Stroud column: I’m dreaming of an Amazon-free Christmas
November 20, 2018
Shoppers, start your holiday gift lists. Ready, set … search Amazon.com, scan, scroll, compare pictures, click, click, click, proceed to checkout … your package will be delivered in two to three business days.
No pesky crowds. No danger of bumping into someone you haven't seen in ages and striking up an engaging conversation.
No distracting "city sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style."
You don't have to hear whining from the dang kids about seeing Santa on the street corner or in the shopping mall plaza.
Heck, you don't even have to leave the house, except for the brief chill of opening the door and collecting your box. But, gee, isn't it so convenient.
I'm not a shop-a-holic by any stretch, but I have always enjoyed the intimacy of Christmas shopping – real Christmas shopping, like in a store – even if I do tend to put it off until the last possible minute. That's just part of the fun.
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I grew up in the heyday of the mega-mall era; not that that's anything to brag about. We lived in very small farming towns in rural Illinois where my dad was a country preacher, so there really wasn't a lot of choice when it came time to go holiday shopping – or even just shopping for basic necessities.
I vividly remember traveling to Woodfield Mall near Chicago or Cherryvale Mall in Rockford on the day after Thanksgiving each year. I'm not sure what the fascination was for my dad, not being one for city traffic at all. But he really got into it that one day of the year.
I recall one particularly harrowing occasion when I became separated from my parents in the crowd. A talking Christmas tree helped me find them.
When I was old enough to collect allowance and purposely separate from my parents for some shop-alone time during those later holiday sprees at Northwoods in Peoria, I have to admit I got a little bit into it myself.
What a joy it was finding that perfect gift for mom, dad, the cat, and that cute girl down the street.
Upon relocating to Colorado following college, I ditched the mall scene for the quaintness of Main Street America. I've done just fine patronizing the shops in downtown Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, with the occasional "OK, if I have to" trips to Target, Wal-Mart or Sports Authority – when that was a thing.
What happened? I thought to myself as a U.S. Postal Service mail truck zipped by me one Sunday morning with UPS and FedEx close on its tail.
More to the point, where is our money going if it isn't going to the local merchant and into the city's sales tax coffers?
Time Magazine reports that, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is now making a whopping $3,182 per second – that's right, per second.
His net worth grew from $99 billion to $132 billion in just four months' time to start off 2018. Doing the math, Bezos rakes in the median Amazon employee's annual salary of $28,000 in less than 10 seconds.
Now, consider that New York City and Arlington, Virginia are floating some $3 billion to $4 billion in corporate welfare for the online merchandising giant to split its new expanded headquarters.
Seriously!? Is this really where the Gotham City types think their tax dollars are best spent in the name of "economic development?" New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northman are going all gaga over the deal. However, according to a Democracy Now report last week, many local politicians have been critical, pointing out that the 50,000 jobs created between the two urban locales hardly make a dent in those mega-economies, while the likes of Grand Avenue book stores and boutiques pay the price.
Imagine if Glenwood Springs were able to provide even $40K to cover a few months' rent for merchants impacted by the latest construction project, as they were during last year's Grand Avenue Bridge construction.
Glenwood's latest sales tax numbers suggest the local economy is on the rebound after the year of Bridge-mageddon. But it's still a tenuous situation for independent business owners, given the pressures of increasing store rents, higher commercial property taxes, and the specter of online shopping cutting into their local consumer base.
It's all something to think about as this holiday gift season begins, and as your favorite little shop is just trying to hang on for another year.
Small Business Saturday is just one day when local shops roll out the red carpet. Let's all get out of the house and away from the computer, and roll out a little cash to help keep them out of the red.
John Stroud is editor of the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. His column, In Defiance, appears monthly.
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