Thursday, September 10, 2009

Monopoly

One of Deus Ex Machina's favorite games has always been Monopoly. I won't play with him, because I hate the game. I think it's boring, and I really hate that the goal is to bankrupt everyone else. I just think it's awful that we have a "game" that promotes the idea that we should be striving to be ultra rich and plunge the rest of the "population" into abject poverty. I realize it's just a game, unfortunately, this particular scenario is playing out in real life, as my most hated shopping venue has poised itself to crush the competition.

I'm not particularly insightful, most of the time, but I've read enough about this particular company to know that I don't like the way they do business. Sure, business is about making money, but I wonder why we can't just get along. I wonder why it has to be such an all or nothing attitude with this company, and I wonder why so many "consumers" continue to support this company that believes it can be all things to all people.

I used to like the convenience they offered, and then, I realized that I preferred niche stores. I liked going to a place where the employees knew the product they were selling, because their store offered a particular type of product rather than the whole gambit of every product under the sun. There's nothing more frustrating than needing a particular item and being faced with too many options, and not having the benefit of a knowledgable individual to help me make the choice.

Certainly, I do some research before I go, but I often lack the vocabulary necessary to convey what it is I'm looking for. I know what it is I need, but I can't express it in a way that a minimally knowledgable individual can understand.

It's like the time I went to the hardware store to get parts for my clothesline. The guy who was "helping" me didn't know from squat. I ended up buying a brass ceiling hook. Stop laughing. I wanted something that wouldn't rust.

Unfortunately, a brass ceiling hook isn't made to support the weight of a load of wet bluejeans and towels. But you knew that, which is why you're laughing. *I* didn't know that, and apparently, neither did he.

The thing is, in the case of that company, when its employees only get minimum wage, and those employees often move from one part of the store to another, and the store is attempting to provide one-stop shopping regardless of what it is the "consumer" seeks, there is little chance of developing any specialized knowledge.

Eventually the numbnuts, who advised the purchase of a brass ceiling hook for use with a clothesline, will learn that using a brass ceiling hook for attaching a clothesline is an inappropriate use for that particular hardware, and he'll suggest the appropriate type of hook.

Or he'll quit working at the hardware store and go to work for that company where he doesn't need to know anything.

It just bothers the hell out of me that some day, I may have no choice, but to shop there ... or to not shop ... which is what I will choose.

If you care at all about having options, please don't shop there, because if you do, then you are supporting a company whose owners and CEOs believe as Milton Bradley, that the only good competitor is a dead competitor, and frankly, that's not what our economy needs.

In the end we'll have that company and the government.

Won't that be a sad day?

8 comments:

  1. You have no idea how much "In the end we'll have that company and the government." saddens and frightens me - the stuff of nightmares right there.

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  2. I don't shop there but it's easy to go cold turkey when the nearest one is 2 hours away.

    I'm lucky enough that my local mom and pop everything store is amazing. Three floors of stuff and great customer service. I was just there this morning and we looked at hiking boots, a lawn mower (one didn't fit and the other wasn't what DH wanted) and canning supplies (a new water bath canner for me on sale for $20, yay!), glue and I don't remember what else.

    There are rumors of that company trying to open up here and so far they've had no luck. I can only hope and pray that they don't push it because I fear that would be the death of my favorite general store ever.

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  3. I used to shop at That Store regularly. I wasn't comfortable with their (for lack of a better word) ethics, but I sincerely thought, "Hey, I need to look out for MY family, and a dollar saved is a dollar saved."

    But then it occurred to me: I don't NEED to save a buck on an eighty dollar total. Hell, I can even throw an extra five bucks in to the pot and call it even, at least for the extra $5 I don't have to feel GUILTY about my shopping. And I have never been back. And yes, when i do go shopping, it ends up costing me a bit more, but I sleep better, you know?

    The sad, sad, part is that so many people right now really DO need to count their pennies that closely, and they have a real need for those extra few dollars. It makes me feel like a "nouveau riche", that I have the luxury of buying from local stores. It's not a good feeling.

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  4. Eh, sofar it's a plan. Like landing on Boardwalk there is an element of luck involved. I also think that if we're going to stop shopping at Walmart, than we also need to stop shopping at any non-local chain--internet chains included. How many independent bookstores have bit the dust b/c of Amazon?
    I read an interesting book -- "Reset" --that discussed Walmart and options. Yeah, Walmart might not be the enemy like everone thinks.

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  5. If Amazon is just an online retailer with no "brick and mortar" stores, can they really be considered a "chain"?

    But I agree with you, Bezzie. We should support our local vendors and boycott those chain stores. If the book you're talking about is the one I've seen, then it seems like the author is advocating for moving more toward localizing our economies, and personally, I couldn't be more for that.

    But it looks like I might need to read the book, because I do think that store hasn't done us any favors, and I don't mind having my opinions challenged ;).

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  6. Irma - I went through a similar period, where I was still shopping there, hating every minute of it, and wondering why, if it was such an ordeal for me, I continued to give them my money. Ultimately, I realized that it was because it was just easier than trying to find alternatives, but once I stopped going there, I've found that I can find anything I want some place else.

    And I've never felt guilty, like I'm so bourgeois, for spending a bit more, because what I've found is that I'm actually saving MORE money by *not* shopping at that store.

    First, because there is very little temptation to impulse buy. If I'm not shopping at a place where everything is so cheap, then, I'm less likely to buy things I don't need just so that I can feel like I'm getting a deal.

    And, second, because the quality of the item I get at other places exceeds the quality of the same item I get at that store. I've worn my $60 pair of leather shoes for five years, and they still have a lot of wear in them. The similar shoes I bought from that store lasted two years, and cost $30. Not much of deal, when one considers the cost of replacing the poorer quality item.

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  7. Anna - fight it! Fight it tooth and nail, if you can, because if that store gets into your community, it will be the death of your General Store.

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  8. TwoFrog - If you think on it further, it becomes even more nightmarish. Consider that if they are the only retail option, then your only option is to buy those products they decide to stock in their stores.

    And they already do things like selling only CDs they deem appropriate, and will require music artists to record a "censored" version, if they don't like the words the artist uses in the songs.

    Their whole company mission is to offer products to their customers for the lowest, possible cost, but *the customer* just doesn't consider what the ramifications of that are.

    One example of the negative impact of getting shit really cheap is the "huffy" story. Huffy manufactures bicycles, but they don't "sell" bicycles to retail customers. That store was their customer, but that store decided the profit margin for them wasn't big enough, and so they told Huffy that if they couldn't lower their wholesale price that store would no longer stock the Huffy bikes. Unfortunately, Huffy could not continue to manufacture their bicycles here in the United States at the price that store was willing to pay. So, Huffy bicycle manufacturing, like most manufacturing, went overseas, and lots of Americans lost their factory jobs ... and probably went to work for that store, making half the wage (if they were lucky) with no benefits.

    If that store becomes the only retail option, they get to decide what toothpaste we buy, what soap we use, what clothes we buy, what music we listen to, what books we read, and ultimately, what food we eat (if we choose to buy items that are not locally grown or produced).

    That doesn't sound so appealing to me.

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