If you’ve just joined us recently, this post is part of the Ten Steps Series – you can find previous posts under the “Favorites” bar to the right, or under the “Ten Steps” category.
Step Six is the Big Box Boycott. A big box store is any chain – from the mega-chains like Wal-Mart and McDonalds, to products made by giant corporations like Kraft, even to “smaller” or “eco-friendly” chains such as Whole Foods or a ‘locally owned’ franchise. (Note: I shopped at Whole Foods for many years, and for some folks they are the only option for buying organic food. Whole Foods does use many good practices, but they are still a huge corporation which comes with a lot of inherent issues, and if you have other places to buy organic, I strongly encourage you to give your money to your neighbors.)
Why boycott big box stores and large corporations? The very simple answer is that money is power. When we give our money to huge corporations, we are freely giving them power, and oh boy do they use it! Particularly in a political system where we allow lobbying, our government and the decisions made by it, is basically for sale. Individuals and small businesses do not have the monetary power to affect legislation, but big corporations do. We can vote, we can petition and demonstrate, but our most effective tool is to not give them our money.
A prime example of the sort of ridiculous behavior we get from chains is one happening here in our Valley. In Hadley, some of the world’s best soil is being paved over for a Home Depot and Lowe’s, right next door to each other. And right across the street from the wonderful Hadley Garden Center.
It’s extremely hard for me to believe that our community is large enough to support even one of these mega-stores, much less two of them! I imagine they will fold in a few years time, leaving us with huge empty eyesores, and a whole lot of concrete covering up that beautiful soil.
Chains siphon money from our communities in the form of tax cuts, falsely low wages, and reduced local jobs, not to mention robbing your town of its soul (who wants to live there or visit when it looks just like everywhere else?). Chains keep prices falsely low by strong-arming farmers and suppliers – if you want to sell to them, you have to sell at the price they name (we have personally experienced this). They are also part of the system of planned obsolensence – selling items that are so poorly made they will quickly break, are made so that they can’t be repaired, and you have to buy another one. And another.
I highly recommend watching The High Cost of Low Prices or Fast Food Nation, for an understanding of how corporations like Wal-Mart and fast food companies truly cannabalize our friends, neighbors, and culture in order to make more money.
Think your local store is more expensive? That’s because they’re not getting tax incentives from the town, government incentives for hiring, etc etc . . . They are paying fair wages, creating interest and life and teaching skills to your neighbors and friends. They will work their hardest to meet your needs, because to them you’re a customer and a friend, not a number. If times get tough, Wal-Mart will not help you keep your family fed or clothed, but your local grocer, baker, or clothes store might. (But not if they no longer exist!)
(Some late fall swinging fun at our local coop.) Amanda Blake Soule of Soulemama shared some great thoughts recently on shopping at big box stores in this interview. Have any favorite tips to share, on how to avoid corporations and big box stores? Feel free to share!