Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

15 November 2009

Camera Shopping

My rusty-trusty Canon digital camera finally bit the dust, a victim of severe photo abuse. It’s hard being without a pocket camera, so yesterday morning I went to Best Buy and bought one of those Nikon Coolpix cameras. It's exactly the same as the old Canon, only lighter (and slower - an annoying trait of these digital cameras). I paid $199 for it ($214, including tax). From doing a little research, I knew I could have sourced the camera online for around $160, saving over $40. But I decided against doing that, and here’s why.

Retailers suffer when consumers go in, look at a product and then go home and buy it online. That bothers me. It bothered me a lot even before the internet came along.

As a motorcycle rider, I’ve always needed “things” to support the habit. You know, riding gear: helmets, jackets, gloves, rainsuits, accessories…all the stuff that goes along with riding the bike. Back in the 1970’s there used to be a number of motorcycle shops that specialized in nothing but parts and accessories. But as more and more discount catalog organizations flourished, the local stores found that they couldn’t compete. The consumer asked: Why buy a helmet at full retail when you can get the exact same helmet for some nice discount from a catalog?

Well, because it helps the local economy and keeps that store in business, that’s why. It’s only gotten worse since the invention of personal computers and the ability to click-shop.

To use Best Buy (or any retailer for that matter) for my camera comparison “shopping” and then go buy it off the internet would be unfair, I think. Lots of my friends have no qualms about doing their research in stores and then buying online. And so I imagine this practice will continue if not increase.

But what happens when there are no more retailers like Best Buy? I did not count them, but there was the usual crowd of employees running around the store yesterday morning. Where will those people work? My friend Matt works in a bank. But there are “e-banks” available now with virtually all the services of a “real” bank. The downside is that there is no physical building to visit, but honestly, how often do you actually need to go into your bank nowadays? The only reason I do is because my company cannot direct-deposit my paycheck yet. But that will change, probably soon.

Having stores like Best Buy around is worth something to me. I was able to go in there and compare a whole bunch of similar cameras they had on display side by side. And the choices are many! Initially, I wasn’t married to the Nikon, but it ended up being the one I liked best. So I bought it. They had plenty in stock. I got it the same day I wanted it, not at some point in the future.

Then there’s the tax issue. If you buy online, you usually don’t have to pay Florida sales tax, although some vendors do charge it. (Whether or not they actually remit it to the state is another story.) So the $15 in tax that I paid yesterday would most likely not have gotten to the state’s treasury.

Obviously our global economy is changing as we shift more toward buying things off the internet and not from a local store. And maybe I was foolish to “waste” the $40 I could have otherwise saved. I don’t know. All I know is that I feel better for buying this little camera from a local business, even if it did cost me more.

1 comment:

Bob said...

I remember when I was a little guy growing up in Arkansas and my dad, who was as frugal a person as ever walked the Earth, shopped at the LOCAL hardware or grocery stores, not the big chains. I remember him saying that he was a small businessman and he felt an obligation to support the local economy and he hoped his fellow citizens would do the same. Of course eventually the big chains employed a lot of folks in town but you get the point.

Even today I encourage my family to shop locally, rather than online, if at all possible, for many of the reasons you mentioned.

I work for a bank. Online banking has, arguably, helped banks. There are fees associated with so many things (you might have heard all the hoopla about overdraft fees recently) that don't necessarily apply when customers walk in. Of course banks have had to adapt to this kind of environment.

Great post.