Saturday, February 7, 2009

Thinning of the Herd

Suppose you are ready to make a major electronic purchase…like, say, a 52” flat-screen television.

Which store would you go to?

A.) The store that is going out of business, or
B.) The store that is staying in business?

If you buy from Store A, you may get a discount up to 30%, but your payment will be divided between the creditors and the liquidation company.

If you buy from Store B, you may pay more but you will contribute to a company that is still viable and keeping people employed.

Which way would you go?

For us, the question is purely hypothetical, but I would buy from Store B. Two Dogs would pick Store A. But I can’t say I am that sad that Store A is closing.

I feel for anyone who is losing a job, but I also feel that this is a necessary thinning of the herd of retail stores. We have too many kinds of nearly identical big-box stores. Could anyone really tell the difference between Linens N’ Things and Bed, Bath & Beyond? Why go to Mervyn’s when you could get the same quality at Kohl’s?

I sense a long-term, and perhaps permanent, shift in consumption in America. We will always want to buy electronics and clothes and books and music and beautiful objects. But we will buy fewer things that are totally unnecessary.

One afternoon in Office Max, I saw a display of tiny plastic trophies, about six inches high, next to the cash register. These little trophies were meant to be awarded to the “Ultimate Slackers” in the office. This is the kind of unnecessary object I’m writing about. It’s not useful, it’s not beautiful, and it’s going to end up in the landfill because it will not grow in value and no one wants to pass it on.

This trophy costs $7.99. Better to buy a good pen with that money. Or a couple of boxes of tea bags. Either one of those would motivate me out of slackiness.

Consumption is an unavoidable part of living. But before you buy, for yourself and for others, ask yourself how much happiness the new object will really bring.


  1. It does sometimes seem that the economic "crisis" is partly an economic adjustment for the oversaturations of the past decade or so. Sad though, that so many workers will suffer for it losing their jobs.

  2. Tough choice for me as a relative works for the company going out of business. He recently graduated from college and hasn't found a new job yet; he worked for the retail store during college. However, even he advised customers to go to the competitor's store to make purchases, at least early on in the liquidation sale, because he knew that the early days of the sale had anomalous pricing and that the early "sale" prices were actually higher than what they had previously been selling for. Some sale, huh?

  3. Yes, Meri, the liquidator will push the prices up to get that profit...

  4. LOVE this food for thought...thank you.