Big vs. Small

While attending the University of Utah, I visited my grandparents one afternoon to use their computer. When I tired of homework, I’d retreat to the study to browse my grandpa’s stack of Consumer Reports magazines. I’d thumb through them for hours. Especially the Annual Auto Issue.

On this day, my grandfather asked me to look up ratings on refrigerators and tell him which he should purchase. I eventually gave him a list of the top 5 models. I figured he’d make a trip to Sears or other large appliance store in Salt Lake City to compare many of brands and models. image

But he wasn’t interested. He and my grandmother lived in a small city called Bountiful, located 20 minutes north of Salt Lake. He made one call to a local, family owned appliance shop just a few blocks away. The owner agreed with the ratings and quoted a price over the phone for the top rated model. No low balling tactics. No tricks. Just straight-forward, honest service.

I suggested he call around to the larger stores in Salt Lake looking for a lower price.

Again, he showed no interest. He said, “I could find it for less, but I’d rather support this local business. I trust the owner and he’s treated me well over the years”.

He purchased his cars the same way. He trusted a local mechanic who kept his eye out for specific models that would work well for my grandparents. The mechanic treated him well for many years and my grandpa trusted him. No need to look elsewhere. 

In today’s age of specialized search engines focused on sniffing out the best deals it’s hard to imagine intentionally paying extra to support local businesses. Now it’s as simple as typing a model number into Froogle to locate the lowest price. If that’s all your care about.

Does it matter if the local shops disappear and we’re left with Costco or Best Buy or whatever category killer moves into town? Will we replace trusted advice from the small business owner with online product reviews from people we don’t know?

When my grandfather wanted to purchase a book he did so at the family run bookstore. My generation made a trip to Barnes and Noble. Will my children assume they only place to purchase a book (or anything else) is Amazon?

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