Recently, a friend of mine was telling me it drives him crazy to pay more for something than he absolutely has to. That’s understandable. Nobody wants to throw away money, although we do it all the time. My friend might have questioned my sanity had I responded with what was on my mind at the time.
It’s not at all unusual for me to deliberately pay more than I know I need to. Just this week, I bought something at a local hardware store than I would have spent at Home Depot or Lowe’s.
As I see it, there’s more at stake than saving a few bucks.
In the aforementioned instance, I might have overreacted because the only truly local hardware store in my town had just closed down under increasing pressure from those behemoths. Still, I won’t be spending a nickel at any of the big box stores this Christmas. In fact I avoid them all year round. I’ll be downtown at small shops picking up odds and ends for family and friends. (Rhyme intended.)
In the process, I’ll actually spend less than most people. Part of the reason is that I’m cheap; that’s the Scot in me. But it’s also because I simply don’t buy as much. I’ve learned the hard way (is there any other way?) that stuff doesn’t make anyone happy. Whether I spend $20 or $2000, the recipient’s long term benefit is unlikely to be any different.
Walk into a marketing monster like Walmart, B.J.’s, or Target and you will almost certainly buy more than you intended. It’s how they work. And we are their willing victims. (See my Legion post for more on buying stuff we don’t need.)
Walmart hasn’t and never will see my face in their door nor a nickel of mine in their till. I have no use for their cheap junk often manufactured by enslaved children in tinder boxes in developing nations. Spending a few extra dollars is a small price to pay for a clear conscience.
There’s a reason our town centers are dead or dying. The same reason accounts for our increasing isolation from each other. When our communities die, Community dies with them.
Personal anecdote: My daughter and I have a Christmas tradition (there’s no tradition like a Christmas tradition) of walking the streets of downtown Lowell (there’s a lot to like about Lowell) on a Saturday a week or two before Christmas. We do the great majority of our shopping during that time. Upon completion, we reward ourselves with lunch (usually late) at a downtown restaurant.
We’ve been doing this for a long time and we love it.
Last year, my daughter was away at school so our shopping day was the latest it had ever been, the morning of Christmas Eve. When we walked into the little toy shop that is a highlight of our circuit every year, the owner looked at us and said, “Thank goodness. I thought you weren’t going to make it this year.”
Try to buy that memory at Walmart.
I could let myself be assimilated by those Borg stores (resistance is futile), but I wish a better future for my children and their children and so on. I wish a future with people who gather together and support one another in commerce as well as socially. I wish them a future where they have a choice of where they can spend their time and money. And I wish them a future where they don’t have to wonder whether a slave died while producing that cheap trinket on the store shelf.
I’m willing to pay for that, and it’s a bargain at any price.
At Christmas time, this is more urgent than ever. See my Advent Conspiracy post for more issues related to Christmas Crazy.