Shop Local – Just Smile and Say “Hi!”

I read a post today that there are more and more people who aren’t sure how to “shop local”.

At first this puzzled me, until I took into account the fact that it is very, very easy to shop in a big box store or at the local mall. You don’t have to talk to anyone if  you don’t want to. You don’t have to feel guilty for just window-shopping. If you’re not interested, you don’t have to explain yourself.

Shopping locally means, however, that you might be in a store with just you and the shopkeeper inside. Oops!  This could begin to feel a little uncomfortable. Where do you go?  What do you look at? You almost feel as if you have stage fright!

We really have gotten accustomed to a plastic and artificial society. Kids talk to each other through their cell phone…even if they’re sitting side by side.  Kids…what am I saying?  I was talking to an engineering manager the other day who said that his engineers would prefer to IM or text one another about a problem rather than getting up, walking five feet and having a face-to-face conversation.

I think that the “shop local” movement is also a movement to return to the idea of relationships.

You don’t have a relationship with the e-commerce shopping cart on that website where you just purchased some air-soft ammunition, do you?

While it might seem easier, developing relationships is important. When you shop locally, you recognize that something that you are doing will directly impact a specific individual. You might even begin to, (gasp!) care about people who used to be perfect strangers.

You might actually be concerned when your barista tells you that her daughter had a fever of 102.5 last evening, and she’s worried about her today.

Talking to your local dairy farmer makes you realize that there are people who are on duty 24/7 and they really don’t seem to mind it.  They milk cows and/or goats twice a day, every day of the week, every week of the year. Isn’t it wonderful that there are people who do that so that we have fresh dairy products every day?

What about the people who are picking your turnips and kale this week at the organic farm you support. Do you follow them on Facebook so that you can get to know the farm and their employees a little better?

Personally, I love stories. I hate watching television programs or movies that ignore the human/interpersonal relationship factor. If there’s a touch of humanness to the story, I’m more willing to watch it. You see, humans are not meant to live in a vacuum.  We need one another, even when we don’t realize it.  We’re much more powerful as a collective force rather than as just individuals.

The next time you step into a local shop, look the owner in the eye and say, “Hello!”

Most of the time, they’re very happy to just have a conversation with you.  Most shopkeepers never expect every person who comes in their store to actually make a purchase.  Try it.  Just one time.  Come back and comment on this post about your experience.  I’d really love to hear it.

Kathleen Birmingham