So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

My photo
Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

When Your Local "Mom & Pop" Store Ain't Making The Cut

I grew up in a small town in southern New Mexico, 35 miles north of the Mexican border; a solid hour's drive from two university towns & a two-hour drive from a third. When I first moved there in the early 1970s we had a couple of small department stores, a Sears & Roebuck outlet, & a Montgomery Ward outlet to choose from when it was time to shop for clothing or durable goods. By the time I left home there was a K-Mart providing a choice to folks when it came time to comparison shop.

Wanting a big-ticket, major-brand item usually meant either you hoped the local store had it in stock, you took a major (one-day) road trip to Las Cruces or El Paso, or you ordered it through the catalogs & hoped for the Postal Service to do their thing. Thus, I grew up accepting a slightly less-distinguished brand name to support hometown merchants. More often than not, these merchants knew to do right by you, lest you take your business to the catalog outlet or drive to the big city. And you noticed local merchants would keep their business in town as much as possible.

Moving here has been like being in my home town, but with the internet added. I lived in Tampa for 16 years, & had no lack of shopping malls, booksellers & sporting goods purveyors; specialty stores of every type in which to spend my hard-earned dollar. As a small-town guy who never really lost the "spend less if you can" gene instilled during his youth, I would hit the "mom & pop" stores first, then go to the major chains as a next resort...if I really needed the item.Sometimes, a visit into those big stores could make you feel like you were an interruption in their day; if you weren't a top shelf musician or athlete (of which I was NOT) you weren't getting the attention of some clerks, even if you had your AMEX stapled to your forehead. To a lesser degree, some of the "mom & pops" would treat you that way...but if you were smart you knew you could raise your voice, & let them know "I chose to come here rather than go to such-and-such, so you better appreciate my business, damn it."

I've shamelessly plugged stores who have done right by me. I've also shunted friends to alternatives when the stores haven't done right by them. When I've recommended another store it's come with a certain degree of loss to my reputation, because I like to think I know the best place to purchase stuff.

Fortunately for me, and a few of my friends, when the local "mom & pop" decides to not do right we have the internet to back us up. If you're willing to do a little bit of research or play around on a few web sites you can sometimes find what is the best deal...and go back to the recalcitrant "mom & pop" with some ammunition, to say, "I can get this for this much at such-and-such a place, so you better do right by me, damn it."

Four on-line examples I want to recommend:

First of all...there's nothing like eBay. Talk about a place where capitalism is at its best...& its worst. You can find deals there...and you can get screwed there. But you also can find out what comparable items have been sold for in the past, as well as find out how reputable the seller is. If their rating numbers are low, tread carefully. If there's a reserve, odds are good you aren't going to get a good deal. I have several staple items on search, so I receive an e-mail almost daily of stuff for which I show an interest. has a great search engine, where you can find electronics, books, music, computers, videos, & so on. They were pretty much the first one with "intelligent search" algorithms, which would recommend "stuff" to you based on your interests. A kinder, gentler form of "suggestive selling."

If you're looking for books, especially the ones which are out of print or you're willing to settle for used, has a search engine from hell. I found an Australian reprint of John Parker Jrs.' "Once A Runner" for 1/6th of the cost of a beat-up first printing. Reads just the same.

Shoes of all kinds can be found at Not only can you find great stuff there at reasonable prices, but their shipping is free...well, I know there's nothing that's really free, but the shipping charge is hidden well within the cost of the shoe.

So, when "mom & pop" have decided to disown you, or at the least treat you like you're a red-headed stepchild, you do have a recourse.

No comments: