I love small businesses. I have spent a large part of my career supporting them. I’m happy to spend a little more and order a book from my local independent bookstore instead of Amazon. I’m happy to get a Turmeric Latte from the Ethiopian coffee shop or a Kashmiri Latte from the Indian one instead of going to Starbucks.
I have often dreamed of owning a small store. In my late 20s I began researching the possibility of my own bookstore. In my 30s it was a boutique with essential oils and massage services. My retirement dream is to own a hotel or Bed & Breakfast. I love living in a place with an assortment of small businesses. My favorite thing to do on vacation is wander in and out of cute stores and antique stores. See, proof that I really love small businesses
But also, I’m getting really annoyed at all the calls to “shop small.” It’s not that I don’t want to shop small, but I see four problems with this mantra:
- Shopping is not a virtue. Buying things you do not need may help one business, but isn’t so good for the world.
- Going on FB and asking where you can get your Organic Himalayan Sea Salt Candle “but local, because I want to support local businesses” is an act of both extreme virtue signaling and privilege, also it’s super-annoying.
- Most communities actually need businesses of all sizes.
- Shopping small isn’t actually going to save these businesses.
I’m not an economist (or even good at math) but I’m pretty sure that convincing people that in the middle of a global pandemic and economic crisis spending their own dwindling cash reserves at a local business will somehow save that business is like telling 20-somethings that they could afford to buy a house if they gave up their daily latte. The lattes aren’t the problem. The high cost of college, interest on student loans, the lack of job security and the lack of affordable healthcare are the problem.
Likewise, we are not going to shop our way out of this financial crisis. What we need, instead of FB groups asking people to commit to spending $25 on local takeout a week (invited to one this week, also, please, I’d love to get my weekly takeout budget down to $25/week) is FB groups asking people to commit to demanding a financial relief package. Small stores, restaurants, and bars are all being forced to remain open because our government refuses to send financial relief. These places being open contributes to the rate of Corona, and the inability for schools to be open, both of which further hamper the economy.
I hope the local businesses where I live survive. I plan to continue shopping at them. But I reserve the right to be grumpy whenever someone tells me to do so.