Realistically, they can’t compete

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I’ve talked before how some small businesses, like Mom & Pop corner hardware stores, are disappearing. I got a perfect example this week of another reason why.

I love my Keurig coffeemaker, but the little “K-cups” are so danged expensive that I always search for the best deal. This week, the best deal was at Amazon so I ordered a case. Checking the confirmation email some hours later I was dismayed to see I got the wrong kind – I wanted decaf and ordered regular. I immediately went online to try to cancel the order, but it had already shipped.

When I called today to arrange for a return they told me I couldn’t (it’s considered a food item), but before I could even express disappointment they offered to fully refund my money anyway. And the coffee? I could do whatever I wanted with it, and thanks for being a loyal Amazon customer.

How in the world is the local hardware store capable of fighting that? Obviously, they can’t. Heck, I doubt Stanley, DeWalt or even Sears could afford to do that, much less your little Mom & Pop. Retailers like Amazon can because for them it’s all about volume, volume, pump up the volume. The little guys can’t do that kind of volume. They’re not the lowest bidder anymore.

Does this upset me? Well yes, and no. I absolutely feel bad for Mom & Pops failing because they can’t compete with that. I miss those stores a lot. But I’m also realistic, and realize that’s the way things are now. It’s inevitable; nothing you or I can do, even with the help of thousands of others, can change that. Like other things that are inevitable (my recent thoughts on the inevitability of SawStop come to mind), you have to accept it and adapt to it, whether you’re on the short end of the stick or the beneficiary.

And that’s the other aspect: No matter how badly you feel about the disappearance of Mom & Pop and “the good old days,” you still have to look out for number one. Don’t know what things are like in your shop – you may be sweeping piles of money along with the sawdust and shavings – but I’m on an incredibly tight budget. Every purchase must be weighed, whether it’s the coffee I just bought or the sharpening system I can’t buy until the next check comes in.

You can bet that when I can finally get that system it’ll come from the lowest bidder, which will probably be Amazon. Saving a good bit of money on it (and other things) enables me to keep doing my job, even if it does sadden me that that’s the way I’m forced to do it.

A.J.

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