Iím a rule breaker. Okay, I didnít really break a rule but I didnít practice what I preach. Hereís the story.
Last week I went to my local independent bookstore looking for a travel guide. An employee showed me the travel section but unfortunately they didnít have the one that I wanted in stock. The store employee offered to order it for me. The hitch was that it would take a week for it to arrive in the store. Yes, Iím a typical North American; Iím always procrastinating and expecting someone else to handle my need for instant gratification and I wanted the book sooner.
So my story continues. I decided that instead of buying my book locally, that I would buy it online from one of the giant chain book bookstores here in Canada. I found what I needed within minutes of finding the website and to my surprise my friendly chain store was offering the book at 30% off the cover price. I headed for the online checkout and quickly found out that it would take 3-5 days for them to ship the book to me Ė making my instant gratification vanish. Now, driven by my consumerist needs to get the book instantly, the big retailerís website told me that their local big-box retail store had my desired book in stock just waiting for me. Again the glimmer of instant, well nearly instant gratification was in my eyes.
The next morning I got in my car and drove the half dozen kilometers to the retailers giant bookstore at the edge of town. I found the book within a few minutes and went to the cash register. The cashier scanned the book and informed me the the price was the one printed on the back cover. I queried ďI looked it up online yesterday in it was 30% off, Is the sale over?Ē and she replied ďno the online price is lower than in the store. We have to compete against Amazon onlineĒ. I declined to purchase the book from the giant Canadian book store and drove back home. I bought it from Amazon and it arrived a few days later.
What have I learned from this long story? I think that the most important thing that I have learned is that the giant corporately owned bookstore doesnít see the independent book store as competition. In this market Ė an area of about a half a million people Ė the giant book store knows that they can set the price and I can either buy my books from them or not. Since they are big and they have the inventory they are going to get the business when the local guy canít. There is no reason for them to put any effort into creating a satisfied customer.
If all of us were to take control of our urges for instant gratification and shopped exclusively at the our local retailers the spirit of competition would come back. If there was real competition where there was a level playing field, perhaps other retailers would open shop with specific genres and diverse selections. Our main streets would again have pedestrian traffic while we shopped in the locally owned stores. The prices would moderate because of healthy competition and we wouldnít have to drive to the edge of town to spend our money in stores owned by strangers who donít care about us.
Just my two cents,