Act 331

Shop local

I’m shocked that I’m 331 days into this blog without having a single entry dedicated to shopping local. If my clients didn’t shop local, I wouldn’t have a job. And if I didn’t buy local, I wouldn’t have a local client base. Seems pretty obvious and yet…

If you’ve hung in this long reading my daily posts, you know that while this blog is mostly about money and debt it’s also about community, equity, income disparity, democracy, politics, economics and well being.

Salmon Arm recently saw the opening of a Walmart. Smart Centres fought like H-E-double hockey sticks to get what they wanted and they won. As they usually do. But we got a few good left hooks in. Pun intended. So it’s fitting on this US Thanksgiving that I do a little WM bashing. It breaks my heart to know that “associates” in the US , most of whom live below the poverty line while working for the richest corporation in America, missed Thanksgiving with their families to usher in an early arrival of Black Friday. Ugh. There’s something seriously wrong with us.

All the same, there’s not much I can do about it now, except to shop local as often as I can. On two separate occasions this week, I found what I needed at a price I could well afford at small, teeny tiny locally owned specialty shops.

Case one – olive oil. I considered buying a 3 litre tin at a big grocery store. We go through quite a bit of olive oil in my house. Then, as fate would have it, I stopped into my favourite gourmet grocers. Better oil. Cheaper. And a much more meaningful purchasing experience.

Case two – running shoes. My kids won’t stop growing. My eldest is now in bigger shoes than my own which means he gets my rarely used court shoes for gym and my skidoo boots for winter. My youngest informed me today that he has holes in his shoes. So off we went to their  local skateboard shop. The owner recognizes us when we came in. She tells me the DCs are half price and they have plenty available in his size. He’s delighted. And I won’t lie, I’m pretty pumped too.

Had I purchased either of these items at a big box  store, I would have paid more for less. Less concern, less care, less meaning and less economic impact on my local economy.

Please remember that local business owners punch above their weight in regards to the health of your community. They employ, they donate, they risk, they care. While big corporate entities come in to earn, to compete and to add coin to their already inflated bank accounts and value to their shareholders’ portfolio. It’s time we started asking what all the profit is really for. Really, it is.

The most important share you will EVER own is a share of the trust of your family and friends and the share you OWN in your own community.

So tomorrow. Buy local and BUY NOTHING at a large big box retailer. Just for a day. I will be eternally thankful for your sacrifice. But if it really does feel like a sacrifice, scroll back to the top and read again until it doesn’t. It’s not a sacrifice. It’s a contribution. It’s an act of economic practivism. And it only works if we all do it. Even if only for a day for which I give thanks.

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Act 310

Appreciate the company of friends

Tonight was a very special evening. An opportunity to spend an evening with friends and say goodbye to a colleague who has the good sense to spend his Canadian winters in California. And who can blame him?

But it’s a bit more than that. He might not come back. He might just stay in California for good. That, my friends, is a  loss for us. A life well-lived crosses our paths with interesting and memorable moments. And if you have the good fortune to meet one of those people, treasure the memories.

Life is complicated. Too complicated. There are people who are so talented and so promising who despite their very best effort, do not get the credit they deserve. And we are the lesser for it.

My favourite movie of all time is “It’s a Wonderful Life”. In it, we meet George Bailey, a man who sacrifices his own well being to make his community a better place. Tonight, I fear I may have said goodbye to our own George Bailey, a man who would have done anything for his community. But small towns can be cruel. And even the best person is vulnerable to cruelty. But California is kind. And its gain is our loss.

I’ll miss you George. So enjoy the company of friends who understand you, who understand your community and who understand that life in a small town is a delicate and precious balance.

Tomorrow, Walmart opens after 10 years of hard fought hell by them subjected to the rest of us. The irony is not lost on me. Life is complicated. Not so wonderful. I would trade a hundred Walmarts for another season with my George Bailey. I really would.

Act 67

Drop Buy-ology

This is probably more apropos in these parts, but I’m always surprised at people’s love of shopping and sense of entitlement to the lowest price and the greatest selection.

Our community recently lost its only department store which has been cause for much dismay. “Where will I buy this, where will I buy that”. What surprises me is that nobody’s really saying “Why do I need this, why do I need that”.

Anyway, yesterday we learned that Smart Centres will begin construction of new shopping centre that may or may not include a Walmart (apparently we are not allowed to know). This has been a seven year process. It’s pitted neighbour against neighbour and family and friends against family and friends. I abhor the whole sorted thing to be perfectly frank.

What I find most distressing is the amount of glee the pro-shopping centre crowd is expressing – as if the consumer messiah has finally blessed us with their presence and once again we’ll be able to shop aisle after aisle of, let’s face it, crap we don’t need.

I think shopping is an addiction. I know I fall under its spell when I visit an Ikea or any store with pillows. I haven’t been at the mall since Christmas and frankly, I’m dreading ever having to go back.

So drop the buy-ology. Avoid the mall. Don’t ask “where will I buy”. Ask “why would I buy”. If the answer is why not, then keep asking. And don’t go to the mall till you have a better answer than that.