Monday, April 16, 2012

Buy Local. Except When You Can't.

I could start this post with a really long explanation of why I'm in the market for a new wallet and why I settled on the one I did, a story that involves a miraculous answered prayer and my need for portability, but I'm trying to crank out about half a week's worth of work in the next 36 hours; I still haven't cleaned, packed, or considered what the heck I'm going to say during my pitch; and I've got some (wonderful, amazing, spectacular) e-mails from friends and readers to answer, so I'll just cut to the chase.

I'm in the market for a new wallet. A few years ago, my mom bought me a seatbelt bag from Harveys, the concept of which I thought was super-cool, but in execution, those bags are really, really heavy. To the point where putting anything in this bag makes it pretty much uncarryable by my little weakling ass. Still, it is a cool idea, the bag is durable as hell, and it hasn't aged a day since I got it, so I considered one of the Harveys clutch wallets for my new-wallet purchase, presuming it would be more portable due to its lower mass of seatbelts woven together.

The store locator for Harveys told me that there were three stores moderately near me which carried Harveys merchandise: one in Rockville, one in Towson, one in Baltimore. I really wanted to pick up and handle the wallet before I committed to it (for my budget, this particular clutch wallet is kind of a big expense), and I wanted to try and buy locally, so I called all of the stores to see if they carried the wallets before I drove an hour each way to any one of them.

Two stores said no, they don't have them. One of the stores didn't answer the phone and hadn't set up their Verizon voice mail.

So I ordered it from Amazon and paid $4 for overnight shipping. The shipping is less expensive than the cost of the gas I would have used to visit the stores, had any of them carried the product I wanted. And, of course, returns are a breeze.

I feel sort of guilty that I resort to Amazon so often, rather than going to stores, but this kind of crap is the reason why. I certainly don't really enjoy the way big-box stores have smooshed little stores; they seem to me in many cases simply to carry more cheap crap from China, rather than actually to have a bigger selection or more convenience or whatever. But there are no stores in my area that carry the dry shampoo I use, so I order it in bulk from Amazon, a lot cheaper than I could have bought it in a store anyway. I don't want to support Best Buy, the only music store in my town, so I buy CDs at much lower costs from Amazon. The closest Asian market to me is 35 minutes in the direction of D.C., right along the Beltway, so if I need a weird ingredient I generally order it from Amazon rather than raising my blood pressure and wasting two hours.

It's just always there. It has mostly flawless service. It has everything. I'm a Prime member, and I'm here to tell you it's worth every single penny. While I can't ignore the guilt twinges I feel for supporting a big behemoth that has the potential eventually to crush every other store in the world, I also can't ignore that, as Carly Simon would say, nobody does it better.

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