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Your Friendly, Neighbourhood Consumer


In light of the COVID-19 outbreak and the need for self-isolation, I decided to take on a new hobby to pass the time and keep my life enriched. This fulfilling hobby is online shopping. I don’t know about you, but now that I have started down this slippery slope of window shopping, caving and purchasing, and then eagerly anticipating the arrival of a beat up brown box full of unnecessary treasures, it is hard to recover. The whole process is rather intoxicating.

From Amazon to Etsy, I have been compiling lists of random items such as compression socks and ring candles (which are really cool by the way— the candles, not the socks), filling digital shopping carts with stuff I definitely don’t need. Fortunately, my extremely limited budget prevents me from actually buying most of this stuff, but the obsession with the concept is still there.

Now in my own defence, I feel as though there are worse things I could be doing, such as coming closer than six feet of strangers and having social gatherings of five or more people (you know who you are), so really, I am kind of a hero here. However, through my endeavours in online shopping, I discovered a more valuable way to shop like a hero, one that changed my whole perspective on how we purchase and consume products.

You want to know what it is?

You have to continue reading.

Sorry.

It all started on a beautiful, ridiculously cold and typically unpredictable spring day in Calgary, when I was sitting in my chilly basement suite in my finest pajamas with my cat, Mortimer. Being cooped up for a week straight, I was beginning to feel antsy, desiring a change in the mundane routine (I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here). I decided I needed something good to read, and my hundreds of unread books lining the overstuffed shelves of my library would simply not cut it. After consulting with Mortimer, I decided to interpret his sleepy and uninterested grunts as approval to log onto amazon and begin my search for the perfect read.

I cruised the pages of bestsellers, thrillers, adventures, and up-and-coming authors, but nothing seemed to catch my eye. I spent hours (no, I’m not exaggerating) trying to find the best book to pass the days away with. My noble quest was beginning to look bleak when I finally stumbled upon a couple of interesting titles that seemed to be up to my unusually high standards.

Before making my purchase, I decided to check some other websites to compare prices, like the true middle-aged suburban dad I am at heart. I checked mainly big corporations and book stores (you know the ones), and found that all of them seemed to be priced roughly the same, with about two weeks shipping time for each. I was narrowing down my options when another, unexpected contender leapt into the ring.

While scrolling on Facebook, I came across a post announcing that local bookstores in Calgary were offering free, same-day delivery of books right to your door. This deal seemed too good to be true, so I decided to check it out. Sure enough, businesses such as Owl’s Nest Books and Pages in Kensington were offering home deliveries on new and used books. I excitedly explored the Pages website and found the titles I had picked out (usually $25.00 a book) for only $5.00 each.

Within three hours, I received a package of 8 books (that I totally didn’t need) through contactless delivery, dropped right at my doorstep. Talk about service! It was like pure magic. This amazing experience with an incredibly efficient and customer-friendly small business got me thinking; what other local businesses are doing this?

The more I searched, the more I found that local businesses in the city are coming up with innovative ways and adapted operations to accommodate their loyal customers during the pandemic. Plant, in Inglewood, offered beautiful plants for a great price, all through contactless curb-side pick-up. Earth Gems on 17th had rocks and home decor to brighten a room, with excellent customer service and pick-up as well.

After conducting research (and procrastinating on school work), I found that the benefits of local businesses run much deeper than just great prices and awesome service. Shopping locally, especially during times of crisis, makes a gigantic impact on not only your life personally, but also the economy, community, and environment.

When you shop locally, you are helping to keep more money in your community. Local businesses tend to source and purchase from other small businesses, farms, and providers, kind of like one big happy business family. Plus, there are no exorbitant amounts of pollution and annoying packaging for shipping and transport like in large chains. Because really, there is nothing worse than opening up a huge package and finding literal plastic bags of air cushioning one tiny bedazzled litter scoop. Local deliveries come with only as much packaging as they need to get your items to you in one piece.

Continuing on this environmental tangent, local businesses are usually close enough to walk or bike to, which means you save on gas and reduce your impact. Due to the proximity of many businesses to my house, I often shame myself into getting physical exercise instead of driving to do my shopping, which is really better for everyone in the long run.

And what about the size? Local business districts are like fun-sized shopping malls with better quality products and (usually) cheaper prices. They don’t have the gargantuan size of a Super

center, and therefore take up less space and reduce the destruction of habitats and local green spaces.

Not only that, but customer service in small businesses is almost always better than in large chains (at least from my experience). I have determined two main reasons for this. The first reason is that local businesses tend to hire people who really know what they are talking about. The second reason is that local businesses often know their customers personally, so they build relationships with them that are meaningful and positive. Well, that and they need to be careful what they say because they have a good chance of running into their customers in other places.

But you get my point.

According to my elaborate google searches, small businesses donate to community causes at roughly twice the rate of large chain operations. So basically just by spending locally, you are indirectly supporting community charities and non-profits, doing your part to make the world a better place. Good for you!

I will admit, before learning all of this information, I was guilty of shopping mostly at large chains. However, after learning about the impact local businesses make, as well as seeing the way they are banding together to accommodate their customers safely during hard times, I must say that I am rooting for Team Small Business all the way. The Covid-19 pandemic is hitting small businesses hard, so it is more important than ever to support the local shops that have been giving back to the communities we live in for years. The world is changing, and as consumers, we have the ability to come together and make a huge difference in the way we shop.

Remember, with great buying power comes great responsibility. Put your money where it matters most by shopping at local businesses.

This has been a PSA.

Thank you.

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