Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
Most of us are familiar with the rush of purchasing online. With just a few clicks, we can load up our virtual shopping carts with almost anything. Clothes, electronics and even groceries are now easy to purchase from the comfort of our own homes. The convenience of online shopping is so tempting, it’s becoming harder to justify going out and buying things when you could do it more quickly with your laptop. After all, who wants to deal with the hassle of transportation expenses, waiting in line and dealing with crowds?
But stepping away from the screen and shopping in-person does have upside. One obvious benefit is that you get to see the product that you’re purchasing in-person before you shell out the cash to buy it. If you’re buying shoes or an item of clothing, you can actually try it on, which saves you the nuisance of having to return something — and possibly paying return fees — if it didn’t fit.
Another advantage of shopping in-person is that you get to actually take a break from the smart phones and laptops that our eyes are frequently glued to. This might seem like a trivial point. But walking through a store, touching the items that you might want to buy and socializing with the people around you are all parts of the shopping experience that you lose out on when you buy online.
Not only should we shop in-person more frequently, but we should make a conscious effort to support small businesses, which have a great deal of positive impact on local communities. According to former American Express CEO Ken Chenault, small businesses create half of private sector jobs. The 3/50 Project, a campaign to support local businesses, also reports that for every $100 spent locally, $68 will return to the community via taxes and work payments.
Over Thanksgiving weekend, American Express pledged support for Small Business Saturday, the day after Black Friday. To incentivize customers to buy things at local shops, American Express gave $25 in credit to card owners who spent more than $25 at small businesses that day. Facebook even has a Small Business Saturday page for users to find local retailers based on their zip codes.
I applaud the efforts of American Express, Facebook and other social media sites that got the word out about Small Business Saturday. But we shouldn’t just stop there. Giving business to local shops should be something that we practice year-round — not just on this special occasion.
Yes, the convenience of online shopping is incredibly tempting. And yes, opting to shop at a large chain store can also be appealing. But if we want to support our local economy, then investing in local businesses is the way to go. This isn’t to say that everyone needs to delete their Amazon accounts or cut up their Macy’s credit cards if they want to help their communities. Doing small things goes a long way to make a positive impact.
This holiday season, I urge you to go to a small business and try something new. Whether that be eating dinner at a local restaurant, buying a present at a small gift shop or visiting a farmers market, supporting small businesses means supporting your community.
Asha Kodan is a junior biology major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.