Caught in the ’Net |

Caught in the ’Net

In a recent interview, a longtime rancher recalled the days in Carbondale when a trip to Glenwood was a requirement for many basic goods and some things warranted a weekend in Denver.

“You couldn’t order it on Amazon,” he told me.

That was still true when I was growing up, but it certainly isn’t anymore.

Even as the Western Slope’s business infrastructure has grown, the Internet is doing its best to make it obsolete. Not only can you order almost anything online and have it delivered to your door in two days or less, but now you don’t even have to log on to do it.

Get an Amazon Dash Button emblazoned with a brand and product of your choice, and with a push of a finger it’s on its way. No wasting 30 seconds with stone age technology like a laptop. No aisles or checkout lines that force you to socialize with your friends and neighbors. It’s progress in a blister pack, so absurdly convenient you’d expect to encounter it in a copy of the Onion or perhaps an Orwell novel.

The problem is, I’m half tempted. Some things are hard to find in a small mountain town.

Last week, I went all over Carbondale looking for a high capacity camera card, and ended up buying it online. I could have picked one up at Wal-Mart or Target, but somehow that doesn’t really feel like shopping local.

Therein lies the rub.

I can bypass the corporations and get my gas at the Roaring Fork Co-op, my bowls at the Carbondale Clay Center, and my shirts at Miser’s.

A pair of plain black socks, however, are hard to find anywhere without thousands of stores nationwide. In an increasingly tech crazed world, I don’t know of a truly local establishment where you can get the new iPhone or the game console your nephew wants for Christmas.

Too often, I fall into the trap of thinking that just because I can’t find something handmade or locally grown, I might as well buy it online.

While it’s true that money you spend at locally owned businesses has the best chance of ending up back in our local economy and enriching our community, even a chain is far better than shopping online.

You’re still supporting local employees and paying local sales tax.

Even if, by some miracle, I don’t run into a friend while I’m grocery shopping, I still know most of the checkers and generally enjoy catching up across the register. To me, that’s worth more than the convenience of pressing a button for your laundry soap.

Once, I commiserated with a pair of dollar store clerks about the demise of lemon jolly ranchers — a tragedy I consider far worse than the cancellation of “Firefly.” The next time I stopped in, one of them proudly presented me with a whole, single flavor bag of them. When I went back to replenish them, I discovered they were out of stock and ended up ordering them online.

Somehow, they didn’t taste as good.

When I buy something in my hometown, the same pesky tax that leaves me with a pocket full of change goes to sustain and improve my community, my county and my state. I assign myself extra points if I use cash instead of handing off 2 percent of my purchase — twice what Garfield County takes in sales tax — to the credit card company. Many of the events I cover as entertainment editor rely on public resources, while others contribute to the common good with their own tax money.

Shopping online does none of that. Instead, it offers convenience and the undeniable pleasure of getting and opening a package. Every once and awhile, I run across an online outlet or seller with a real mom and pop feel, and my used paperback or sealing wax comes with a handwritten note. Instead of making me feel better, it just reminds me of how often it’s missing.

So, in honor of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I’m cancelling my Amazon Prime membership.

That’s not a demand or a challenge for you to do the same. That’s not even a guarantee that I’ll be able to resist occasionally ordering a pair of cheap sunglasses. It’s just a reminder that the easiest way is often not the best.

There are many shades of gray between having everything flown in by drone after being mass produced overseas and consuming only locally sourced, fair trade organic goods.

Find the balance that’s right for you, and I’m willing to bet you’ll be richer metaphorically and, if my PayPal history is any guide, probably literally too.

Will Grandbois isn’t a big fan of crowds, so you won’t see him out shopping at Black Friday, but he can be reached at 384-9105 or

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