The Politics of Envy?

If you haven’t passed a shop with a chalkboard displaying the message you might have seen it splashed across a viral message being passed around on social media:

When you buy from a small business, you are not helping a CEO buy a third holiday home.

You are helping a little girl get dance lessons, a little boy get his team jersey, Mums & Dads put food on the table.

Thanks for shopping local.

– unknown

Supporting and empowering small businesses is very much up my strasse. It’s why I am in business, fitting and repairing windscreens. The idea of buying local in the shadow of the dominance of larger corporations is central to what I believe in as a professional, and what I do every day. Therefore I should agree with the sentiment; and I do, but not in the way that it is pitched on these posts. Every time I see someone share something like the quote above and picture below (asking us to LIKE and SHARE) my heart pumps purple piss.

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  1. What about the the thousands of employees of those large corporations? Each individual – employed by that CEO’s business – relies on the wage that the corporation provides; they too may have daughters in dance lessons, or a son pining for a football shirt. That employee too is working to put food on the table. Let’s swerve the big business and put those people on the dole! Yay.
  2. What happens if we all cave in to the sentiments on the ‘shared’ post and only buy from small shops? Small shops which will as a result get bigger and will then need to employ more staff, move to bigger premises, etc. When do we stop buying from THEM? The question is relevant because will will have to, as the CEO of this once small shop will be doing much better now that everyone is avoiding the big companies. Tesco started out as a small, local business.
  3. The message also implies that by supporting a big business you are supporting greed, or that success should be limited, or even punishable.
  4. It also suggests a sense of entitlement, ‘buy from us because we’re small’ and not because we’re any good. Buy from us because you should support us. One could argue, that buying your weekly shop from one of the leading supermarkets you are helping significantly more people than buying from your local corner shop.

Whilst the ‘buy local’ message isn’t hateful, it conveys the wrong sentiments. It portrays the politics of envy. The CEO has done well therefore must be bad and therefore needs to be punished. We used to look up to the people who did well for themselves, but now we should not like them? The focal point for the CEO’s success of that ‘third holiday home’ is also unrealistic. Nobody has to be a CEO to have or even want a holiday home. A few of my friends have a holiday home either in the UK (by the coast) or abroad. This might be timeshare; a comfy little apartment in a development or even a secluded house with its own pool. Isn’t this what many of us strive for? Why should the success of a CEO become the subject of such scrutiny?

Economics

Again, this message or supporting local businesses ‘because it helps the economy’ isn’t hateful but it distracts from reality. Money into the economy is money into the economy, but the message in pink chalk above doesn’t reflect that. It could however, promote benefits or reasons to buy from a small local business. The most important benefit is for its longevity and survival. Support your local pubs, restaurants, cafes and shops and they stay around, which means they pay business rates as well as making it a better place to live, which in turn makes your house worth a bit more.

Happy Dancers

When you buy from a small business, an actual person does a little happy dance because they’re on their way to becoming a success; success that will hopefully enable them to live a more comfortable life…

Your reason to buy local or from a large corporation should be based on much more than just who benefits from your business. There’s a very strong argument to be had on why in some cases it is better to buy from a larger business.

When you buy from the one-man-band, you’re buying into that person who, hopefully, is pitching a business which shows exactly why they’re in business. Talk to a wide range of small business owners and you’ll undoubtedly hear varying reasons why they started on their own, “I was sick and tired of feathering someone else’s nest” or “my boss wasn’t paying me enough”. Very few, in fact it’s rare to hear of someone’s passion to deliver what they couldn’t whilst working within the confines of employment. “I wanted to offer a service which went beyond creating the conditions of a sale” etc.

Please don’t buy based on such lazy marketing or these meaningless and thoughtless messages which do not actually give a clear – and good – reason why you should buy from that business.

Comments and questions are always welcome. Please use the comments box below or email me directly.

Thank you.