If you’re over the age of 30, you probably remember shopping at a particular store simply because your family were “faithful patrons.” A locally owned grocery store, hardware store, deli, or toy store. It meant you drove out of the way to buy from a trusted vendor, worked on a first name basis, and even purchased products knowing full well you could find them a few cents cheaper somewhere else. To those that remember, it was the way “things were done.” To those who don’t, it’s a foreign concept entirely.
But today, I primarily think about just two things when purchasing anything in 2010: 1) Where’s the cheapest place I can buy it? 2) How quickly can I get it without spending too much for the acquisition?
So how did I get from seeing my parents build 30+ year relationships with certain business owners to not eve caring what name appeared at the top of my receipts?
I have a theory.
The Internet taught me that online providers can sell products far less than I could find them in retail stores (low overhead, greater volume), and further still, Google taught me I can search among those multiple virtual market places to find the best price. Because in the end, it’s all about me. Everything caters to my needs for expediency, customer experience, and price. Amazon saves my searches and recommends products; iTunes is so genius it tells me what songs I’ll like next; and Wal-Mart won’t even charge me shipping if it kind find what I want in their retail store.
Sure, their might be some semblance of brand loyalty hidden in the recesses of my heart, but more likely manifest in the need for desiring community with the “store closest to my work place” then true brand loyalty to a store owner’s benefit. Shoot, even my perceived brand loyalty to Apple would change the day their OS felt more like Windows than I was comfortable with.
I’m really just a shallow shopper.
As a result, retail stores learned they needed to make their prices more competitive, create franchises rather than one-of’s, provide online versions of their chain stores, and use eye-catching marketing to secure trendy buyers. With a few exceptions, mom-and-pops die off and price becomes king.
But is that where it ends? Has this new era of me-economics affected our morality as a culture, too?
Admittedly, I am not a basketball fan. But not even I could avoid the headlines of LeBron James‘ highly controversial switch from the Cavaliers to the Heat. And if you caught any version of any part of his interviews, it was apparent it really all came down to one thing: LeBron winning championships. For himself.
Forget the team that took a chance and made him the superstar he is today. It’s not about loyalty. It’s about me.
And then there’s employment. Ask the average teen or twenty-something how many jobs they’ve had in the last three years, and then what their plans are for the next ten. I know older Americans who’ve spent their whole lives working for an employer simply because their company helped put food on their table and kept the lights on. To them, to even think of changing jobs was tantamount to blasphemy.
Even the Church is fair game. Don’t like how you feel? The Pastor is too dressy, too casual? The worship not hip enough? A particular message offended you? That’s OK, you can shop around for the right church. And shoot, if you don’t find it, there’s church online.
And yet, there were basketball fans that cried faux pas when LeBron made his announcement…not just Cav fans. And I do know people that won’t set foot in an FYE, opting to for a crusty, hole-in-the-wall record store. And I’ve even had the privilege to meet congregants who stayed on through pastoral changes in leadership, opting to value the whole church above their personal desires.
Even I, while on tour, much prefer visiting the restaurants that make a city special than eating in the national chains with microwaved food.
But is this sort of person the exception, or is a possible return to the values of our parents’ and grandparents’ approaching?
Is it too idealistic to believe the general public lives above the power of the almighty dollar? Do you shop somewhere simply out of principle? Or has the trend of self-driven purchasing power even affected our loyalties to our employers and our churches? ch: