Santa Cruz Good Times

Thursday
Jul 10th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

An Irrational Decision to Buy Local

tom_honig_sWe’re well into the Christmas shopping season (note to self: is it proper to refer to Christmas?) and it’s a key time for local merchants (answer to self: it is Christmas, dammit, so that’s what we should call it).

Every year since I’ve been in Santa Cruz, there’s been some self-imposed pressure to buy gifts in Santa Cruz – even if there might be slightly better prices or more selection elsewhere.

For years, there was a practical rationale for me – as an editor at the local daily, and I of course was interested in supporting our advertisers. It was a lot easier to interview someone for a story if they knew that I was a supporting member of the community. Plus, it just seemed like the right thing to do.

Yes, I acknowledge that there were times I’d sneak out of town over to, say, Tower Records in San Jose just to get that extra selection. Of course, Tower Records is long gone—itself a victim of changing times and a changing economy. So where do I go to pick up that much-desired CD of the Norman Luboff Choir singing sea chanties? It then comes down to Borders – not the progressive Santa Cruz choice—or maybe Streetlight Records – an out-of-town store that’s at least kind of local (there are only two stores – the one in San Francisco has been shuttered).

And now, of course, there’s the online option. So if I’m looking for a book like “The Wit and Wisdom of Newt Gingrich” I could keyboard in Amazon.com and buy it in obscurity—and not pay taxes—or risk public embarrassment by walking into Bookshop Santa Cruz and asking for a copy. (True story: one time I purchased the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated at Bookshop Santa Cruz and had to explain myself to a nearby customer—none other than Ann Simonton, the former model who now concentrates on fighting against such sexist publications.)

The question here is—what’s the appropriate strategy when it comes to holiday shopping? It’s clear for local merchants—buy local, don’t go out of town, don’t go online.

Supporters of the buy local movement quote economic studies showing that buying from a chain store results in only about a third of the dollars staying in the county. Shopping local more than doubles that. Online? Nothing stays here, except for the money that stays in your pocket that you eventually spend at the grocery store.

But it would be best if they kept these studies under wraps, because the more studies you look at, the more it’s clear that buying local isn’t a viable long-term strategy. The entire global marketplace is working against it. Economist Russell Roberts of George Mason University has devoted years of study to the buy local movement (and to globalization)—and he argues that “buy local” only makes sense when it comes to a small number of purchases. “When you purchase one item or category of items, such as food, locally, you don’t think about what the full cost would be if you did that more aggressively across a wider range of products,” he said, in a recent interview with Seven Days website in Vermont.

Ultimately, he argues, the power of lower costs overwhelms everything else – and any attempt to change that basic economic tenet is doomed to fail.

But daily life in Santa Cruz isn’t about macroeconomics. “Buy local” does make one feel better. And in a small town like Santa Cruz, buoying all the local connections—buying from a neighbor or from people you know – just seems appropriate at Christmastime.

Take the earlier example about bookstores. There’s simply nothing better than taking a lunch-hour to browse through the store, figuring out what books you’ll read next – or what books you’d like to read if you only had the time. Or how about the old-time hardware stores—now almost completely a thing of the past—where you could not only buy a hammer, but also get some tips on how to use it from someone that you actually knew.

Even the economist, Roberts, agrees: “The emotional, nonmonetary appeal of ‘buy local’ is very clear. It’s nice to buy things from people you know, and often that interaction of shopping and trading with people you know enhances the quality of life.”

So let’s put aside the economic studies— even the ones putatively endorsing “buy local” and do your last-minute shopping with people that are plying their trade here in town.
Contact Tom Honig at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Weird that Works

The Santa Cruz Fringe Festival mixes misfit art and mass appeal

 

Scarab Solar Festival Full Moon

We continue to be under the influence of Cancer (Ray 3, sign of liberty and freedom). Cancer is the gate through which spirit enters matter. Cancer grows new life in its warm waters. Cancer is the crab living in water and on land. Cancer represents our home, family, upbringing, how we nurture and are nurtured. Cancer is our conditioning, influencing all life choices.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

One-Track Mind

Flawed, but fun ‘Snowpiercer’ makes a hip action flick out of a bizarre sci-fi parable
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Shake Down

Wine and soul music, local menu highlights, brewery wins and ice cream for Aptos 

 

What do you think when you hear 'Santa Cruz Fringe Festival'?

Santa Cruz | Travel Agent

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

A Pinot Worth Celebrating

Looking for a fabulous wine to star in your Fourth of July weekend? I recommend treating yourself to the 2008 Pinot Noir from the Corralitos Wine Company.