Disclaimer: I work one day a week at a “Mom and Pop” music store, so I’m a little biased here, admittedly. However, my opinions about the subject go back a lot longer than my current tenure there.
Remember the days of walking into that small, friendly shop to get your favorite book? How about going into the camera store, and seeing what cool stuff they had used, or getting the advice and guidance of a true enthusiast photographer behind the counter? How about going in to get your first guitar, and having the long-haired metal guy really show you what something could do in the right hands?
Those days are over. Or at the very best, getting far less common. And from the bottom of my heart, I hope it changes. While there are shops like mine doing very well, it’s most certainly in the minority. Even that’s primarily due to some clever maneuvering on the owner’s part to differentiate it, first from the big box stores, and now, the Internet.
Admit it; we all like convenience above all else, and what’s more convenient than ordering everything imaginable from the comfort of our couch, sitting in our pajamas? Nothing. And what do we like almost as much? Cheap prices, and no sales tax.
For years, this is what catalog shopping, and now the Internet has brought us. When that failed, we’d go to the big box stores, and pay barely above cost prices for stuff sold to us by minimum wage know-nothings with no expertise whatsoever. But we liked it. We liked the convenience, we liked the price.
But at the same time, we’d romanticize the small shops. We even made movies about it, like You’ve Got Mail, and Empire Records. The coolness, the uniqueness, and the culture are something that quite simply something that cannot be captured online, or even in a brick and mortar big box chain store. It’s not happening.
But despite that, our laziness overrides that, and our frugal nature fails to see the value in a knowledgable staff, and the higher costs associated with paying that staff. We complain how the “idiot” at Generic Guitar Store A doesn’t know what a Tung Sol preamp tube is, and we get frustrated with the Generic Camera Store B employee for not knowing the difference between an APC-sized sensor and full frame one.
But, you see, we brought this on ourselves. We didn’t want to spend just a little more, or drive just a short distance to get the service we know we want, because the Internet is there.
All is not lost, though. Make an active, concerted effort to shop small business. It’s really what made this country so great to begin with, and with family owned business often comes passion, service, and commitment to long term customer relationships. Not just anonymous orders.