Christina Oxley: Be an informed consumer

I've been advocating for and promoting Craig's business community nearly all of my adult life, and especially for the almost seven years that I've served as the executive director of the Craig Chamber of Commerce, and here's what I have to say about shopping locally: It's your money. You should spend it however and wherever you want.

To that statement, about half of you responded mentally with a defiant, “I will, and I don't really need your permission.”

The other half is looking up my phone number to lambast me for writing the exact opposite of what my position, and my conscience, dictates.

But the bottom line is this: I am in no position to tell you what to do with your paycheck or to force or guilt you into supporting a business that doesn't earn it.

What I will ask is that you be an informed consumer. I am, and for that reason, I choose to spend as many of my dollars in Craig as I can.

This is the information age. A few minutes in front of my computer will tell me everything I need to know about a product. What's more, I can stand in a store and use my smartphone to scan a product code and find out whether the price I'm looking at is the best available.

Comparing prices is easy, but that's only the tip of the iceberg. Being truly informed means that you understand the benefits and consequences of the choice you make.

Price - are you really saving money?

I tend to overanalyze, which is putting it mildly.

When I book an airplane flight, I compare the costs of flying to and from different airports. I factor in drive time, hotels, meals, parking. I consider what my time is worth. I make spreadsheets.

Most people don't, and shouldn't, go to those lengths. But all of those factors contribute to the bottom line when you're talking about price.

A trip to Grand Junction is going to add a minimum of $200 onto the price, if you're traveling alone in a fairly fuel-efficient vehicle, eat reasonable amounts and your regular job pays just over minimum wage.

Assumptions

Don't assume that your Craig businesses don't offer, or have access to, the products you're looking for. You'll be extremely surprised by the variety local businesses offer.

When is the last time you checked out the selection at one of our downtown businesses? When is the last time you checked to see whether a product you thought was unavailable actually was?

The Craig Chamber of Commerce is a great resource for this type of question. If you're not sure whether you can get it locally, give us a call and we'll find out.

Don't assume local businesses can't find you what you need at a price you're comfortable with. And don't assume that the great low price you see advertised by an out-of-town businesses is for the same quality of product you're pricing locally.

I often hear local businesses say they can compete pricewise if you're comparing equal products.

Where your dollar goes

There are few things that take the courage and sacrifice that running a small business does, and there are few people I respect more than those who put everything at risk to provide a product or service to their community.

Small business owners don't have endlessly deep pockets and often don't get a paycheck to insure their employees do.

The money you spend at a local business isn't just feeding “the man,” it's feeding his or her employees, who are your friends and neighbors. It's renovating their store to beautify the community.

The money you spend at a local business is invested to expand its inventory to offer you a better selection and is donated to charity, youth programs and education in Craig, not in another community.

Consider where you work. More than 55 percent of Craig residents have jobs that rely on local spending. Choosing to not shop in Craig is a choice to put those jobs at risk.

Things you can't measure but still matter

Every aspect of our local economy is influenced by the flow of business.

• The sales and property tax that businesses pay is invested in the community through local government services.

• The raise an employee gets may allow them to buy a house in your neighborhood.

• The jobs they provide reduce the unemployment rate and draw new people, new ideas and new leaders to our community.

• The donations that businesses make to community programs mean that your taxes and individual contributions aren't increased and that community services aren't cut.

Did you get money back from your local purchase and didn't even know it? My bet is that you did.

Does your child's classroom have a Smartboard that was purchased through a fundraising effort? New sports uniforms maybe?

Have you or someone you know taken advantage of domestic violence services? Do you enjoy great community events like Whittle the Wood or the Colorado State Barbecue and Balloonfest?

The contributions from local businesses go a long way in making all those things possible and they are only able to do that because of the people who choose to purchase goods and services locally.

Only when you take all the impacts into consideration are you an informed consumer, and based on economic studies there's only one conclusion: Residents get a much higher return on every dollar they spend locally than any other use.

There are very few cases where price, selection, quality and return on investment justify a non-local purchase.

The other complaint I hear from people who choose to shop in places other than Craig is that we just doesn't have the selection that other communities have.

I admit that's true in a few cases, but less than you might think. Local purchases increase the chance of improving local selection.

Shopping out of town results in fewer local selections. What a loss it would be if people shopped out of town to the extent that it forced local businesses to close?

It's a dangerous game of dominoes that could have a disastrous effect on our economy. If people don't take advantage of the choices they have now, they'll find themselves with fewer choices in the future.

This is about balance. It's about buying locally every time that you can and limiting out-of-town purchases to only what is necessary.

But commerce is a two-way street. I don't believe business is entitled to a sale because of geography. Businesses should make it easy for residents to choose to shop locally by offering reasonable prices, exceptional customer service, well-organized and attractive shopping spaces, and consistent hours of operation that meet the needs of their customers.

Luckily, Craig has a huge variety of businesses that are stellar examples of going above and beyond for their customers and truly deserve your business.

Everyone wins when people support each other. Residents should support their local businesses because local businesses give so much support them and understanding just how much is what makes each person an informed consumer.

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