Out of toilet paper and snacks? Need a mid-morning coffee fix? Need some gas to get home for the holidays? I bet when you think about these questions, a slew of nationally franchised stores come to mind.Like it or not, we live in a nation of chains. Gone are the days of main streets littered with mom-and-pop shops. The old hardware store’s been turned into an Ace. The burger shop has given way to the nauseating golden arches of McDonald’s, and the local creamery has been replaced with an overpriced Coldstone franchise.
Sound familiar? This process of extra-regional commercial takeover has been gripping America for decades. Sure, we all love the fancy signs and product consistency offered by our favorite chain stores, but are they really doing any good for society? I think not.
When citing the negative effects of super companies, Wal-Mart always seems to be at the top of everyone’s list. With everything one could ever imagine purchasing located under one roof and low prices to boot, Wal-Mart has served to put many locally owned businesses on the chopping block.
However, it doesn’t stop there. Wal-Mart keeps expanding and conquering new trades. Today’s Super Wal-Marts contain grocery stores, tire repair shops, plant and garden sections and optometry centers. A single location also has a land area practically equal to that of the state of Rhode Island.
Truthfully, Wal-Mart’s consolidation of services really worries me. What’s to stop them from putting a doctor’s office inside of every Super Wal-Mart? That way, America’s wisest citizens can deliver life-saving care while being paid $6.50 per hour and stock paper towels in aisle 10 in their downtime. Farfetched? Yes. Impossible? You be the judge.
Starbucks is another interesting case study. I’ve always found the dichotomy of this establishment to be fascinating. It’s a venue with its own culture. In many suburban towns across America, it’s where the “alternative” 15-year-old kids go to hang out and whine about how their parents won’t change their curfews to 10:30. They just lie around for hours while drinking coffee and doing nothing productive. Seriously, it’s like a modern-day opium den. Also, Starbucks is where many older folk, such as high school principals and teachers, go to purchase a nice caffeine fix at all hours of the day. So, to recap, you have authority-hating teenagers and the very adults that levy that authority upon them gathered in one place. Let’s just say that you can cut the tension with a knife.
Social commentary aside, seemingly everybody in our generation thinks Starbucks is the definitive name in coffee. Has anyone ever had any other kind? You know, not Folgers or Maxwell House but real coffeehouse coffee. We’ve grown up with a Starbucks on every corner! Who are we to judge what’s good when we’ve only had one thing shoved down our throats our entire lives?
Big business hurts everyone. For many sellers, it shrinks their customer base and forces many to go out of business altogether. For consumers, it limits options and forces mass consumption of a possibly inferior product without alternatives. As responsible and compassionate citizens, it is up to us to preserve our local businesses. Spare a dollar, save a dream.
David Hall is a freshman news-editorial journalism major from Kingwood. His column appears every Tuesday and Friday.