The Problem with a “See in Store and Buy Online” Mentality

by | Sep 12, 2019

The Scenario: Go See, Touch, Try In Store First, Get a Deal Later

It’s referred to as “see in store and buy online.” And, we’ve all done it. We’ve entered a local store, sought expertise and advice from the proprietor, and maybe tried something on. Then, we’ve checked the price, and thought to ourselves “I can get this cheaper on the internet.” We smile at the owner, thank them so much for their help, and politely–and perhaps a little sheepishly–leave the shop. The merchant waves goodbye and calls out, “thanks for coming in!” They know we’re going to some bargain e-tail shop to make the final purchase.

Or maybe you’re somebody who has consulted with a merchant about cool sneakers, a pair of jeans, or electronics equipment. Perhaps you’ve made product comparisons, tried the item out, and weighed the pros and cons with the proprietor. This informative interaction has helped you arrive at your final decision. Now that you know that you want it, you march towards the door angrily mumbling something like “I can get this cheaper buying it on the internet,” practically scolding the owner for your perception that they’re trying to rip you off.

These scenes plays out all over Oakland. In fact, it happens everywhere. And every independent merchant will have their stories. 

For some reason, we all believe this is okay. We use a merchant’s time, space, and service for free and we think nothing of it. Moreover, we congratulate ourselves for being so smart about saving a few bucks and getting a deal. After all, we have been trained by Corporate America and the mainstream media that a savvy shopper is the one who gets the lowest price. 

We All Pay for that See in store Buy Online Bargain Later

Well, we hate to say it, but those decisions have a negative impact on the merchant, our community, and ourselves. Online shopping is not the bargain we have all been led to believe. Here’s why:  

  • Virtually all of our online spend leaves the local economy. The city loses important revenue to fund our schools, emergency services, infrastructure projects, and important community programs.  
  • The city then has to make up the revenue shortfall and the number 1 lever is to raise taxes. 
  • We lose out on the local spending “multiplier effect” and the local economy starts to stagnate. Local businesses miss out on potential revenue from other indies, pay less taxes, and can’t afford to hire new staff or continue paying their exorbitant rents. 
  • Sooner or later, businesses close down so our neighborhoods become wastelands of empty storefronts and national chains.
  • We abuse the environment by having something shipped from across the US or even overseas when it is already in our community. Plus behemoth ecommerce corporations wreak havoc on the environment while indies tend to be concerned about climate change and want to reduce their impact on it.   

So there are seriously high economic, social, and environmental costs to that seemingly super smart purchase. As a result, it hurts everyone in the long run. 

The Price of Doing Business with Corporate America

And, let’s just say for argument’s sake, that we can all buy that cherished product at a “better price” on the internet. But let’s also reflect upon why it is cheaper. Perhaps it’s because the ecommerce empires pay their workers poorly, avoid paying taxes, are involved in unfair trade practices, and are breaking manufacturer’s pricing rules.

On flip side, indies generally pay more to attract quality staff, definitely pay all of their taxes, and go the distance to be fair to their vendors. But also, they have to pay exorbitant rents, ever increasing city fees, and hire more workers to ensure that they provide the very best service. Yet, they abide by Minimum Advertised Price policies as set forth by manufacturers.

And although we don’t have the data to prove it out, we think merchants generally have competitive prices. They know that people will go elsewhere to get a better price. So, if they want to remain in business, they’ve got to be priced just right. And from our very unscientific observations, this holds pretty true. So perceptions just might not match reality.

See in store, buy in store

We need to stop blindly handing over our hard-earned money to seedy corporations and their money-hoarding billionaire executives. Shopping local provides the best value for the money and for our souls. 

What do you think? We’d love to get your feedback on this topic.


We have plenty more blogs on similar subjects about the importance, benefits, and joys of shopping local.


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