Service’Ain’t’Us

I’ve mentioned that I live in a small town. More, it’s a remote town — which means at least an hour’s drive through antelope country to the next outpost of civilization, i.e., shopping. It’s two hours to Denver, which is really where you go for major shopping. But we have a lovely old-fashioned downtown area with lots of local merchants. It’s a big deal for us, to support the local merchants.

Such a big deal, in fact, that everyone gets sick of the exhortations to buy local. Don’t make the drive! Save gas! Inevitably these urgings will include the assertion that the local merchants can fulfill our needs just as well as any shop we might drive to or find online.

Which simply isn’t true.

Yesterday, I went down to our local, independent purveyor of childrens’ things. It’s a nice shop, with lots of fun toys and clothes and baby accessories. So much so, that when several of us met to plan a friend’s baby shower, we decided that she should register at the local shop along with Walmart. Yes, of course we have one. I try to buy local first, so I left work early to catch this shop in our quaint downtown, because of course they don’t keep evening hours.

Then the salesgirl tells me they don’t “do” baby registries. What? Why on earth wouldn’t they?? “We do our tickets by hand,” she says, “so we don’t have a hand scanner to do a registry.” It’s not her fault; she just works there. So, I don’t tell her that I remember shopping for a wedding gift at the NYC Bloomingdales with a PAPER LIST that I had to check off with my selection and return to the counter. It’s insane that a little store like this chooses not to serve their customers this way.

But I picked something out, since I hate going to Walmart and I didn’t want to waste any more time. At the same time, I’m certain this merchant proclaims her grief and indignation at all the people who shop at Walmart instead of her place. Or register online with Babies’R’Us, where shoppers can pull up a list and have a gift automatically shipped to the parents.

We can decry the demise of the small business owner, crushed under the big boxes. And then we’ll go to whoever gives us the best service. How hard is this to figure out?

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