Let’s consider our role as consumers vis-à-vis a our role as citizens for a moment. Suppose there is an item you want and you tend to purchase this class of item at least once a month. Further, suppose there are five places to purchase this item. There are three “brick and mortar” establishments at varying distances all within five miles of your house. There is one “brick and mortar” establishment 20 miles from your house and there is one website.
- The three physical stores are within five miles of your house and are all locally owned. The item you want is priced within 2% of each other at these local stores.
- The store 15 miles away is of the “Big Box” variety which is owned by a large corporation headquartered thousands of miles away from your region and the price of the item you want is 15% less than the local businesses.
- The website is a giant clearinghouse website that sells everything and the price is 12% less than the local stores after shipping.
- At the local stores, you know at least one person working at each of the businesses. In most cases you know the owners of these businesses and they all live in your community.
- At the “Big Box” store you don’t know any of the employees directly. You do know that the employees are actually paid less than the local shops pay their employees. The “Big Box” place is reported to treat its employees pretty poorly and the management of the corporation is constantly lobbying against issues you care about and against basic democracy in general.
- The website is headquartered in another state and similar to the “Big Box” place, it has management that pays lobbyists to weaken consumer protections and to weaken workers rights. The PR image of the website is more socially aware than that of the “Big Box”, but their business practices are similar. They pay their employees a little better; on a par with the local employees of the local stores, but the workplaces, mostly warehouses, are extremely harsh and turnover is pretty high.
In order to level the playing field for the website, we’ll assume you don’t need the item immediately.
As a CONSUMER you are taught that the only thing that matters is the price. Using this math, you would naturally shop at the “Big Box” or the website. If you and all of you neighbors behave in this manner, your local shops will go out of business, people you know in our community will go bankrupt and become unemployed, money will be siphoned out of your local economy increasing poverty and capital will be consolidated in ever fewer hands, your governments will be corrupted and hard won reforms and progress will be turned back.
As a CITIZEN… what should you do?