As a rule, I prefer to patronize small, local businesses over big box stores. I try to go to independent restaurants instead of eating at TGI Friday’s. If it was 2001 and video stores were still a reasonable thing, I’d go to my local store instead of Blockbuster. I think you get the picture. Recently, I have had some downright awful customer-service experiences from small businesses, especially restaurants. Sometimes I go, and things are just not up to standards. Other times, I get the goods and services I want. Now, I am in a quandary, at what point does my desire to use my consumer powers for good give way to my desire for getting what I want, without excess rudeness, incompetence, or inconvenience?
Nobody knows better than us hipsters the importance of confronting corporate oligarchy by shopping at farmers’ markets and independent coffee boutiques. We practically invented this! But patronizing a business that has the sole virtue of not being Target is like subsisting on a steady diet of grass clippings just so you can stick it to Monsanto. The “local for local’s sake” movement was a great idea a decade ago, and it still is, but small-business people have an equal obligation to earn and keep your custom. Don’t fear to take your business elsewhere, even if it means giving up on a local shop that’s lost your trust. It doesn’t mean you have to run straight for the Walmart, since there are plenty of independently owned alternatives. Find the ones that offer you a competitive product and agreeable ethics.