In Commerce We Trust?


On Saturday, I went to a big box store to pick up a water filter and a birthday gift for my daughter. Total charge: $44.00.

"I don't need a bag," I told the cashier.

"Mom," my son nudged me. "You do need a bag. She'll see it."

Right. "Can I change my mind?"

The cashier nodded and slid my purchases into a bag before chasing them with the receipt.

My son pointed. "That's not going to hide anything."

"No," I agreed. "They probably use clear plastic so people don't steal anything." Other stores use similar tactics: garish orange PAID stickers on plastic milk jugs. RFID devices buried inside books. Security cameras...Mirrors...Alarms...


I took my bag and we headed out, pausing to laugh at a sixty dollar electronic Furby that, apparently, can learn to communicate with its owner. At the exit, a beefy security guard approached us. I held up my bag so he could see inside.

"Receipt." He extended a hand.

"Are you serious?"

"Yes."

I withdrew the receipt and gave it to him. He studied it and nodded once, neat and tight, before returning it to me.

"I think this is the last time I'll be shopping here," I said as the exit doors slid open silently.

The guard didn't care: He was just another cog in the wheel of big business.

"I can't believe that," I fumed in the parking lot. "Like I'm going to steal a water filter."

"Calm down, Mom," my son said.

"It's like a police state. It's like you're guilty and have to prove yourself innocent."

"I don't see what the big deal is."

And perhaps that's the scariest bit of all of this: My son accepts that security guards posted at exits are a normal part of doing business. We live in a culture of mistrust, and he's OK with that.

"I'm mean, really," I continued. "Do I look like the type of person to steal?"

"How does he know, Mom?"

He doesn't know. He doesn't know my name or my family or my story. That is the crux of the problem: Big businesses do not know their customers. Big businesses do not trust their customers.

The reverse could hold true as well: Stealing is easier (I suppose) when you're anonymous. Stealing is easier when you can't see the direct effects of your actions. Too, a thief may feel justified stealing from a big business, rationalizing that such a large company wouldn't miss a water filter or an iPad, and even if they do, they could afford to absorb the loss.

When there's a disconnect between buyers and sellers, stealing becomes easier. When there's a disconnect between buyers and sellers, sellers don't trust their buyers, resorting instead to checking in on us; to carefully monitoring our every move.

And yet...as we trust companies to do the right thing, who is monitoring them? Who takes the time to ensure that the companies from which we buy are using good practices? Who asks if a company's business model includes such considerations as the environment, the health of the world's people, and old-fashioned honesty? Who stands at the entrance door to big business and educates would-be buyers?

Do we educate ourselves?

Do we question why we need to filter our water and how the pollutants got there in the first place?

We need to return to the small and local model of business where business owners know not just the names but the stories of their customers. We need a model where customers know and trust and live among the people who make and sell the products they need. We need a model of trust, where cause and effect is obvious; where change is easy; where security guards are unnecessary; where customer input is welcome.

Some would say this is a step back in time.

It is.

It is going back to a time when we made do with less stuff; when material goods did not dictate our happiness; going back to a time when trust prevailed.

Impossible, some may say.

I say no. Small CSAs are sprouting up all over the country. Local residents are fighting to keep their community stores alive. People are joining Community Exchange Networks where they can barter goods and services, learning again to do for themselves and each other rather then relying on big businesses.

We need to be willing to do more for ourselves.

We need to want clean air and water.

We need to stop wanting to communicate with electronic Furbys and instead wish to communicate with each other.

We need to want to live in a state of trust once again.

This was linked up with This week's Studio 30 Plus prompt. The word was hope.


Labels: ,

Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: In Commerce We Trust?

Monday, April 15, 2013

In Commerce We Trust?


On Saturday, I went to a big box store to pick up a water filter and a birthday gift for my daughter. Total charge: $44.00.

"I don't need a bag," I told the cashier.

"Mom," my son nudged me. "You do need a bag. She'll see it."

Right. "Can I change my mind?"

The cashier nodded and slid my purchases into a bag before chasing them with the receipt.

My son pointed. "That's not going to hide anything."

"No," I agreed. "They probably use clear plastic so people don't steal anything." Other stores use similar tactics: garish orange PAID stickers on plastic milk jugs. RFID devices buried inside books. Security cameras...Mirrors...Alarms...


I took my bag and we headed out, pausing to laugh at a sixty dollar electronic Furby that, apparently, can learn to communicate with its owner. At the exit, a beefy security guard approached us. I held up my bag so he could see inside.

"Receipt." He extended a hand.

"Are you serious?"

"Yes."

I withdrew the receipt and gave it to him. He studied it and nodded once, neat and tight, before returning it to me.

"I think this is the last time I'll be shopping here," I said as the exit doors slid open silently.

The guard didn't care: He was just another cog in the wheel of big business.

"I can't believe that," I fumed in the parking lot. "Like I'm going to steal a water filter."

"Calm down, Mom," my son said.

"It's like a police state. It's like you're guilty and have to prove yourself innocent."

"I don't see what the big deal is."

And perhaps that's the scariest bit of all of this: My son accepts that security guards posted at exits are a normal part of doing business. We live in a culture of mistrust, and he's OK with that.

"I'm mean, really," I continued. "Do I look like the type of person to steal?"

"How does he know, Mom?"

He doesn't know. He doesn't know my name or my family or my story. That is the crux of the problem: Big businesses do not know their customers. Big businesses do not trust their customers.

The reverse could hold true as well: Stealing is easier (I suppose) when you're anonymous. Stealing is easier when you can't see the direct effects of your actions. Too, a thief may feel justified stealing from a big business, rationalizing that such a large company wouldn't miss a water filter or an iPad, and even if they do, they could afford to absorb the loss.

When there's a disconnect between buyers and sellers, stealing becomes easier. When there's a disconnect between buyers and sellers, sellers don't trust their buyers, resorting instead to checking in on us; to carefully monitoring our every move.

And yet...as we trust companies to do the right thing, who is monitoring them? Who takes the time to ensure that the companies from which we buy are using good practices? Who asks if a company's business model includes such considerations as the environment, the health of the world's people, and old-fashioned honesty? Who stands at the entrance door to big business and educates would-be buyers?

Do we educate ourselves?

Do we question why we need to filter our water and how the pollutants got there in the first place?

We need to return to the small and local model of business where business owners know not just the names but the stories of their customers. We need a model where customers know and trust and live among the people who make and sell the products they need. We need a model of trust, where cause and effect is obvious; where change is easy; where security guards are unnecessary; where customer input is welcome.

Some would say this is a step back in time.

It is.

It is going back to a time when we made do with less stuff; when material goods did not dictate our happiness; going back to a time when trust prevailed.

Impossible, some may say.

I say no. Small CSAs are sprouting up all over the country. Local residents are fighting to keep their community stores alive. People are joining Community Exchange Networks where they can barter goods and services, learning again to do for themselves and each other rather then relying on big businesses.

We need to be willing to do more for ourselves.

We need to want clean air and water.

We need to stop wanting to communicate with electronic Furbys and instead wish to communicate with each other.

We need to want to live in a state of trust once again.

This was linked up with This week's Studio 30 Plus prompt. The word was hope.


Labels: ,

16 Comments:

At April 15, 2013 at 6:45 AM , Blogger Sandra Tyler said...

our Stop&Shop evidently has a new policy -- a polite one -- of the cashier asking if they "can help you" with anything under the cart. Yes, more than, once people have inadvertently "stolen" rolls of paper towels and soda six packs:)

 
At April 15, 2013 at 8:35 AM , Blogger Kelly Garriott Waite said...

Yeah, I've seen that happen, too. Thanks for reading, Sandy.

 
At April 16, 2013 at 4:55 AM , Blogger j umbaugh said...

Couldn't agree more! The thing I liked best is the concept of who is checking on the stores and mfgs. Liked this one a lot

 
At April 16, 2013 at 6:00 AM , OpenID memphisbackyardfarmer said...

Great post, thanks,

 
At April 16, 2013 at 4:22 PM , Anonymous steph said...

I hear you. My 11 year old niece is super vigilant of rules and regs, of cameras and guards. She is obsessed with not stepping out of line for fear a policeman will haul her away. When she was as young as 4 and 5 she cried if I attempted to park at a meter for fear we wouldn't be back in time before it expired. She'd rather walk long distances to avoid it. Crazy. But that is the world she sees. Women at the helm of changing rooms have become militant as well. More dignity to shop online. Do we educate ourselves? Great question and the answer is no. Glad you put this out there, Kelly. We all need to do what we can.

 
At April 16, 2013 at 5:56 PM , Blogger Carrie said...

interesting perspective. I hadn't really considered it but considering how the world has changed with all the terrorist threats and distrust between nations, it will seem the norm to the next generation...Hello Big Brother!!

 
At April 17, 2013 at 12:16 PM , Blogger Katy B said...

Love the Furby comment - it's very telling in itself! Great post!

 
At April 18, 2013 at 6:34 AM , Blogger Marie Nicole said...

I agree with J - that was my favorite moment in your essay - who IS checking in on them? I read somewhere that Walmart's mission was to overtake on every mom & pop store. Sad thing.

My husband and I have spent over a year so far in Mexico. We do our groceries and shop for all our boat needs in smaller (much smaller) locally owned stores. The funny thing is often we'll convince ourselves we need to run to Home Depot to replace things such as a water pump thinking we'll have a better selection or a better price and then price compare to small fereterias and realize that Home Depot never outbeats local stores in quality nor in price.

They've figured it out here! Walmart and big big stores never beat smaller tiendas. We love walking in our carneceria and saying "Hola Tomas!" where they even let us take care of their toddler as they handle new customers.

Maybe it's time USA stops and studies other's models rather than going around the world teaching others about the American way of life...

This was a wonderful discussion starter - and I think you nailed the HOPE prompt!

 
At April 18, 2013 at 9:21 AM , Blogger Kelly Garriott Waite said...

Thanks for reading!

 
At April 18, 2013 at 9:21 AM , Blogger Kelly Garriott Waite said...

Thanks - Love your blog.

 
At April 18, 2013 at 9:22 AM , Blogger Kelly Garriott Waite said...

Thanks, Steph - Moving to a small village full of local stores where I can shop without security guards.

 
At April 18, 2013 at 9:22 AM , Blogger Kelly Garriott Waite said...

Thanks, Carrie.

 
At April 18, 2013 at 9:23 AM , Blogger Kelly Garriott Waite said...

Thanks, Katy - I thought we were done with Furbys - Are they making a comeback?

 
At April 18, 2013 at 9:25 AM , Blogger Kelly Garriott Waite said...

I refuse to shop at Walmart and try as best I can to stay out of the big box stores. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I'm moving with my family to a small local village with lots of small local stores where, hopefully, they'll call out "Hello, Kelly!" when I walk in to buy something or just want to stop in to say hello.

 
At April 18, 2013 at 8:43 PM , Blogger Joe said...

I admire your hope that this is possible. You never know. We thought the Berlin Wall would never come down. This was an interesting twist on the "hope" theme, too!

 
At April 19, 2013 at 9:16 AM , Blogger Kelly Garriott Waite said...

Here's a quote on hope from my favorite author, Wendell Berry.


Hope is One of Our Duties
By Wendell Berry on 11-05-2011
It is not possible to look at the present condition of our land and people and find support for optimism. We must not fool ourselves.

It is altogether conceivable that we may go right along with this business of "business," with our curious religious faith in technological progress, with our glorification of our own greed and violence always rationalized by our indignation at the greed and violence of others, until our land, our world, and ourselves are utterly destroyed. We know from history that massive human failure is possible....

On the other hand, we want to be hopeful, and hope is one of our duties. A part of our obligation to our own being and to our descendants is to study our life and our condition, searching always for the authentic underpinnings of hope. And if we look, these underpinnings can still be found.

Source: Sex Economy Freedom and Community

 

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home