Want to keep variety, character, and personality in your life? Buy from Mom and Pop – exclusively, when possible.
- Shun the Shell, the Texaco, or the Seven-11, and go to convenience stores where no one speaks English. You’ll find a more idiosyncratic selection of everything from Mexican sodas to the organic beverage pouch I’m sipping from now, as well as old favorites like hot dog bubblegum. When you go to the generic corporate store, besides missing out, you supply the upward pressure that props up the man and the downward pressure that crushes little entrepreneurs. It’s amazing how many people talk of “protecting families” but really only mean their own family. You always see their cars at the big box store.
- Find the “Little Mexico” near you and have real steak tacos, not that crap from the chain store in the “safer” part of town. If you’re paying more than a buck or so, it’s not real, and it should be made with all fresh ingredients – chunks of steak on open tortillas, fresh green and white onions, their own take on seasonings, and homemade salsa, all for a song. Do business with the mobile taqueria, too – some of the best transient food you ever had – if you’re worried about cleanliness, you probably think your local fern bar or fast food chain, manned by that kid who picked his nose all through high school, is safe. If you don’t like “Mexican food” and you’re thinking of the swill at your local Casa Whatever designed for whitebread audiences, you haven’t eaten Mexican food anyway. But if you really don’t like Mexican food:
- Same thing, though, with the local Vietnamese sub shop (Bahn Mi sandwiches). A couple of bucks, fresh baked French bread, lovely ingredients, and it’s bigger than your arm. Try the grilled pork.
- Is there a large Chinese grocery near you? They have cheaper and better fruit than your local Walmart, and why would you want to give your paycheck to that thing anyway? Besides, you’re missing out on all the good cakes and cookies and mango drinks the rest of the world eats. If you really are too picky to eat anything you’re unfamiliar with, you’re probably the color between the lines type anyway, and will not like this post much but, of course food is not the only thing.
- How about turning up your nose at Best Buy’s “after rebate” sticker prices – go to the hole in the wall, and subsidize your neighbor – be willing to invest in a little real knowledge, and not the guys in the matching shirts who are trained to read barcodes and recommend the item with highest profit margin.
When you go to the generic corporate store, you supply the upward pressure that props up the man and the downward pressure that crushes little entrepreneurs.If it seems like ethnic places are a last refuge of entrepreneurial activity in a lot of places, that’s because they are. And if you’re a xenophobe, keep in mind that these small business owners have more in common with our forefathers than the manager at the local Blockbuster, who would’ve fired their asses for improper uniform. So who is really emulating who, and what?
People who live at national chains and corporate stores simply don’t know anything about the world. Not really; nor do they care about the world much. You owe it to yourself to be more than that. Subsidize the culture of individual initiative, ideas, and personality, not the culture of generic, same in every town, top-down economics. At the same time, you’ll be culturally and experientially richer for it. Your life will be full of variety, idiosyncratic delight, breadth of personality and genuineness. The rest is just living on Wonderbread and Skippy which, if you’re thinking “but that’s the way I like things”, you’re probably reading the wrong blog anyway.