Ok, officially, when I first became aware of Costco, I was several states away. Moving out here didn’t actually change my opinion of them, even if I suppose they are now at least regional, if not truly local (Issaquah is a different county and two hours away). Sorta like moving to wherever Walmart is based. Wouldn’t change the fact that they suck retail profits out of 99% of where they operate, in favor of concentrating it in the hands of a very few, in a relatively small place. I suppose if folks are Walmart or Costco shareholders, that might “re-distribute” the money again. But I’m willing to bet the folks earning minimum wage at those stores, and their families, don’t own stock. That’s the part that bugs me. They are an extractive business – taking more from the local community than they give back, and sending that net gain elsewhere.
I guess this is a philosophical thing. Do we support big multi-state (or for that matter, multi-national) companies, when very similar products are available locally, from locally owned businesses? I’m strongly in favor of supporting local family businesses, if they offer anything even close to what I’m shopping for. There are just so many benefits to keeping dollars at home. The local tax base goes up so schools, hospitals, police departments, sewer districts and the like have better funding. More job opportunities, particularly for young people, so they don’t feel like they have to leave simply to find work. Small businesses are more diversified and stronger, so they in turn can put in more orders for things like durable goods, and that demand fuels local manufacturing and the like. It’s so much bigger than saving 10% off the retail pricetag. Go to any of the ghost towns of the American midwest, which used to be vibrant, diversified economies, with strong communities and a nice quality of life, and see how places like Walmart have turned them into dead zones. I just can’t ignore that. Maybe this is also a rural thing. Seeing a whole series of small family businesses fail when a big competitor moves in, or watching a vibrant town become nothing more than a bedroom community for some distant urban area, is just such a tragedy. I’ve seen it happen far too often to ever be complicit again. And then folks get upset when their sales tax or property tax goes up because those businesses move away or go under, or folks protest when their schools and hospitals and police departments shut down for lack of funding? Yet they continue to shop at Walmart because it’s cheaper? What goes around comes around. I just haven’t figured out yet how to help more folks connect those dots and see that cause/effect relationship. Guess this is a real sore point with me. I’ll go find my happy place now.