Bizarrely, I’ve been named commenter of the week for the local paper’s online youth culture section, written by Justin Ellis. (It’s about the Young Persons, with their crazy hair and their loud rock & roll combos and their persistence in walking on my lawn. Hey, you kids! Get off my lawn!) The prize: a guest column. I’ve written my rant, and I’m testing it here.
If you hang around the Old Port, you’ve seen the BUY LOCAL stickers and signs and t-shirts, and probably heard the apparently endless ways BUY!ing LOCAL!ly bolsters the community. Yeah, keep income local and support our downtowns, stick it to the big box stores!
And it’s true. It’s all true! But let’s cut the pretense that we’re always (or, y’know, ever) so noble and community-centered. I’ll tell you a dirty little secret:
You should buy locally for your own selfish reasons.
When you buy locally, you develop a relationship with the business. (Not like that, you perv.) Respect yourself: support businesses that respect you and cater to your tastes, whether you’re shopping for shoes, movies, music, or just a cappuccino.
Mass-market retailers don’t have the luxury of tailoring themselves to a niche market. Their resources and research are too unwieldy to maneuver around local idiosyncrasies. This is bad news.
That’s a little-discussed (and deeply disgusting) effect of Big Box Business: the whittling away of individual tastes and serendipitous discoveries. Yeah, they’ll sell you the same food and pants and books and movies that you’ve already heard of, and that everyone else has already heard of — sometimes at a discount! They can afford to: they’ve got a truckload of ’em out back, loaded up to sell you and everyone else. And that’s all they’ve got; everywhere you go, it’s the same bland pap.
Locally operated businesses have personalities and quirks. They’re downright peculiar, just like you and me! (Mostly you.) The owners and staff spice the inventory with their own tastes (and, sometimes, obsessions), so they can recommend all kinds of offbeat things — bands and movies and shoes and coffees and beers and whatever — new stuff! Stuff you might like! Stuff you’ll never discover if you do all your errands at TGIBlockTopicBucks™.