Buy Local–For the Right Reason!

This image appears on Facebook every so often, and makes an appeal to “buying local” by, in part, disparaging the “big chains” as being greedy, and implying that all the money goes out of town. While there is “truth” to this, that isn’t the full story.

The image reads:

“When you buy from a small family run business  you’re not helping a CEO buy a 3rd Holiday Home.  You’re helping a little girl get dance lessons. A little boy get his team shirt. A mom and dad put food on the table. So THANK YOU for shopping LOCAL :)”

My “two cents worth” on this: I don’t think this argument is truly compelling. Why? The man or woman at Walmart restocking the shelves, the “checkout clerk” at Safeway, the cashier at the bank–they are all earning money to put their kids through dance lessons, get the team shirt, and even more importantly, keep food on the table, a roof over their heads, and gasoline in their tank.

Don’t lose sight of the fact that everyone in these stores also lives “local” and is working to serve you to put food on their table.

Here’s a more compelling argument, in my opinion:

Buy local, from locally owned (and perhaps family run) businesses that put quality service at the forefront of their offerings.   What makes “local” great is that they understand “local.” They are part of the community. The owners see you at the stores, in the streets, at school events, and (sadly less often these days) in church.  This web of relationships form a community and provides business owners and consumers access to one another. Local companies, because of their closer connection to local community, have a greater awareness of the needs of their local customers.  Because of this, they should be able to provide a higher quality service.

Quality service becomes something more than providing the right product at the right time for the right price.  Anyone can do that. Do the owners of “Big Chains” know your name, your kids names, your interests, and want to have a conversation about your life?  No–that would just be weird. The employees might–but they won’t be able to effect much change in response to your needs. 

A local shop owner on the other hand could (and often does) know all of these details and want to talk with you about your life.  In fact, they usually want to know how they can actually serve you better–immediately. Quality service in the context of a relationship becomes something more than a business transaction.  The exchange of goods or services for money becomes a platform for people to come together, to relate with one another, to help one another, and to care for one another.

And besides, local business owners know they directly answer to their local customers–customers that they come to know as loyal.

And you know what–sometimes those local owners have holiday/vacation homes, or hunting cabins. But we don’t mind. They took care of us. They cared. They were committed to making their money through providing QUALITY service and products.

THAT is compelling to me.

-Steve Brady

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