when bigger businesses can come in and offer better goods at cheaper prices and can draw employees away with better benefits and wages.

You bet they want you to shop local. Their house payments depend upon it.

1 comment:

Nikki said...

The small businesses that I've worked for have treated me significantly better than the large corporations, with the exception of my seasonal job. Scott's News treated me very well. I was paid decent for that time, not great, but decent. They were hardly getting rich off their business. I didn't have health insurance, but I had paid vacations, holidays, bonuses, and regular raises. It was a family store and a very supportive environment.

When I worked at the chain video store in Maine, I was treated like dirt, had no benefits, got paid crap, and was forced out for having an opinion.

Having worked in both large and small businesses, I would take the small one any day, even if it meant lower wages and less benefits. It's a more pleasant work environment.