I had to write this little essay for an assignment today in my capstone class. It is a topic that is important to me, and I felt the need to post it here.
It could be expanded upon, but this is the short and sweet truth.
Big box stores, of which Wal-Mart is one example, have become the destination of choice for most of America’s shoppers. This is a fairly recent development; we didn’t have Wal-Mart in California when I was growing up. Instead, we bought our food at the farmers’ market or grocery store, our clothes at a clothing store, and our records at an electronics store. I don’t remember it being an inconvenience to have to go to these different places to do our shopping, but apparently some people did. The megastores came along, offering everything one could possibly need at the lowest prices of anywhere. People saw that they could pay much less for the same things they were already buying, and they could get them all in one place. Cost and convenience became the bottom line, and customers flocked from the specialty stores to the new megastores.
But we have to pay for cost and convenience, and part of that cost is loosing our connection to the products that we buy and the people who make or grow them. When you buy an apple from Wal-Mart, do you know exactly where it came from? When you tie your child’s shoes, do you wonder if they were made by another child in a sweatshop half a world away?
We must each be responsible for our buying power. Sure, it may cost a little more to buy eggs at the farmers’ market instead of Wal-Mart, but I know exactly where they came from; what the chickens are fed, what part of Oklahoma they are from, how much time they get out of their hen house, perhaps even what the chicken’s name is. A connection with our purchases; that is one item that you can’t find at Wal-Mart.