I like to browse online for goods that I want to purchase, but I rarely buy things online. Sure, it's handy to have goodies end up on my doorstep and on occasion I'll go this way. There is a lot of downside to ordering things online that I think people should keep those things in mind. A local store in my community, chain or otherwise has several things going for it. They pay taxes and employ my neighbors. This improves my local community in a variety of ways, usually including keeping property taxes low. Without employed residents, the quality of life for everyone in my community is reduced — think Detroit, and parts of Appalachia.

In a real store I can walk in and complain, and/or get answers or action to make things right. If the product is defective or otherwise unsuitable, as is often the case by mail, the return process is immediate, and I save on shipping costs and time. Local merchants also try to maintain goodwill, which cannot be matched, even with those discount codes the online retailers try to lure you in with. Those discount codes are something else, they seem to work on every item in their virtual store except the particular item I want.

If I make a purchase online, few if any taxes go to my local community. Nobody from my town is employed, with the exception of the FedEx guy. The online company has lower margins as they primarily need only warehouse workers and customer service employees. Your local big box retailer probably hires more employees per store than many of these internet companies do for their entire operation. By reducing payroll, it saves the online retailers a great deal of money and is good business for them to cut costs as much as possible. Good for them, but what does it do me?

What do I, the consumer, get out of the internet experience besides convenience and a little saved gas? Online retailers often offer discounts of 5%-20% off retail. Cool! After the purchase is made, then the shipping costs must be added in. These costs are never what the company really pays for shipping and the shipping markup is another profit center to be managed. So the online company saves 30%-60% on operational costs when broken down for each item, and for that I get a measly few percent discount (maybe) after charges.

As the consumer, my job is to maximize what I get out of the purchase. After shipping I end up in many cases having paid roughly the same had I kept my purchase local. My purchase benefits the online company but does little for me or my community. In fact it can be considered counterproductive for me, given the loss of jobs and taxes to my local community.

All in all, I think it's best in most cases to take the time to stop by the neighborhood store if only for the exercise value. If Amazon wants to give me 35% off on the grand total including shipping then we should talk. In the meantime the money that is allegedly saved that doesn't go into my community or my pocket goes to some company outside the community. No thanks from this student. This holiday season, I'll hit Barnes and Noble, where I can have a cup of coffee, a seat, and check out all of the books I want. If you don't have a compelling reason to avoid stopping by a local store, why not give your local economy a boost and ignore those online retailers who offer you no real incentive to shop with them?

Spending money for Christmas in America equals love, and remember that when you shop. Love for family is important, but so is love for your neighbor who might happen to work at that big box retailer. Spend locally and watch the community grow.

Ken Drees comments:

When you walk into a store you may see or check something out that you didn't intend to. You may notice something featured that you never knew about. Maybe now that item you cared nothing for is suddenly appealing. You may interact with other shoppers, ask questions and find out about something even better. You might see something that you forgot that you needed. Reading a physical newspaper is similar, turn the page and suddenly you may find yourself reading an article that you would never choose from an online menu. You may even like the article. You may view a black and white display ad, that would never had appeared as a targeted pop-up on a digital version.

I went to the library the other evening, waiting for my son who was enrolled in a local library program about black bears. I just walked through a stack and found a book about Chicago underground homeless who thrive in their underground, off the books, existence. I read the book for a half hour, forgot about time — found myself thinking about totally non-typical choosable topics. I would not have chosen this book from a list, but there in the library on a random walk, I found a nugget. Digital and virtual are funnels — dropping you into niche. Stores and newspapers have their place. Libraries too.

George Parkanyi adds:

Yeah, and try haggling online…

'Fifteen dollars for a video! Fifteen? What man with a family can afford this? If I had two children maybe, but I have four. And a sick grandmother. My wife would not have s_x with me if I paid $15. A serious person might think about their own grandmother, and consider asking something more like — nine dollars.'

This doesn't even fit in an eBay feedback comment block.





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