Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Antibiotics are my friends
And I'm awfully fond of my pharmacist, too.
So now that I'm feeling better--back to small town observations. I'm concerned about the mom and pop operations being eaten up by mega-stores. I'm not here to rail against the likes of Walmart, or national chain pharmacies. I'm like everybody else, I like to buy cheap. I have a particular fondness for Walmart because for the most part, the overall savings on a grocery bill for a family of five can be as much as 20%. It can be more when you look at clothes and other household items. LONG LIVE WALMART!
I definitely don't begrudge the stockholders their profits either. All these people in the media grumbling about big business making big profits. Hello? Isn't the point of running a business -- to make money? Isn't making more money better, from a business perspective? Get over it.
My beef, is really no beef at all. It's more like grief. I'm grieving for the small businesses that can't keep up with the mega-competition. Survival of the fittest means that these small businesses are closing their doors at an alarming rate. Our Old Town is suffering from a slump because there is a huge decline in retail business there. On the one hand, they can't compete price-wise or convenience-wise with the mall that opened less than ten minutes away. There's more variety, better prices, and longer business hours available at the mall. On the other hand, it's tough for these business owners to have to close the stores and find other work. It's regrettable, but the nature of the beast.
My lament is not geared towards a grand plan to save these businesses, or even to lobby for limits on what the mega-stores can do. The lament is a bit more selfish than that. I like shopping in the small stores. You can't beat the customer service. You can't beat the ambience. You can't beat that fleeting moment when it feels like you could be in an episode of Mayberry, RFD, and all is well with the world.
My favorite bookstore had to close, unable to keep up with rising rent and declining sales. It's true that I have a discount card for Borders, and shop there often to take advantage of the sales. I've gotten pretty good at using the computer that stands conveniently at the center of each major area, so I can find out if a book is in stock. I even think the smell of all that frou-frou coffee is enticing.
Nevertheless, it's not nearly as satisfying as the smell of old books and wood as I walked up and down the aisles at the old bookstore in town. The floors were creaky and somewhat uneven, and the displays, while tastefully done, were crowded together and likely to fall over if they were bumped on the way to another aisle. But I never saw a discount sale there--you paid full price for Harry Potter. Maybe that's why they went out of business. It sounds like a sad little tribute to The Shop Around the Corner, but that's how it is. I miss taking my nieces and nephews there to buy them books. I paid full price, sure. But I also got the pleasure of spending time in a bookstore that smelled like a bookstore--that had character. That had a clerk who could tell you where to find a book, or tell you to hold on while she went in back to open up a new delivery.
That's why I love my pharmacist. The clerk knows me by name, and asks about the family.