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.

A. Reader


Anonymous said...

If you buy $100. of merchandise at Kroger's within a one month period, and that's not hard to do, you can take advantage of their offer for a .10/gallon discount on gas. You can also bring as many cars as you like to the pump and as long as you don't hang up the pump in between fill-ups, the entire bunch of cars can enjoy the discount.

cryptozoologist said...

i try to buy as much as i can in town. i like to say that it takes less walking to walk to tom's than to drive to krogers. i try to patronize the hardware store whenever i can because if i can get it there i save at least an hour compared with driving to a home improvement center. i just wish the hardware store would post its hours on the door (HINT HINT).

i do not buy gasoline in the village because i always costs more. for an apples to apples comparison check out the price of gasoline at the speedway in town and the one on dayton yellow springs road and trebein and you will see we pay more in the village for gas. in the case of gasoline, the advantage of shopping local is not as pronounced as most of the money goes to large corporations outside the village.

persephonesunset said...

i enjoyed this article. as we are planning to move to yellow springs in 2011 i am doing much thinking on this topic. it is nice that someone did the legwork for me.
i already spend as much money as we can in the village and will be glad of every penny we spend once we get there to go toward "our" lovely town. :) thank you.

jafabrit said...

I don't mind paying a bit extra when I factor in time and gas cost, but when it comes big shopping I go to Miejers simply because they have international goods I can't get in town.

Yvonne said...

I look at it this way....I don't have to DRIVE anywhere or at least not far to shop local. I can buy most of the things I need here in town or just on the outskirts of town and I feel that I'm keeping jobs in our village. And yes, I'm one of the folks who works retail in this town. If I DO shop outside of YS, I try to buy from a small business and not a corporation. Like from an individual on eBay or Etsy or a small store. If we're not careful, all those places will be gone....

Anonymous said...

You cannot buy underwear in yellow springs. BP gas is just a better gasoline to put into your cars body. And less soctly than the BP near Kroger. Kroger gas like Speedway is full of fillers. ie: water. Speedway gas is no good. But the kids there are kinder. Tom's does not carry the cat food I need. And I cannot afford to buy a $5.00 generic bulb.

Anonymous said...

Not directly connected to shopping in town, but related. I often hear locals complaining about lack of parking in downtown YS, especially on weekends. Even though I've never been in many of the downtown stores, I love that they're here. I pass through other small Ohio towns and see boarded up store fronts and I'm thankful that we have a vital and busy business district. I don't mind walking or riding my bike downtown on weekends.

Lovetoshoplocal said...

To be truly local means more than physicality and convenience, but a local friendliness must pervade the business. It is what some would call the "value added" aspect of shopping local and should be what makes it that much worthwhile.

I like to buy gas in town and a few pennies does mean a whole lot. What does mean something is that the local gas stations are the ONLY ones I have ever been to in the last 20 years that do not offer toilet facilities(and I drive extensively through the region because of my job). They have them but prefer to use them for storage or the exclusively use of employees. I believe it to be rude and uncaring towards its patrons who are mostly local. It is a slap in the face of its patrons who can easily spend $30-50 per visit.

I do all our grocery shopping in town unless there is something Tom's does not carry. All I wish after nearly 20 years of shopping there using a check every time(with my name prominently displayed on it) that people there would address me by name. Chris always did it when he assisted in checkout but he is not there anymore.

Likewise with the hardware store. I hate being called "hon", however I do try to buy all I can there(that is after I got over being demeaned by the owner's husband following a simple question regarding a grass trimmer).

Tim at the drug store remembers everyone's name and addresses me such. So it is possible. It is a friendly environment and deserves our support.

At Current's, a friendly atmosphere for the most part exists. I know most people there although there is someone there who although knowing me well always makes me feel like I am putting her out if I ask to be served.

It is great to have friedly places places like the Winds, The Little Art, Dino's, Peach's, The Trail, all in a downtown core. And what would life be like without The Emporium. Kurt and his staff have created a magical meeting place utilized by people of all ages. It is truly a gift (but if we don't purchase things there it will someday go away).

Yvonne said...

The restroom problem is probably a result of tourism; many of the places cannnot afford to have public restrooms because of the water bill, especially if the water bill is paid by the landlord who threatens to increase your rent as the bill goes up. With so many tourists, public restrooms are just not possible.
The name problem is sometimes a matter of "coolness". Some of the local workers seem to think they have to act cool and I think instead they are acting RUDE. I work here in retail and while I don't ALWAYS use names with locals I know (I know more faces than names!) I always let them know I know them. I don't think being aloof does ANYTHING for your sales, whether the customer is a local or not!