The other day I received an e mail warning about purchasing gift cards from businesses that were shutting down or closing locations (thanks Donna.) As usual the length of the list made me worried about our economy, job loss and what it might all mean on a large scale. Then I had another thought. I am largely ignorant about the economy beyond our paychecks vs. our bills. I don't follow the stock market and other than "up" means good and "down" means bad I can't follow a discussion about Wall Street to save my life. The Big Three are begging for a bail out. This is also a bad sign.
Nonetheless my tiny pea brain can't help but wonder if a few of the five Home Depots within a fifteen minute drive my house needs to close down. Ditto for the Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aids that occupy three of the four corners of some intersections.
Wal-Marts? Four locally.
The auto industry? How many lease cars are on the road? I take the blame for two of them. I say blame because every three years I turn in a vehicle I've invested thousands of dollars in for another one to do the same thing. Where do these return leases go? Onto the used car lot. I don't know for sure, but I wonder if the auto industry has been over-producing and with so many people turning over their cars every few years we are now in a vehicle glut? Money shortage yes, shortage of cars? Uh, no.
My theory based on ignorance is that we have over-built this country. One is good, two is better, five is fantastic. So companies built brand new mega centers investing millions of dollars, how many years to make a return on that to stave off bankruptcy? Why couldn't we drive fifteen minutes instead of five to buy a light bulb? Seriously. One store gets all the business vs. five stores (brand new buildings) share that same demographic. Am I missing something?
Target? Three within ten miles.
Krogers? Two ACROSS THE STREET from each other.
Mom & Pop stores; whazat?
I am living in a house formerly occupied by two people with a fifteen year old Oldsmobile in the garage. Enough clothing to fit into one small closet. Two people who passed with a bank account and no mortgage.
These two people went to Aco or Forest City for home repair and improvement. That was it. For years, that was it. K-Mart on Van Born was the discount department store. Hudson's at the mall (nee' Marshall Fields, nee' Macy's) for finer items.
Oh, they lived well. They had second vacation homes, good linens on their beds and leather shoes in their closets. They had quality china in the cupboards and Christmas gifts under their tree. They did not have to decide which Walgreen's to shop at. They bought their prescriptions and shampoo and dish soap at the K-Mart on Van Born. The one that was there when I was a toddler. The one that is still there trying to hold on against the three Targets in whose shadow it sits.
I remember years ago when there was a store in the mall called The Coffee Beanery. This was my first experience with "fancy" coffee. I'd get a Carmel cappuccino with whipped cream and chocolate shavings on top. Mmmmm, luxury. I wouldn't get one every time I went to the mall. Maybe once every three or four months. Kathy and I would Christmas shop together, go to the Senate Coney Island for dinner (I can't count the number of coneys around here, it's higher than my brain goes.) After some mall shopping when we were ready for a break we'd go to the Coffee Beanery. What a treat! The Beanery is gone.
But there are six Starbuck's between my house and the mall now. And when Starbuck's starts shutting down locations, we'll call it a sign of the Apocalypse. Lift up your head, your redemption draweth nigh!
I don't think a shake-up will hurt us one bit. I think what used to be special, extraordinary, remarkable...it's now commonplace.
$5 for a cup of coffee every day. Nothing special. Target shopping to spend as much as we want because it's so cheap, nothing special. Walgreen's at 9:00 p.m. because I just decided to change my hair color and another trip at 10:00 p.m. because it was the wrong color. $30 later, nothing special.
I used to sit at those tiny tables at the Coffee Beanery savoring that incredibly delicious cappuccino because it was worth savoring. Now I put my $5 coffee in the cup holder of my new lease vehicle and throw away half of it when it gets cold. Ten minutes is too far to drive for a gallon of paint, I'll hit the store that is seven minutes away. And there's a good chance I'll spend more for that gallon of paint since the competitor was three minutes farther away. Convenience is what it's all about. Nothing special.
I don't know what it all means in the grand formula of world economy. I just know that if you build a tower of blocks too high with too many blocks it will fall.
I think we are hanging at the end of a golden noose. It's the weight against the rope that kills you.