Welcome back everyone! (Including you lurking back there in the shadows of Tumbler. I see you!) Today’s post is one that’s very close to my heart, which is to say it’s something I am rabid about and scare random pedestrians with when I get on my soap box.
I hate online shopping. Not like the ‘oh my Gods I hate waiting for my stuff’, not ‘shipping is soooo expensive’, not ‘What do you mean I missed the delivery? I was here all day!’
No. I HATE online shopping because it is bad for the local economy. I mean really bad, the kind of bad that can kill a whole town bad. Think I’m wrong? Check out this Article about towns in the UK where online shopping has made it almost impossible for small towns to keep shops open. Heck I have three separate links from three separate sources (posted below) that confirm the point.
I get it though, I really do, Online shopping is great, you can browse items from anywhere in the world, stuff you never even knew was available much less that you even wanted.
But there is a seedy underbelly to all of this online shopping and I’m not just talking about that Slinky black dress you ordered at 1/3 retail price that turned out to be a Hefty Trashbag covered in glitter. Or the Top hat from Ebay that was neither a top nor a hat. Or the… well you get the point. The point is that online shopping makes it that much harder for local businesses to stay open. When you, the consumer, can just pop online and order an item from China at a ridiculously low price you are taking food out of the mouth of a local business owner. You are keeping them from being able to pay that months mortgage, you are keeping them from being able to fulfill a dream to which you yourself aspire. These are people who were once just like you, (Assuming you came to this blog to get tips on making your own business a success).
And it’s not just local businesses like the flower shop or that kitschy little vintage store that suffer. When those niche stores start to close it means that those now unemployed people have to get a standard W2 job like the rest of us. But their options are going to be limited because sadly owning your own business seems to be equivalent to being unemployed and unemployable in the eyes of large companies like Walmart so it doesn’t count as work experience most of the time. So they can only get entry level jobs which are in short supply these days.
And if they can’t get a standard job they can’t afford to do things like buy gas so there go the smaller gas stations and now those people need jobs. Do you see the vicious cycle here?
And that’s just the effect on a local scale. I’m convinced the Recession in 2007 happened because of online shopping and any subsequent mini-recessions were caused if not directly by Online shopping then at least tangentially. (Ok I know the real reason the 2007 Recession happened was predatory lending and the housing bubble burst but Online Shopping could not have helped at all).
And if all that wasn’t enough let’s look at the effect of online shopping on people in other countries who don’t have the protections (Laughable as they may be here in the US) that we enjoy, things like a fair wage and safe working conditions. This Article explores one of the darker aspects of online shopping, sweatshops. Or this Article that hits a little closer to home. There are dozens of examples I could show you (And if you ask I just might because this is important to me) that site online shopping as the end result of exploitation.
“But Artemis” you say to me. “You have an online store! How can you vilify online shopping?”
Fair point dear reader, I do have an online store, and I get ridiculously thrilled when anyone orders anything off it, mostly because so few people ever do and it’s nice to know that someone out there wanted something I made enough to go looking online for it. It’s a pernicious little catch 22 I am in. On the one hand being a successful business owner necessitates my having an online store. It’s just what’s done and what is expected as a business in this most modern tech friendly age. But on the other I really do HATE (yes I know it’s a strong word, I have a strong feeling about it) online shopping. I have seen first hand what happens when people can just go online and buy a product for half off or more, the store price. I’ve watched friends brick and mortar businesses go under because someone could just buy what they had on Amazon for 1/3 the cost. And I’ve seen just how heartbroken and dispirited my friends are when they inevitably have to close down because they just can’t compete online.
So how do I balance my personal ethic with the wellbeing of my business? Well I do not shop online. If you’ve been to my website you’ll notice everything is hand crafted, I have to get those supplies somewhere. Where do I get them? Well I buy them from local stores. I get most of my craft supplies from Jo-Ann Fabrics, Michael’s Craft Store, AC Moore and Hobby Lobby. I get other components from Vintage stores, or local thrift stores. Heck all of my displays are from Good Will.
“But Artemis!” You cry. “Those are all evil chain stores with online stores!”
Well yes, but they employ local people to run them. They give much needed jobs to people who are just trying to get through one day to the next. They provide health insurance and 401K’s to people who aren’t necessarily interested in owning their own businesses but still need a job. And on the rare occurrence that I find myself absolutely needing to buy online (I had that happen earlier with the fans I use) I make a point to purchase only from an online store connected to an artist or artisan if I have any choice whatsoever. I may have to spend a little more but that’s a little more for some hard working artist to put towards a downpayment on a car that doesn’t break down every five miles.
Look it’s not perfect, nothing ever is, but it’s the best I’ve got and I’m doing my best to make a difference in my little corner of the world. And I am not completely without understanding. Sometimes you really don’t have a choice, I lived on an Island in Alaska for a year. There was a whole 3 month stretch where the ferry wasn’t running and if we wanted anything we had to order it online and have it flown in. If you live in a rural area and just cannot get to a store that is totally fine and understandable. If you are disabled and the only option you have for getting supplies is to order them online and have them shipped then by all means you do what you have to, but if you have the option I am begging you. Please buy local.
And if you’re worried about the expense try using a coupon. (I’ll be doing a short post about coupons later)