The central valley buy local campaign probably began with the best of intentions. The idea is simple, get people to pump their hard earned cash right back into the place they live and work. If everyone did this more, the local economy would be much better off. It would be an easy way to stimulate the local economy and we’d all be better off for the benefits in public services funding.
Before I launch into my tirade which I’m particularly jazzed about, let me just start by saying that I actually like buying local and I even like the buy local campaign. I would go so far as to say that the campaign doesn’t even come close to covering all the benefits the economy would see if we were all following along.
I’m going to lead into my point with a story. My wife and I are remodeling our master bathroom right now and today we needed to buy shower valve trim. We’d already picked out the trim from the Delta catalog lent to us by Fresno Distributing. This morning I show up before work to order the trim and come to find out their price is roughly $205 per unit (we’re using two), it’s not in stock, it will take 7-10 days to arrive, and I’ll also have to pay the freight (but they don’t know how much) and of course tax. So I tell them I’m going to shop around and see if I can’t get a better price. As it turns out, I can order them from faucet.com in New York, get them here tomorrow and pay only $182 per unit plus I found a $20 off coupon and of course there’s no sales tax. So I ordered them from my couch this morning without regard to when they’re open because the internet doesn’t care about things like store hours. They should be here tomorrow which if you’re paying attention is 700-1000% faster than Fresno Distributing.
Now, I’m perfectly willing to pay local sales tax and support the local public services I use and enjoy, but only when the price and quality of products and services I’m buying are comparable to the ones I can find elsewhere. When there’s a large discrepancy, there’s no good reason for me to buy local because last time I checked, local businesses were not charity cases.
Last year I needed a blower motor for my car. So I called Napa auto parts on Blackstone and asked how much the blower would set me back. They told me $360 plus tax and I can pick it up in about a week. Not being completely stupid, I went ahead and checked that price on the internet and found the same one for $88.94 with free overnight shipping and of course no sales tax. Would you like to double check me? Call a local auto parts store and ask for this blower motor assembly. I saved over 75% even before you consider the fact that I didn’t have to pay sales tax. I won’t even get into the fact that I had to be on hold for a few minutes with Napa and I had to tell two separate employees all about my car so they could find the part.
That’s just not acceptable for a local business. Even local businesses are going to need to face up to the fact that we’re living in a big economy. Local businesses can run their operations however they want, but in the end I’m going to make a rational decision about where I shop. I want a good product at a fair price and excellent service. If you have a local business and you’re not giving me at least that, you probably won’t be seeing much of me. This is why I say buying local is not as important as selling local.