Thursday, July 31, 2008

Today I went to a 50% off sale. And it made me cry.

Most of the time big sales are fun and exciting. For most of the people joining me at the sale today, it sure looked like they were excited.

I arrived a little after 10am, when the doors were about to open. People were lined up from the door and down the sidewalk.

I was the last in line when a reporter came along to take pictures and then asked if he could interview me about the sale.

"So what brings you to the store today?" he asked.

"Well.." (deep breath) "I'm here because it's my last chance to support my store."

And then I started to cry.

I hadn't anticipated the emotion that would arise when I went to the going out of business sale of my town's local, family-owned grocery store.

When we moved to this town over 8 years ago there was a different family-owned grocery, and we did a fair amount of shopping there even though the prices weren't competitive with big chain stores. That store closed it's doors just prior to the opening of a Walmart Super Center about 6 miles down the road from our small town. I guess they weren't interested in even trying to see if they could stay alive in the shadow of Walmart.

About a year later a new grocery store opened in the same spot. It was owned by two ladies who seemed to have a lot of enthusiasm for providing friendly small-town service for our community.

They did a great job. The store was always clean and inviting. They had very polite and helpful staff members. They invested a whole bunch in our community. And although a lot of the prices were higher than large stores, they had the same or very competitive prices on dairy, deli, and meats than at any other store I could shop at.

Did I buy all of my groceries there? No. But I had a significant portion of my regular grocery items that I did buy there, in an effort to support them while also being respectful of our own budget.

Apparently, I was one of the few.

People seem to turn out in huge numbers when this grocery store is giving out free hamburgers and hotdogs to celebrate their anniversary, and have no problem asking this business for donations to every event in town. But did they make it their business to do what they could to support them? Nope.

There have been articles in the local paper letting people know that without their support, our local grocery store would not be able to survive. As usual, this community seems content to let every good thing it has dry up and die off.

After struggling to hold on for the entire time they've been in business, today is their last day.

I didn't see any familiar shoppers lined up at the doors today. From the comments I got from the employees, I was the only regular customer in the place.

The crowd rushed in the door and grabbed carts and started weaving through the aisles with gusto. Since I was finishing up my interview with the newspaper man, I ended up just missing the very last cart available. (So I got to shop with a little shoppers basket slung over my arm. One of the employees told me he wanted to go snatch a cart away from one of the bargain hunters, telling them that one of their Regular Customers needed it.)

At the deli I decided to buy an entire 8 pound turkey breast, carved into lunch meat. The kind teenage boy that is usually working there was taking care of that, and it looked to me like he was having a pretty emotional day. Later I found out that his aunt is one of the owners.

A family business. Down the tubes. And at the last I knew, they had over $100,000 in debt because of this failed venture.


I overheard people sizing up the prices, calculating how much things would be after the 50% off. And then they would whisper, "I think this is still cheaper at Walmart..."

Yeah. There's the bottom line that I keep seeing in our society. "What's in it for me?"

To me, today wasn't about getting a deal, though some of what I bought was a good deal.

For me, today was a day to do what I could to help this business at their last breath.

So it was extremely disheartening. Nobody cares enough to try to keep the business alive, but they sure will turn out to pick the bones.

I cried all the way through the store.


SiouxsieQ said...

I love your loyalty. I love the way you are so supportive of such good things.

Anonymous said...

This is why I love to read your blog...ya softie. :)