It’s good to buy local, but it’s not always easy when prices go up.
- Many small businesses are increasing their costs and charging extra fees to stay afloat.
- It’s important to help local businesses thrive, but there may come a time when your budget can’t support it anymore.
Recently I walked into a local dessert shop to buy a frozen yogurt on a hot day. I hadn’t visited this store since last year, but I vividly remember paying $4.50 for my usual order. When the cashier told me I owed him $6.00 this time, I almost gasped.
And it’s not just that local businesses in my area are raising their prices. Many also charge fees for using a credit card.
To be clear, this is a legal practice. Credit card companies charge companies a processing fee, which the companies usually absorb themselves. These days, because everything has become so expensive, many companies choose to pass these costs on to consumers who choose not to pay cash.
Of course, this situation is not unique to my region. Across the country, small businesses are feeling increasingly squeezed and so are doing what they can to stay open. But that means charging more for their products and charging credit card fees — and sometimes they’re not so well advertised, which, frankly, isn’t cool.
So that begs the question: should you continue to support local businesses as they get more expensive? Or should you take steps to save money by shopping elsewhere?
The benefit of supporting local businesses
Local businesses benefit communities in different ways. First, they create jobs. If you have a teenager who needs summer or weekend work, guess what? You may become dependent on a local company to supply it.
Local businesses also help property values increase or stay stable. When these businesses close, however, home values can drop.
Finally, local businesses promote diversity from a consumer perspective. You might enjoy a wider range of specialty stores if you live in an area with lots of independent businesses. And, you might get better service than you’d get from a big box store.
What to do in case of higher prices
That old saying “you get what you pay for” can apply to local businesses. You might spend more on food at a local restaurant than at a chain, but the ingredients might be fresher and the food might be tastier. And when it comes to clothing, a more expensive outfit from a local store may outlast a low-cost alternative at a discount chain.
That said, there may come a time when you really can’t afford to support local businesses. And if you do, you may need to focus on maximizing your budget first, even if that means buying clothes on the cheap at a big box store or online.
Moreover, there is a difference between keeping up with rising costs and taking advantage of customers. The price hike in my local dessert corner is, in my opinion, very extreme. And so I probably won’t go very often this summer, if at all. For me, that’s just too huge in percentage terms.
Also, when the dessert shop clerk phoned my bill, I was put in the awkward position of being asked (on screen) if I wanted to tip. I’m all for tipping servers in a sit-down establishment, but all this person did was press a lever on a frozen yogurt maker and hand me my cup. I know a lot of people just click the “no tip” option in this situation and move on, but this made me feel uneasy. So that’s another reason I’m probably going to take my stuff somewhere else.
Similarly, a local restaurant that I really liked was raising prices without increasing portions. I really can’t justify spending so much money there when there are delicious restaurants down the street that suit my budget much better.
Also, this restaurant has started charging a 3.5% surcharge on credit card purchases, but there is no sign on its door indicating this. It only says it in lowercase on the back of its menu. To me, that seems dishonest, because it’s very easy to miss the fact that credit card purchases now cost more.
If you’re torn about supporting local businesses that raise their prices, you might want to think about How? ‘Or’ What they’re doing it. Those who are more transparent may be more worthy of your hard-earned cash than those who try to sneak in surcharges and hope no one notices.
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