Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Idea #1: Shop More Wisely, Redux

I'm not going to lie. I don't know exactly what "redux" means, but I just kind of like the effect.

So, I'm kind of interested to find out what I'm thinking about all these ideas a few weeks later (yes, I do have to read my own blog to find out what I think - I'm that much of a mystery to myself).  Each seemed so crucial and vital when they were first written.  Life has intervened, some have worked out, others have not or at least not in the way I had imagined.  Others probably just need more time.

That first idea was inspired by the accompanying image and was reinforced knowing so many people who have created work and meaning in their lives by building a business.  I think it is right and good to support those people and I also think that it is probably a decent way of redistributing wealth more equitably, at least at the service/retail sector level.  Big box stores do hire more people, and some even pay more as a wage, but the "owner" is actually a corporation so the profits are leaving my community and if they're a multi-armed entity, the profits may actually be re-invested into businesses and practices that I actually don't want to be supporting.  When I support a local, independent business I can be fairly certain that the profits are being returned to at the very least a neighbour, and hopefully at least being re-invested into their children or house or whatever.

A friend emailed this week pointing out that if you don't live in an urban setting where the goods and services you need are available, the costs to the environment and your own opportunity cost may be so high that it is actually more beneficial to centralize your shopping in one spot even if that spot isn't home to independent businesses.  I'm not sure (or willing to do the research to become sure) how one figures all that out but it is worthy of investigation if anyone is interested.

For us, most of our daily needs can be met locally.  The grocery situation has not changed much: Thrifty's weekly, Costco monthly and Apple Market (local, walkable - independently owned? I'm not sure. Buddhakind, do you know?) every 10 days or so.  It turns out that Costco isn't a terrible choice on the wage/employee decency scale and is at least better than the alternatives (namely Superstore and Walmart in my 'hood).  Thrifty's is a mixed bag. Excellent experience for me as a shopper and employees seem happy but I haven't had the nerve to ask yet if it's really okay.  Their rate my employer page is full of rants (as they are wont to be), but their "I work at Thrifty's" facebook page is more positive. No getting around having to ask I guess.

We did end up choosing local and independent for our tires.  SJ had a conversation with a co-worker who moonlights in construction about why they both thought it was important to shop up here and it really helped solidify our decision.  We also chose locally-sourced windows for our small renovation on that same principle.  It's expensive though ($400+ for the tires, I don't know what on the windows) and a choice that only those of us with relatively flexible discretionary income can manage. All the more reason to keep choosing that when we can I think, but some days it hurts.  A lot.

Christmas shopping is going to be a trick. In particular, I'm flummoxed by socks and underwear. There is no local purveyor of said items that I can think of, and the local-ish options are all big box corporate folks. I think this will be a matter of choosing the lesser of several evils - I'm definitely looking for input on this one, so comment away with ideas and suggestions.

Does anyone else have any experiences or thoughts about trying to move to more local shopping?

Oh, and finally, just because I know awesome people who are independent business owners, shop this way this week, k?


  1. Here's an excellent solution to your socks and underwear Christmas conundrum:

    Do not give people socks and underwear.

  2. Alison, I had the socks and underwear debate with myself yesterday and I'm embarrassed to confess I ended up at the Gap (to Darren above: we are going the socks and underwear route because that's really all we need right now and are trying(ish) to base gifts on need). My rationale was that we've had s&u from there before and they, unlike many other brands, lasted a long while. So, maybe they were made under unfortunate circumstances in China (I don't know), which is not ok, but at the very least, they won't be in the garbage inside a year or two, leading to the purchase of more more more stuff. As far as I can tell, nobody in Canada actually makes underwear or socks, so the best I felt I could do was get something durable. Maybe I am evil.

  3. With regard to Thrifty's as an employer:

    Thrifty's began as an independent business in the city where I grew up. Around there, they are renowned as excellent employers. They pay decently, give good hours, and (I believe) have good benefits for their full-time employees. It's actually really competitive to get a job there. I know many people who have worked there and absolutely loved it.

    That said, I don't know how much of this has changed since they were bought by Sobeys. So maybe my info is not helpful at all!

  4. @Darren, I really thought you were going to explain the word "redux" and correct my usage. Huh.

    @Sarah, I hear you on S&U options. We too just use Christmas as an excuse to buy those items that are needed all year long. No matter though, Christmas or rainy Tuesday, there's no obviously Right source for those items. Gap is probably as good as any. If you're evil, you're not evil alone.

    @Julie Anna, thank you for the info re: Thrifty's. I will feel a bit braver about asking the next time I'm there. I'll let you know what I find out. Oh, I like that you read and comment here! Thanks.

  5. I tried to comment earlier but it didn't work so here goes again. The Gap is indeed the wrong place to buy socks. Not because they are the evil empire but because they make crappy socks.
    The local-ist sock company I can find is MacGregor. They are a Canadian company and have had a factory in Etobicoke (Toronto) for decades. They also make great socks. I suspect most of their manufacturing is done overseas now but they are at least "locally" owned. And, you may or may not be glad to know that they do charitable work with Make-a-wish.

    In my small-ish town I have 2 options for garments of the sock and underwear variety; the big W and Zellers. I buy the "Happy Feet" by MacGregor socks for my kids at Zellers mostly because they are cute and comfortable and also because my other choice is shop at W or drive to the city. I have managed to avoid W for 3 years now, something that is much harder to do for us non-urbanites. It is easy to have grand ideas (and heavy judgements) when you live in a city full of options and easy access...and much lower market penetration for W. Not so easy when they take over your town.