What Can We Do?

Yesterday, when I should have been writing a cheery holiday post, I instead wrote a Letter to the Editor of the Albany Times Union. They had printed a recent headline in the business section which sent chills up my spine. At the risk of plagiarizing myself, I’ll give you a recap.

The article was about  Amazon’s promotion of a new app, Price Check, which allows customers to go into a store, examine the merchandise and then scan the barcode into their smart phone- directly into Amazon’s website, where they can order the same item at a cheaper price than the actual store offers. When I mentioned this app to my teenage children, who love their apps, even they recognized the problems this could cause. They said this qualified as “cheating”. While I explained the app was not illegal, they insisted there was something not fair about it- kind of like using a calculator on a math exam.

In today’s economic crisis, everyone is trying to find ways to save money. But now is not the time to fall into the trap of what is good in the short run, ignoring that it could be devastating for the long term. The Occupy protesters have demonstrated the extreme differences in income between the rich and poor and the need for a more balanced economy. I am not sure how much they can accomplish other than to raise awareness. I do have a suggestion for what we can do as individuals, though. If we have the funds for discretionary spending, we should be mindful as to how and where we make our purchases. Instead of buying online and sending our money to a few big corporations, we should keep our money local and not even consider using Amazon’s app.

By using the power of our wallets, we can make a difference in the success of our local businesses, which also provide jobs in the area. We can not allow a few companies to grow so large that they monopolize our choices by eliminating the competition. With the new year ahead, I suggest we all make a resolution to support our local businesses as much as possible. Even if their products are slightly more expensive, it is a choice that should make us feel patriotic. We will be doing our part to boost the economy in ways no federal mandate can. It is up to us to resist corporate greed and return business to the hands of the people.

If you had the patience to read this, thanks for bearing with me and letting me get that off my chest. I’ll be back to more cheerful topics tomorrow.

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. stmarco7
    Dec 13, 2011 @ 12:51:01

    I hadn’t heard about this specific app yet, but we’ve been moving toward this for a while. There is now eye tracking technology that gathers data on what a customer is looking at in a store for marketing purposes. There is another app that allows you to enter the barcode and it pulls up public info on the company that makes the product – related to size, location of manufacturing, ethical and environmental practices, etc.

    In general, I do not have any problems with this technology (apart from when it raises privacy issues as it does in terms of how the data is shared and the example of the eye tracking technology above but that is another issue). In my view, technology that gives consumers more options is basically a positive. It is then up to the consumer to decide how to use it (e.g. Amazon app). The choices it creates can of course complicate our decision making with more tradeoffs arising (e.g. do I buy local to support economy or buy on Amazon to meet family budget? do I go for quality of life or get that experimental procedure in hopes of extending life? etc.)

    In terms of my purchasing, I love having reliable information so I can make choices that fit with my wants, values, budget, etc. Price is always a big factor, but I choose to buy local when possible, to support small and large companies that are leveraging their resources to make the world better, to buy organic in the cases of a few key foods where toxins concentrate, to buy energy efficient appliances (and that is an area where leaps have been made in the past few years to get consumers better info). So give me the Amazon app – I just won’t use it!

    Thanks for the thought provoking post!

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  2. themiddlegeneration
    Dec 13, 2011 @ 14:54:00

    I agree that it is great to shop around and compare prices and there are some helpful apps that do this for you. What I object to, is Amazon dominating the market. I thought they were a great company when they started up, but where they are headed scares the crap out of me. They will take their losses on products now because they generate so much volume, and once the competition is knocked out, they can charge as much as they please. All I am saying is make smart choices before you decide to buy something.

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  3. Mortar and Pistol
    Dec 13, 2011 @ 17:16:57

    Well said! Something about huge retailers destroying local companies just bothers the heck out of me, and I’m glad to see I’m not the only one. In fact, Walmart is another huge store that really irks me. In my third year of law school I took quite a few employment classes and heard just how awful they treat their employees (and view all customers with an eye of suspicion) and it really turned me off to them. For instance, if I’m going to buy video games, I go to a locally owned business here in Knoxville instead of Walmart now. Not only is the customer service better, but it is always nice to support local people instead of some faceless behemoth of a corporation that assumes all shoppers are shoplifters, and all employees are peons.

    Giving one company a monopoly hurts us all in the long run. Great post!

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    • themiddlegeneration
      Dec 13, 2011 @ 20:50:20

      Thanks for your feedback. I agree that Walmart is another huge issue to deal with, but I have to admit I do take advantage of it from time to time. I feel I can at least justify that I am keeping people employed, no matter how unfair the positions are. But I do try to buy from locally owned stores whenever it is practical. At least over 60% of my holiday shopping was local. The rest was either Walmart or online, but we all do what we can.

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  4. suzicate
    Dec 13, 2011 @ 19:50:44

    I hadn’nt heard of this app, but then again I don’t have a smart phone and don’t use any apps! However, I would much rather spend more money and buy local. I wish I could say I “always” buy local, but I don’t; just most of the time.

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  5. Looking Out The Window
    Dec 13, 2011 @ 22:42:23

    Really like your post, with lots of good points to be made. The most important thing to do before each purchase…Think…
    We do shop lots of local merchants, chains who employ local folks and yes the internet too. Not only are we concern about where we shop but where the products are made. We love made in the US, but made products there is no made in the USA options, then we look at the manufacturing countries human rights history, trade practices and other like things. THINK…..before you buy.

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  6. wil
    Dec 13, 2011 @ 22:57:22

    One of the by words of my generation that always made good sense to me was
    “Think Globally, Act Locally”. Several of your pieces are empowering in that they remind us of how important it is to support local farmers and, for slightly different reasons, to support neighborhood merchants. If we really believe in local economies then we indeed will “put our money where our mouth is.” We are certainly tied into a global economy – especially given the debates about Chinese trade and the euro, but that feels like a slightly different issue. It is heartening to think your children get it…

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  7. themiddlegeneration
    Dec 14, 2011 @ 08:55:57

    Yes, they get it; but at the same time, they are too busy to go to the store and prefer to Google their purchases on my credit card. Maybe once they have driver’s licenses there will be more incentive to shop locally… an excuse to get behind the wheel.

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