Oh Jeremy, you ignorant slut (really wanted to open with that today).
We all know how I feel about WalMart. Had a run in with a Target store last weekend that was less traumatic, but overwhelmingly bewildering. There is a reason there are no windows in those stores, florescent lights and background music … customers wandering around with baskets not sure where to look, having unexpected encounters with products they didn’t intend to buy and end up getting anyway. I was like a deer in headlights (granted it was one time of late I wasn’t late for something, so I was a little uncomfortable and unsure about what I should be doing since I wasn’t rushing somewhere) and got separated from my shopping companion and lost a few times. I felt drugged in a I-want-this-to-wear-off kind of way, not a good way.
The place was a full grocery store, pharmacy, and had clothing, electronics, toys, camping gear, sporting goods, linens, bathroom supplies … one stop shop. Definitely convenient in that sense, no denying that.
But, to quote Alan Jackson: Now the stores are lined up in a concrete strip, You can buy the whole world with just one trip, Ya save a penny ’cause it’s jumbo size, They don’t even realize they’re killin the little man, Oh the little man.
He rocks. Just got the greatest hits album.
The answer isn’t as simple as not shopping at the chain places because you’re right, the people employed there need those jobs and these places in some arguable way are providing a need whether it’s the product or the service or the job opening. Plus, it’s hard to avoid these places because they are so prolific. Are you wasting more gas by driving to a few places instead of one? Are you spending more money? Which is hard to ask of a lot of families and even more so in this economy.
However, these places screw the Mom and Pop shop, and run a lot of their suppliers out of business by demanding low prices. Which leads to cheaper products by both design and manufacturing. A common way to cut manufacturing is by doing it overseas – are those job losses we are inuring balanced out by the openings provided by the big box stores?
I avoid chain stores at all costs because I believe, and I know many disagree, that shopping at the box stores is more expensive, just not as obvious as the price tag for the item in your hand. Plus, the coffee is better at Uncommon Grounds than at Starbucks and I don’t have to order in Italian.
As far as food goes, I try to eat things produced locally and things that are in season. It’s better for my well being, and it supports local businesses and often times, I can find stuff that isn’t ragingly expensive. Also, there are things called gardens. You can grow food in them.
I like my son to play with toys that don’t require a battery or that are made out of something other than plastic. He has to use his imagination, his brain, and I don’t have to worry about a recall on Thomas the Train because of some red paint that had lead in it that he’s been sucking on for six months. Win win situation, although, someday soon he’s going to be badgering me for a Wii. Oblivion is easy when they are four and a half, especially when he thinks the TV is broken when I unplug it.
I don’t mean to come across like I have all the answers. I don’t. I know it’s easier for me to make some of these decisions because I have a little wiggle room to do so. I know that the reason a lot of people buy from McDonalds is because it’s inexpensive and you can buy a meal for under $5, and I wish that weren’t the case both for their health and for what the money is supporting.
If you can. When and where you can. Buy local.