Monday, December 28, 2009
One reader's buy local experiment: Measuring the bang of a buck
Just about every week I see the ad in the YS News encouraging us to “Buy Local.” Personally, I think it’s not only a great idea, but also a necessity to preserving our unique town center. The argument I often hear about buying local usually involves the price of things in town versus the lower prices at the big name chain store. Time for some research – I always wanted to be a secret shopper.
I started with 13 common grocery store items and did a price comparison between Tom’s and Kroger – you know the store that sits on a site that used to be a wetland. Here’s my shopping list: Cheerios, oatmeal, soy milk, bread, bananas, dog food (lots of dogs in town), flour, rotisserie chicken, lettuce, eggs, ice cream, baked beans and cat food (just to be fair). I bought the same brand names at both stores, did not use coupons, but did assume that I had a Kroger shopper’s card which often results in a price discount.
Ok, Tom’s is more expensive – I’m not sure that’s a surprise to anyone. My $46.48 shopping basket at Kroger turned into $52.71 at Tom’s. However, there’s more than money involved in the shopping experience. It took me 22 minutes longer to make the round trip to Kroger, added an extra 12 miles to my carbon footprint, not one person shopping in the store spoke to me, and not one employee smiled and asked me how my day was going. And Tom’s supports a bunch of local causes like the Food Pantry, the Glen Helen Pancake Breakfast, buying ad space in just about every program brochure and publication that comes along (lots of them) as well as being asked to donate things for prizes, auctions, picnics, etc. Plus, regardless of what the signs say, they provide downtown parking that is used by most everyone. I’m trying to figure out what Kroger or Meijer or Walmart does for the Village – let me know if you have some ideas.
How about gasoline prices? Both the Village stations recently had unleaded gas at $2.58 a gallon while Kroger had it for $2.55. I don’t understand how gas prices work or why the YS stations are almost always a little more expensive. Until there’s at least a ten cent difference, I’ll probably still buy gas in town, but not without grumbling a bit.
Want to see a movie? The most you pay for a ticket at the Little Art is $7.50 and at the Regal Cinemas it’s $10. The concessions at the Little Art are less expensive and they host lots of special events as well as offering free movies for kids on Saturday.
This is not just about one or two places in town – we could do similar comparisons, for the hardware, the drug store, the pizza places, the flower shop, the toy store, the book stores, etc. I’m sure some of them are going to be a bit more expensive than Walmart. So the question becomes, do you want to preserve the flavor of our downtown as a fun place to shop, visit with friends, have lunch, sip a coffee and smile at the tourists? All things considered, seems to me that buying local is a fairly easy decision.