To the Editor:
In a recent column, writer Jeff Minick implored holiday shoppers to consider shopping locally and using the Internet only as a last resort so that the money will stay in our local economy. If only life were so simple ….
The author’s primary premise was that local business owners return their income to the community in the form of re-investment in their businesses and by spending it on their living expenses. Unstated was the idea that dollars generated by Internet sales have little or no impact here at home.
In fact, this argument has at least one major flaw: when it comes to the Internet, sometimes those nameless, faceless sellers are actually your neighbors. In the last 15 years, E-tailers like Amazon, eBay and etsy have made it possible for hundreds of thousands of small business people to earn a living. Many of these web sellers don’t have the capital to open a retail outlet; some have physical disabilities that prevent them from running such an enterprise; others cannot afford the childcare costs related to traditional employment. Some just can’t find a job. There are as many reasons to sell on the Internet as there are sellers.
Hundreds of businesses in our local mountains sell products on the Internet. Many — if not most — through a major “E-tailer.” Next time you’re standing in line at the post office, check out the folks who come in with (probably multiple) packages that already have professional postage applied. That’s a dead giveaway for a web seller. This quietly growing group contributes to our local economy too: they pay taxes on the income (a relatively recent development with Amazon and eBay), and the money they make pays their bills, just as it does for a traditional store owner. They buy supplies and materials from local stores, and their reliance on the postal system can’t hurt in these tough times when small post offices may be destined for the chopping block.
So while I agree with most of the “buy local” ideology, I think we must also consider current economic realities and the rapidly changing face of business: there’s not always an easy answer when it comes to making shopping decisions that will benefit our community.