Thursday, January 19, 2012

Right - How we make purchases affects us all

Attention Readers: Please read: "Amazon Should Partner with Independent Book Stores" by Sarah Green in the Harvard Business Review. The web site/article can be found here:

Brilliant idea and one that has potential. Rather than "I'm in this world for what I can get" or "He who dies with the most toys wins" logic, it points a light on being in the world for "the us/collective" and reminds me a bit of Oriental logic.

Western thinking is notorious for planning for "now," thinking in terms of weeks, months, years at the longest. A burger and fries takes 6.5 minutes, a law suit takes three years, a pregnancy lasts 9 months (or 10 lunar cycles), most schooling takes twelve years, buying a stamp (well, perhaps that's not a good example), etc. The wisdom of the Far East is perhaps found in its patience. They make plans based on generations. Life is a subtle game of chess, a give and take, ebb and flow.

As a student, mother of many, and grandmother of many more, I am an Amazon buyer but also an occasional local book store buyer. Lucy's Books, Godfather's Books and the new kid on the block - Amazing Stories are small but vital to our community in Astoria, Oregon.

And now to my confession as a writer and avid reader. I have often turned to Amazon when a local store did not have what I wanted right now in spite of their heartfelt offers to have it in two or three days. Where was my logic when I'd trot home and order on Amazon, rounding out the order to $25 to get free shipping, saving a dollar or two on the first book, and then waiting a week to get my order? What was I thinking?

If we lose our local independent book stores, we lose more jobs in an already dwindling economy. There is a word for this when it reaches critical mass. It's called "ghost town." The locals have gone out of business, the infrastructure collapses, people move away, quality and diversity slide into oblivion, and the we/collective suffer in the end.

What gives me the right to say these things? Experience. I once owned a retail business and sold electronics or "brown goods" as we called them. We'd, of course, purchase from the wholesalers who in turn bought from the manufacturers. Then the "big box" stores came into existence and offered prime deals to the wholesalers - "We'll buy 10,000 of these but you have to sell it to us for a dollar less." The wholesalers were in hog heaven. The independents began to leave when in the following years the big box stores bought more but demanded the wholesalers receive less. Our personal critical mass hit when we drove to a local big box store to fill an order for a client because the big box price was lower than we, as an independent retailer, could buy from our wholesaler. Death knell - the wholesalers were cut out when the mega stores began to buy directly from the manufacturer. Many of the independents also went under as they could no longer compete.

Okay, rant over but I do hope I've got you thinking. When you make your next purchase, what are you saving? Who are you saving? What do you want your world to look like? Perhaps as Sarah Green suggests there is a middle ground, a merging of independent business with the convenience of the Internet, a joining of philosophies, perhaps a chance at a win/win situation.

1 comment:

  1. I think a lot of this has to do with laziness, and I admit, I'm an abuser. Why spend an hour in a bookstore, drive there and back, when you can do a search in a couple of clicks and the book magically appears in a week or so?

    But having recently become a fan of a cute little bookstore in my hometown, I have resolved to change this way of thinking. It's just like the whole e-book thing: my daughter bought me a Nook Christmas 2010. I hate it. I buy the ebook, read it, then buy the hardcopy. I like the feel of a book in my hands.

    Hopefully more will follow my lead.