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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Chicken Little and Greeley Chain Stores

There have been a few times when I feel like a rube. For most of my life I have lived in towns a bit smaller than Greeley. I have also spent a good deal of my life working two or three jobs at the same time. It's the single parent/college story--but I'll save it for later. My sons are adults now and on their own so it has become my story of survival, rather than one of political necessity, to tell. Besides today I want to explore the world of shopping.

I've never been a good consumer. I've been in both marketing and education fields. This background spoiled me on the idea of brands unless that brand denotes high quality in comparison to the competitors. I've also have never been a froo-froo girl. In seventh grade I'd rather go out and play baseball or tetherball than get stuck in the bathroom with a bunch of gaggling-geesey cheerleaders redoing their hair and nail polish. True, that didn't make me very popular, but it has saved me wads of money and social anxiety over the years.

So while some of my friends were happy to hear that Greeley has well-groomed shopping malls, a Macy's, a Target, and a Lowe's, plus my fellow geeks are no doubt thrilled that I finally live in a place abundant with hardware and computer stores to boot, I have been a bit disappointed thus far. I looked to find the locally owned stores (not franchised nor chain joints) as I like to shop locally owned small businesses as often as possible for my daily life needs but did not find a flourishing sector.

Since I am single and only purchasing for me (I'd use French and do the word "me" the Ms. Piggy-way but I don't really want to disclose my penchant for invented grammar and spelling just yet) I have developed my own rule of thumb pocketbook-economics for locally owned goods. I am willing to spend from ten to twelve percent more to purchase from a locally owned store. After twelve percent, depending on the good, and I feel that horrible monster known only as Gouge digging through my purse. If I can't find what I want locally within my rule of thumb then I will source out to the bigger chains or go to the Internet.

My volunteer local tour guides think I am a bit twisted on this topic. It is an economic strategy I have honed over the years and worked out the numbers on doing community-based marketing. I certainly didn't invent it. I just like the idea of local system sustainability and feeding the local economic multipliers. I am not a proponent of Buy Local--exclusively. I've seen the math multiplier effect for this concept and it doesn't work in the long run. But, moderation in everything, there are prudent Buy Local practices that can be quite helpful.

I do confess though to having a bit of trouble sourcing out the Mom & Pop's in the local area. Even the restaurants I have been to so far are chained or franchised. I found some diversity around the college but the further out I go into the wilds of the prairie the fewer I have seen. But before I get scads and wads of email I have to declare I haven't looked everywhere yet. It is a process.

I have gone shopping at a couple of the local marketplaces for food. Beautiful, big, stores with loads of friendly checkers. Moms fresh out of the gym with babies and toddlers in tow looking for fresh veggies abound. My cheeky nickname--"Stepfordville". Always fascinating to watch the social interactions.

After a fruitless search on labels and fresh food to come up with locally sourced food and beverage products I turned to a kind happy produce guy. When told of my plight he looked a bit perplexed and acknowledged I wouldn't be able to find what I was looking for inside that store. Ordering is done from central command. Central command is not local it is state-wide. Central command gives the department heads a list of choices and the department heads are not allowed any write-ins.

Bummer!

Time to find a new store with its own local merchandiser or a Farmer's Market. My taste palette prefers organic veggies and I do grow some of my own having been raised in a rural area. But my checkbook prefers the price on bulk produced nonorganic greens. My preference and my checkbook get into an argument every time I go shopping. A quick mental mediation and I end up purchasing the greens that are known to have more pesticide use on them as organic and the rest of my purchases come from the bulk bins.

Well I have digressed into the mundane details of life and I can hear my readers snore. I'll throw a picture in of the Greeley sky for pleasurable effect and leave off the shopping chat for now but will return to this subject later on when I have collected more informed direction and opinion on the topic.

Until tomorrow... or the next day I find time to write.

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