OPINION: Shopping locally for holiday gifts helps the community
Nov 18, 2012 (The Eagle - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
It has only been a short time since I've moved to Bryan-College Station, but the people of this community seem to have gone out of their way to welcome me to my new Texas home. In the eight weeks since arriving into the area, I have had the great opportunity to attend several community events, such as the Texas Reds Festival and the Taste of Home Cooking Show.
I've had the opportunity to attend a few Chamber of Commerce events, and I'm impressed with the staff and the amount of community involvement in this organization. The chamber is a volunteer-driven organization made up of business and professional leaders in the community, and their purpose is to grow the local economy. When the local economy is growing, businesses thrive and jobs are plentiful. The Bryan-College Station Chamber of Commerce produces a bimonthly magazine called Connections. The theme for the November/December issue is, "Shop Locally this Holiday Season ... It's where our jobs are!" The theme "Shop Local" is not a new catchphrase, but it is something we should all support. I would much rather interact with a real, live person instead of searching the Internet to find out more about a product.
There is no denying the Internet has changed the way most of us live and the way most of us shop. Our cellphones are more powerful than most of the desktop computers of a decade ago. With one small device that fits in a pocket, we can text someone across the world, send an email or read an article from a newspaper. With that same device, we can take a high definition picture and, within seconds, crop it, manipulate the picture so the red is taken out of the eyes, and post it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
With that same device, we can also shop online. It is all too easy to browse websites to shop for birthday presents, Christmas gifts, and pretty much anything else you want to purchase. Last Christmas, I heard several people say they did some or all of their Christmas shopping online. "It was just so easy, and they ship it directly to my door or to the person I am buying it for."
Why shouldn't we shop online After all, there are some products that just aren't readily available here locally. In those cases, it is hard to argue against online shopping. On the other hand, supporting a local craft store, gift shop, book store, coffee shop, cafe, restaurant, sporting goods store, etc. has its own rewards. In many cases, a person can "comparison shop" online and purchase the item locally.
When you buy online, you get a product. When you buy locally, you get a product AND a person. That person can tell you how to use the product, how to make the product work best for you, what other products go well with your purchase, what products may work better than the one you want, or even if you need the product at all.
My husband is pretty handy around the house, but he is no plumbing expert. A few years ago, he was "fixing" one of the bathrooms in our home and needed a part. Instead of going to a department store, he went to a local plumbing store that was closer to the house. That plumbing store didn't sell him the part he "wanted" -- instead, they sold him the part he "needed," and they told him how to best install the part. In the end, he saved time and money by spending a dollar or two more at a local store, which was staffed with local people who cared about their customers.
Another issue with online purchasing is that many of the products purchased online aren't charged local sales taxes, which means the city and the county don't get the tax revenue as they would from products purchased locally. Sure, you may save a couple of dollars by not having to pay local taxes, but that also can directly affect you where you live.
How many times have you driven on our streets and complained under your breath as you dodged bumps and potholes How many times have you read a crime story in the newspaper and thought, "I sure wish we had a few more police officers patrolling our town "
None of these things can be fixed if we continue losing sales tax revenue to online purchases. Every dollar spent buying something out of town or on a website without a storefront in our area translates into less tax money that goes back into helping make our region a better place to live for us all.
We are blessed to have many entrepreneurs in our area. They have invested their time, money and effort in providing us great places to shop. What is to happen to those businesses if we continue to shift more of our dollars to out of town/online shopping Eventually, they will cease to exist. We won't be able to try on two, three, or eight different dresses before we decide on one to buy. We won't be able to get those special cables to hook up our electronic devices right away or get that last-minute hunting, fishing or athletic item before the big weekend trip.
How do we make a difference Make the commitment to shop here first. There's nothing wrong with "shopping" online, but make the commitment to "buy" locally, whether it be through a local business website or directly at the store. Making a small investment in YOUR community can make a big impact on OUR future. Let's keep our dollars at home.
Crystal Dupre is the publisher of The Eagle. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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