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Conscious Consumer

Debating the buy-local holiday shopping experience

By Eric Johnson and Peter Robertson · November 25th, 2009 · News

Holiday shopping can be a trying experience that spans the entire holiday season — from Black Friday through the last-minute deals to the inevitable mess of post- Christmas returns and exchanges, this time of uber-commerce can stress anyone out. But there are two ways to deal with this yearly nuisance: Wake up early on a weekday and buy everyone on your list something from a megastore or spend your days collecting thoughtful and high-quality goods from local shops.

Here to debate the merits of each philosophy are two guys who probably aren’t even buying anyone presents this year are really concerned with the plight of the holiday shopper. Peter Robertson takes “buy local,” while Eric Johnson lobbies for the big guys.

Peter Robertson: Buy Local

The little people come to mind. The storeowners that habitually have to shave off 15 percent from everything in their store just to get people like me, the cheap, lazy, thoughtless and shallow holiday shopper, to walk through their doors. And when cute stores like those found in the Gateway Quarter finally let me through their glass doors it can feel like giving in itself. It’s as if I am doing the community a solid by paying $5 to park for the day and walk around looking for a business that might or might not exist a few months from now given our current economic climate.

But Cincinnati has great little shops with commodities you might not need but you really want.

Stuff like vinyl records (check out Everybody’s Records or Shake It Records) or an employee who knows what the hell he’s talking about or even cares. And Wal-Mart has no chance in competing with those boutiques with the limited quantity sneaks.

For women, there is a special place in their hearts for boutiques that no superstore can ever fill. The thrill of the find, the fun of the outfit, even the walk to the quaint shops on Ludlow Avenue in Clifton is fun and easier on the eyes than florescent lights glaring off hospital tile floors scuffed by shopping carts and clothing racks.

The Mustard Seed comes to mind. Sure, it’s a second-hand store, but not like this is Plato’s Closet. We’re talking about some high-end garments and expensive shoes on discount without a coupon.

I have a friend who works at The Mustard Seed, and she has these leather kicks that come to a point almost like elf shoes but in a cool and tasteful way, if you can imagine. She loves these shoes and gets compliments all the time. My point is she found a gem. Is there going to be a gem waiting for you wondering up and down the numbered corridors?

More than anything this holiday season it is important to think about the children. The kids are what make the holidays really fun again because they are the ones getting twice as many presents in the morning. The other day I walked into King Author’s Court toy store in Oakley just to see what a toy store is like. It was magical. Toys were out of boxes and the kids were running around on the confetti carpet and racing little cars on little tracks with little hands. I found toys I didn’t think anyone even made anymore because I have been brainwashed to think only Target had what a kid really wanted. Damn the corporate monster and its powers of persuasion and great deals.

Shopping local can be tiring and frustrating at times. But when I find that one gift that is perfect for the person I am looking for at a small local shop I know there’s always the option of keeping it for myself and getting them something cheaper at Meijer.

Eric Johnson: One Stop Shop

With the demise of small-town America, the suburban superstore has become very prominent.

As with every generation, there’s a select group among us who yearns for the ways of yesteryear. It’s not clear whether they actually care about mom-and-pop shops and locally grown produce or just enjoy having that glorious sense of disingenuous pride. Either way, there is no denying the inherit qualities that make shopping at places like Wal-Mart fucking awesome.

As a mindless consumer, when I get in my car and go shopping, I need someone to point me in the right direction. If I can’t see a sign lingering over the highway and dominating the horizon, I honestly have no idea where to go. These beacons of commercialism comfort me with the fact that a one-stop-shopping experience will soon be within my grasp and, I have to admit, this feels good. I would much rather cruise down the highway at 70 mph than traverse narrow city streets desperately looking out my passenger side window for that quaint little shop my hipster friend told me so much about.

When finally arriving at my destination, the last thing I want to do is parallel park four blocks away. If I’m going to spend my hard-earned money somewhere, I want to make sure they leveled a small ecosystem in order to make my parking experience a pleasant one.

Nothing is better than walking in and being greeted by the breeze of an industrial air conditioner and a senior citizen begrudgingly saying hello. Is it just me, or does striding by someone who makes a menial wage with poor healthcare coverage give everyone a sense of superiority?

Walking through the aisles of a Wal-Mart is sublime. The bright lights, the diligent staff and the overwhelming variety of foreign goods turn every trip to the store into a satisfying one. When I make my way to the checkout line with my cart full of under-priced goods, I’m pleased with what I find. Rather than being harassed by some quirky, hippy shop owner who wants to talk my ear off about sustainability, I am confronted by a blue or red-vested drone who wants nothing more than to get me out of his face. This distain for their job pushes them to their utmost efficiency when scanning and bagging my groceries.

I get the fact that this whole experience comes at the expense of Chinese workers, superstore employees, local economies and other things, but we are in a recession, people! I need my megapack of toilet paper to be cheap as possible. I need a place where I can buy a case for my rifle and astringent for my face all in one stop. I need Wal-Mart. �



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