I like the idea of patronizing small and local stores. It feels like the right thing to do. After all, if no one shopped locally, my hometown would just be a collection of houses. Local businesses support some local activities and events and make me feel like I am part of a community. Unfortunately, it can be difficult if it means buying a lesser product for a higher price that you have to pick up yourself.
I moved to my new hometown a year ago with the intention of shopping locally. However, at less than five thousand inhabitants, some items are not in sufficient demand to be stocked locally. There are not enough people buying yarn, for example, to warrant a yarn store. There is a local hardware store but it is small and seems to have fallen into the general store trap of attempting to stock a wide variety of products like pet food and children's toys which lessen the amount of space for true hardware items. Then there's the most consistent problem: everything costs more, sometimes considerably more.
My hometown isn't set off in the middle of nowhere, thereby limiting choices unless one wants to travel a hundred kilometres. No, there is a bigger town 20 km. to the south, complete with some big box stores and a little over thirty-three kilometres (about twenty miles) north there is a city of one hundred thousand inhabitants. But I like my little town with its scenic vistas and peace and quiet.
I'm looking for a more unusual purchase at this time, a children's ukulele. Not a toy; I want to encourage a hopefully budding musician. But I had a $50 budget in mind. I go first to one of the major suppliers of instruments in my province and easily find a suitable one in a choice of colours, made with a rosewood fingerboard and basswood sides and back. There is a store in the city 33 km away which will be a 45 minutes drive each way. Annoyingly, in order to see the full price, I had to open an account with my e-mail and address. I don't like this all too common practice; it feels like I am being tricked and setting myself up for an endless stream of promotional material. Particularly in this case when the added shipping costs of $16 put the item well over my budget. I closed the screen and didn't make the purchase. Sure enough when I check my e-mail the first of no doubt many contacts was awaiting me.
I check with Amazon and hone in on one product, available in various colours, that is under my $50 budget, at $37, and with free shipping. Plenty of five star reviews. Perhaps too many to be believable. No details of where the product is shipped from or who the manufacturer is. Oops, one reviewer provides the information that they are shipping from China. Another writes that the ukulele is all plastic even though the product description states it is made of Basswood. I check the few three star and lower reviews and they seem more valid and provide more information. The only manual is in Chinese -- that wouldn't be helpful.
Decision time. I've been burned a few times with deliveries from China not arriving within the specified time frame or taking several months. Even more importantly, I've read and seen videos about labour practices and product safety practises in China. Basically, I avoid buying from that part of the world, if at all possible and definitely not food items.
I liked the Youtube video from the local company. I also have somewhere not too far away to go if there's a problem. Their product is a little more expensive but definitely better quality. I'm going with the one at the top of the page but will wait a couple of weeks until I am making a trip to the 'big city' and save the shipping costs.
Shopping can be so complicated but price is definitely not everything! And I do feel good about shopping (kind of) locally.