Episode 151: Help us shop small

shop-smallIf you will look to your left, you will see a logo provided by one of the largest companies in the world. So what can it mean? The notion behind the “Shop Small”movement is that it is better for the micro economy, the macro economy, and the planet generally if we try and do business locally. This is vaguely true. The fact is the jury still is out on whether this is macro-ly productive. The fact that it is conceived by a multi-national company suggests that buying local and paying cash might not be in the best interests of everyone.

In this week’s Todcast, Todd shared a photo of the Walmart logo fitting inside the Death Star plans the rebels received. It is fun to say, and easy to take shots at Walmart but while we’re doing our self-righteous mocking, the company continues to post record profits. The reason is simple and manifold.

Fold #1: Even if you only buy organic, fresh harvested, free range produce, you’re gonna need flour. Or rice. Or quinoa. You’re going to need beans and canned fish and (and let’s be frank) the occasional bag of Combos. Ant toilet paper. I hate paying outrageous Internet prices for toilet paper and beans, so I (like you) get them from Wal*Mart.

Fold #2: Sometimes, when you run out of leeks, or onions, or apples for lunch after 5 p.m. Sometimes, you need to grab a gift on your way to a birthday party and it is 5:31 p.m. This means you are not allowed to “Shop Local.”

Fold #3: The reason there is a Wal*Mart (or a Target, etc. for that matter) is there were retailers who were willing to stay late into the night. For whom family time was compromised both as a personal and corporate attitude. Sam Walton worked ’til 8 p.m. and his employees worked til 9. He had the will to look them in the face and tell them than neither their lives or his own mattered in comparison to the Wal*Mart vision. Today’s entrepreneurs are a little more touchy-feely.

Fold #4: There is something to be said for a small employer who both is willing not to exploit their neighbor AND willing to put in the hours. But, and this is where it gets even more complicated…

Fold #5: A lot of those employees don’t deserve to be working. One of the greatest chasms for the small business owner is that between expectation of service and delivery of service. As we said in the Todcast: If we want to be teated poorly, we can get that at Wal*Mart.

Small businesses have an enormous responsibility to meet more than we can ask of them. So, what we would like, is for them to meet us halfway.

It is the 21st Century. There is no good reason to not have one’s stock online. Owners should consider taking a hardline on employee priggishness. The old people at the Wal*Mart are terrified of losing their jobs and behave accordingly. It’s not too much to ask that a local store employee pretend to care that they are the face of the company for the moment a person is there. Maybe get them a fake kitten to kick during their smoke break or something. But, if a customer wants to be talked down to and ignored, there are tons of places they can get that experience and still leave with a couple of dollars in the pockets.

Those of us who are committed to shopping local (and those of us at AmEx who are committed to getting people to be committed to shopping local) just need a smidgeon of help. You don’t have to account for every fold, dear business owner, just the occasional fold. Give us a little help, and a chance to help you build something significant in the community and, I promise, we will rise to the occasion.

We also talked about other stuff that was less aggressive and more interesting. You can listen to it here. Fair warning, we had some audio issues, so, for your own protection, please turn down the volume of your device.