Taking It Personally: I Still Like To Buy Locally
But I find that my idea of “local” is expanding.
I have written about my preference for buying locally before.There are many reasons.
One of them is Manz’s Law #268 which states, simply, if you can’t find it at one store, you are probably not going to easily find it elsewhere. There is a corollary, which is if you pass it up at one store because you think you can find it cheaper elsewhere, either you won’t or you will spend so much time and gas going to that greener pasture to get the desired item that you will wish you had bought it at the first place.
Sometimes, you do buy something and then find it astoundingly cheaper elsewhere, but probably not often enough to make a lot of driving every time you go shopping a sensible way to live.
Haircuts are an exception to my Buying-Locally-If-Possible rule. Another of the many Manz’s Laws states that where you go to get your hair cut cannot depend on town boundaries. There is too much going on with that decision.
Sometimes there is no way to buy locally. And, sometimes, I don’t have a clue where to even start to look for something. That’s when I turn to … the Internet.
A few weeks ago, I bought a used portable DVD player. A person who lives near Chicago sold it to me via eBay. I know that some people think the Internet is impersonal, but I exchanged several communications with the seller—probably more interaction than I would have if buying something at, say, Target.
I wanted to use the DVD player to show videos on a large screen via a projector, but the output jack on the player did not look familiar.
Here I employed a two-pronged approach. First, I used Jon Dreyer's local Internet Yahoogroup to find out what I was looking at. That gave me enough information to go to the Internet and find that there was a special adapter and I also found out that the adapter I needed differed among manufacturers.
Four days later, I had the correct adapter in hand for just $5.25.
Sometimes a sort of magic happens. For instance, the shutters that used to be on our front windows could not be repaired so they were removed. Just about the time I was figuring out where to buy new shutters, two pairs of them, just the right size, came up on Freecycle, a local online list. A little paint, some hardware, and some hand-forged holdbacks and the house had shutters once more.
Recently I bought a flat screen TV. As locally as I could, of course, because even the small ones are big.
One thing which really has not worked well since the purchase is the sound. The sound bar, which came with the TV is OK but not great, and the only place to plug in the outboard sound system I used with my old TV was the headphone jack. That cut out the sound bar completely and, frankly, the result seemed to favor background and not foreground sound. I could hear the music that just about every show has, but not the voices.
Of course, it could not possibly be that I have any hearing loss, so I kept looking for some way to hook up my sound system to a better place. That brought me to the Digital Audio Out jack. Hmmmm.
Some quick research showed me I needed a special cable, which could be purchased locally, but then there was nothing to hook it up to since my sound system does not have a Digital Audio Input. Double Hmmmm.
More thought and a search on eBay for “Digital Audio Converter” brought me to a listing for a little black box which would convert the signal from my TV into something my sound system could handle. It was priced at just $22, including shipping … from Shenzhen, China, although it was ordered through a company in Australia.
I ordered it and received it in less than a week. I tracked its progress from Shenzhen to Chicago to Boston to Lexington via the U.S. Postal Service tracking system. This past weekend I hooked it up and now I can hear what is going on. It doesn’t make the fact that Nebraska got smoked by Michigan 45-17 any more palatable, but at least now I can hear what the announcers are talking about.
The sound bar and my sound system complement each other. Incredible!
This little hunk of technology I had no idea existed two weeks ago was discovered, ordered and paid for via the Internet. And it came to me all the way from China. Moreover, the online manual, which was in Chinese, was translated for me by my PC.
I really value the interaction a customer can have with a local merchant, like the Crafty Yankee, Theatre Pharmacy, Ranc’s, Lexx, Nourish, Wales Copy, Great Harvest, or any number of local merchants. Even in one of the chain stores like CVS I have gotten to know the clerks well enough that they have the phone number associated with my ExtraCare Card memorized.
But I cannot get over the fact that I am listening to a football game I can now hear because I bought something from somebody in China. It wasn’t just made in China; I bought it from China.
I found it, researched it, bought it, paid for it, and tracked it, all from a netbook balanced on my lap while watching that TV I can now hear. Watching this new world unfold is sort of scary, but at the same time sort of exciting.
Unfortunately, now I have to stop admiring the new sound from my TV and go out to rake some of those local leaves falling from my local trees before some very local snow buries everything.