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No Big Box 2011

This challenge was born via my hatred for Walmart, and other similar mass retailers. As I said, I believe these businesses do not have our best interest at heart, nor that of their employees.  They do not contribute to my community or the landscape in a meaningful way. So, why would I want to give them my money?

In 2011 we started a resolution about voting with your feet and your dollars. We would not give them our money. Not a single cent. We would boy-cott the Big Box. One of our better planned exploits, really. Probably because the rules are easy.

No shopping at Big Box stores including; Walmart (duh!), Target, Best Buy, Lowes, Home Depot, and Macy’s to name just a few.

For a couple of reasons, we specified two exceptions;  Costco and Amazon.com.

I’m not going to lie, part of the rationale behind these two choices was my own convenience. I knew this was doomed to failure, if I didn’t have some sort of fall back strategy. Like it or not there are some limitations to what your local mom and pop can provide these days. Also, we had an active Costco membership, with months remaining. The frugal side of me was not about to waste that.

Beyond my selfish reasons, both of these companies are based locally. That means they don’t just provide crappy retail jobs, but well paying corporate gigs that contribute to the health of my local economy (whether I like it or not).

In addition, both have proven themselves to be leaders in their market. They are innovators, and they are at least decent corporate citizens.

Here we are. 10 months into this.

What have we discovered?

  • Some categories are certainly more difficult than others. For instance hardware stores. Small True Value stores often don’t have everything you are looking for. Many of them don’t carry lumber. However, the lumber yard doesn’t carry plumbing supplies. Multiple stops are usually involved in our home improvement errands.
  • Things are definitely more expensive. Things I think are going to be a $5 part, often turn out to be more like $10 or $12. This could just be my perception. More likely, these smaller shops get less discount and have more over head, so yeah, it costs more. If that little extra is going to pay a livable wage for a business person, I’m ok with that.
  • We shop less. Adding this ‘limitation’ into the mix takes a lot of options off the table. We can’t just run down and grab some doodad because we have an itch. We’d have to figure out where to find it, or order it from Amazon, from a reputable seller no less. Making it just that much harder, puts things into perspective and gets the creative juices flowing. Often we brainstorm an alternative or find we don’t need it after all.
  • It’s amazing the things you can find at Goodwill. Most of our housewares are now 2nd hand. From our new metal colander to a garlic press to soap making supplies. Much like hardware, housewares can be hard to find an independent alternative for. Luckily, thrift stores are usually bursting at the seems with this stuff. Not something I’d ever browsed before. It is incredibly easy to find what you are looking for, and then some. I now take the time to browse my local Goodwill for all kinds of things beyond just clothing.
  • Relationships and good advice. I haven’t made any new BFFs (yet), but we’ve gotten great advice at a number of local spots from people who truly seem to care and are interested in our business. We are now recognized at a couple of these local businesses. Not sure if that’s good or bad. In general, I’m not chasing down disinterested employees to ask a simple question. I’m interacting with owners and people who know their wares. It’s refreshing.
How have we done?
  • So far so good. We have not had to resort to Big Box (other than the exceptions) even once. In fact, the exceptions aren’t that heavily used, particularly Costco. I have thoughts about canceling our membership and excluding that next year. We will see.
  • We’ve expanded. Why avoid Big Box, but be ok with franchises, chains and corporate food? While that wasn’t in the original plan, it was an easy step to take. We have gone to some family dinners and work lunches at corporate dining establishments, and made a trip to the outlet mall early on, so not as hard and fast as the No Big Box. Still, we are evaluating decisions for what they add to our community.
I see no reason why we wouldn’t complete this challenge with flying colors. It’s become habit now. Next year, it won’t even truly be a challenge. Unless, of course, I decide to change it up.
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