My sandals are falling apart. Not the leather ones that the dog chewed up; structurally, those shoes were fine. No, these are sandals that I purchased from a reputable store with a big-chain name, the kind of place I’m supposed to be able to trust.
And yes, theoretically, I could return the product, but in real life I can’t. I bought them two months ago, I no longer have the receipt (who saves all of their receipts for a year?), and I don’t want to deal with the people who work at this place on the phone or in person.
Welcome to the world of most of us, filled with this kind of retail establishment that we are expected to place our trust — and money — into because it’s big and real and more grown-up looking somehow.
As a small businessperson (my husband and I run Steve Henderson Fine Art) we frequently deal with clients who can’t believe that our establishment consists of two people.
“I’ve never ordered from you before and I don’t know you,” one client was candid enough to write, for which I was grateful, because he addresses a concern that many people have about small businesses — direct sale art galleries like ours, the local yarn store, a small toy shop with real electric train sets, the kind you see on nostalgic Christmas movies.
Who are you? is one question, and
Why does your stuff cost more than what’s at the mart-store? is another. The general implication is that the small guy is out there to cheat people; otherwise, his prices would be the same as the products at a global purchasing merchandiser whose logo can be seen on trucks everywhere.
Let’s address the second question first: apples and oranges aren’t the same thing, or better yet, cheap acrylic yarn and silk/alpaca blend are not the same fruit. You find the first product at the Big Guy’s, and if you’re not really into knitting and you won’t really use what you’re spending three months to make, buy the cheap stuff. But if you want to make a pair of socks that outlasts the first afternoon you wear them, go to the independent yarn store and invest in quality, for a fair price.
As a bonus, you’ll find someone, often the proprietor, who will talk with you, answer your questions, and provide real, actual, in-person customer support.
Who are these people? They are the backbone of America, small businesspeople, who work long hours, are truly passionate about their products and their customers, and are constantly trying to stay a step ahead of their global competitors with the cheap prices and the cheap products.
Big box stores are here to stay, and indeed, I’ll wander into one of them when I need toilet paper or printing cartridges or paper plates for the picnic, but when I want something unique, something special, something I’ll enjoy owning and using for years to come, I’ll seek out the little guy.
Because saving money isn’t just a matter of paying less: more importantly, saving money means buying the right item, the first time, and not having to replace it before its reasonable life expectancy. This involves shopping at a variety of establishments — from the corporate one-stop behemoths to the mom and pop shop, from in-person to the Internet, from big to mid-sized to small to tiny, from retail to below retail.
You’re looking for the right item, which isn’t necessarily the cheapest item, and the right place to get it just may be a small business.
Join me every Friday when I post about Financial Health and real people.
We run a small business — Steve Henderson Fine Art —
which sells original art directly to collectors from our studio; you save money that way, and you have the added bonus of meeting the artist, either in person, online, or on the phone.
Check out Steve’s art — it’s beautiful, affordable, and available in many formats, sizes, and price ranges:
Find and buy Steve’s art in the following online venues:
- Steve Henderson Fine Art (Inspirational posters begin at $10.95; original paintings and signed limited edition prints for reachable, reasonable prices)
- Great Big Canvas (licensed open edition art prints begin at $29.99)
- Light in the Box (licensed open edition art prints begin at $9.99)
- Sagebrush Fine Art (licensed open edition art posters begin at $16)
- Amazon.com, AllPosters.com, Art.com (licensed open edition art posters begin at $17.99)
Manufacturers and retailers — license Steve’s work through Art Licensing
This article was originally published in ThoughtfulWomen.org.