Did you ever wake up and ask yourself, “What day is it?”
With so much hype about Black or Plaid Friday, Small Business Saturday and Monday full of ‘Cyber Deals,” it’s getting harder every day to pay attention to the actual holidays. You know, Thanksgiving. Hanukkah, Christmas. Family. Friends.
So … how might we thank the businesses who are so dependent on our willingness to patronize them between Thanksgiving and Christmas? What might be the best ways to do that?
A couple decades of research about holiday shopping offer us data worth considering, and the lessons are clear. We should buy local. Shop small. Take a pass on the grotesque mayhem of crowds searching for discounts and deals, bursting through the doors of big box stores. Recognize and respect the personal touches that local business owners offer us. Think less about what we want for ourselves and get pleasure from giving to others. Concentrate less on the things you can buy, and more on the relationships that such gifts help foster.
According to the National Retail Federation, consumers report that they will spend an average of $1,007 for holiday shopping this year. Cyber Monday promoters like Amazon get a greater proportion of our dollars every year. Amazon, eBay, and now, Walmart, FedEx and Google are on a rapacious pace towards their goals of even more profits, more delivery vehicles and giant warehouses that serve as hubs for almost every product imaginable. Their strategy is to price products so low and control so many markets that “consumers” (that’s us) naturally turn to them for what we want.
How’s that working for you and your family? Feeling a little overwhelmed? I am, and so are many local business owners who work all year to humanely, creatively, sympathetically and pleasantly serve us while they are making a living. They don’t see you as a consumer as much as a neighbor; a person with a name.
What’s the primary difference between buying things online or from the big box stores … and businesses where we know the owners?The bigger the company, the less they care about you — about us — as human beings. After all, their primary purpose is to get our money. They show little inclination to care about us as people who have more to offer than what a credit card communicates.
Consider the personal and cultural costs of buying from Amazon, for example. Our community does not get much of anything from them in terms of sales or property tax. They have a record of monopolizing entire categories of products. and are so successful at boring into our brains and cravings that we barely notice how often we damage our local economy by buying so frequently from them.
And by the way, beware of Amazon Smiles. If your favorite charity urges you to buy from Amazon to raise money, take this into account— for every $10,000 that Amazon gets, only one half of one percent (that’s $50) goes to your charity. The $9,950 goes out of town, to the very businesses who don’t care about you or the businesses we cherish in Starved Rock Country.
What's the most important day for you when you plan your purchases this holiday season? Why not today? Make an everyday, personal commitment to appreciate the business people who matter, right here where we live and work.
Think Local First, and have a happy holiday season.
RICK BROOKS, from Princeton, is director of Midwest Partners, a nonprofit organization active in small business and civic affairs throughout Starved Rock Country. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.