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Posts Tagged ‘book stores’

…On Buying Local

Posted by Steve on July 20, 2008

I mentioned that I prefer, when possible, to buy local. Yes, in part that’s because I prefer to support my local economy to economies elsewhere. There’s an element of self-interest to that: my job depends on the economic health of where I am. Of course, me deciding to order a pizza from Harold’s instead of Papa John’s isn’t necessarily going to do a whole lot to bolster the local economy.

It will do a ton, though, to bolster the quality of the pizza I get.

That’s the key. Yes, there’s an emotional satisfaction from buying local, but there’s also a clear material benefit: I can get things that are unique (why I prefer local restaurants), or I can get things that are hard to find/delivered with better service (why I’ll go to local stores).

The restaurant thing’s really what gets to me. You can get pizza anywhere. You can even go to Papa John’s (or Pizza Hut, or Domino’s, or etc.) anywhere, ordering online even, and get the exact same pizza in Minneapolis as in Atlanta as in Nashville as in Denver as in Richmond as in New York City as in Chicago. Or you can go to a regional chain, and get an excellent Mellow Mushroom pizza in Atlanta or Nashville, but not in Denver, Minneapolis, Richmond, Chicago, or New York City, while you can get Beau Jo’s amazing pizza across Colorado – but not in any other state. Or you can go to a totally unique joint – a pizza from Fat Lorenzo’s is available only at one location in one city, and while it’s got some similarities to a pizza from Bottoms Up in Richmond, the two aren’t at all alike. And I like that. And, of course, this extends to all sorts of foods besides pizza.

Then there’s stores that are local. I don’t do this as often, because the main motivation is “getting the product I want”, which is often available elsewhere for lower (or much lower) price. Why buy my jeans somewhere they cost $30 when I can get them for $20 at K-Mart… and I can walk to that K-Mart? On the other hand… about 2 or 3 months ago, my laptop finally died for good, being five years old and the service plan having ended after 3 (during which time many parts got replaced). So, I had to go get a new computer (good thing I’d been saving up, huh?). I went to Circuit City: “Do you sell custom configurations, and can I still get an XP system?” Ok, so I went to Best Buy: “Do you sell custom configurations, and can I still get an XP system?” Ok, so I… yeah. I checked some online retailers: CDW, Lenovo, etc. Ok, I could get it, but the price was iffy, and… ok, two local joints. Boom: exactly what I wanted, plus I was able to buy a lot better hardware than I’d have gotten for the same price off the internet, plus I got some nice peripherals and good warranty. Not to mention, good customer service. Which I like. Or, well, bookstores. Local bookstores: if you have one, for crying out loud, GO THERE! Unless, you know, you don’t like going to stores that have a broad selection to choose from. Take science-fiction and fantasy, my genres of choice. In my experience a typical Border’s has about two to three shelves combined of them. A typical Barnes & Noble will have about 4 or 5, or possibly just 2 if they’re really big. Uncle Hugo’s sells nothing else. So you want in-print books that the stores aren’t carrying? No problem. You want something hard to find because it’s been out-of-print since the mid-80s? Walls covered in shelves jamed full of used books, with boxes of more stacked against them. Granted, not every local bookstore’s so great: I’ve been to some that didn’t even have the selection of a large airport bookstore. But when they’re good, they can be great.

And that’s why I like shopping there.

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