A woman came into our shop the other day and after looking around for a few minutes she picked up an item, loudly scoffed and proclaimed that she could “get this way cheaper on Amazon”.
Were it a different day, perhaps with less people in the store or with a little more emboldened bravery on my part, I might have said something in response. Like many an imagined comeback, I stewed on this interaction for days. I rolled her statement around in my brain. The tone. The assumptions.
I think what I would like to have said is something along the lines of this:
“Wow. What an amazingly insensitive thing to say in a small business!”
On “prime day” I was reflecting on the artificial urgency of purchasing a blender at a discount and the mountains of returns that Amazon ships off to be scrapped (did you know online orders are twice as likely to be returned as in person ones?). If you’re an eco-conscious person, massive big box retailers probably already make you bristle. I could talk all day about the evils of big business but ultimately, shopping on Amazon simply doesn’t reflect my values.
All of this being said, it is not my intention to make people feel guilty for buying things on Amazon. I understand that we all balance different priorities, cost being a major deciding factor. I refuse to vilify people for making choices within their means. Our culture of immediacy places unseen stresses on our day to day lives and the ease of getting things delivered quickly can alleviate many pressures. We live in a society that wants us to be everything all at once. It is a struggle to balance it all.
But still, where does this leave me? Where does this leave Fishtale?
I couldn't possibly compete with Amazon. Shipping is wildly expensive! I can't be in two places at once! But also, I am not the same as Amazon. Not even remotely.
My goal as a business owner is not to become a billionaire and shoot myself into space in a rocket. Jeff Bezos is an icon of capitalism that frankly makes my skin crawl. I believe it is impossible to be an ethical billionaire. It isn’t possible to accumulate vast immeasurable wealth without making extremely awful choices along the way.
My goal as a business owner is to live simply. To pay my staff a living wage. To showcase Canadian goods and participate in the local economy. Buy local & shop local. My goal as a business owner is to facilitate connection. To build bridges between creatives and showcase the talents of so many local makers. My goal as a business owner is to enjoy coming to work every day.
I cannot offer you same day free shipping. I cannot offer you a limitless collection of discounted items at the click of a button. I am simply not catering to that experience.
What I can offer you is what we have committed to since day one. A curated collection of goods we love and believe in. Fishtale is entirely Canadian business sourced. That goes for everything from our recycled paper shopping bags to the locally made goods and the sodas, seltzers & kombuchas. It is important to us to be exactly what we set out to be.
It has been a strange and unnerving time for small businesses. We just made it through a global pandemic only to be met with rising prices in just about every possible category. Sometimes it feels unmanageable. Sometimes, it is unmanageable. I've heard from countless small business owners that the last year has been the hardest yet. We can only put one foot in front of the other and hope for the best.
I suppose my takeaway from this experience is nothing new. Words can wound. Sometimes in ways we might not immediately be aware of. We can be left with a desire to plead with strangers. Can't you see that we are trying? Can't you see that this is different?
The retail world is an odd place to exist when you aren't actively encouraging overconsumption. We're not pushy salespeople. Our shopmate Jesse (in our Kingston pop-up at 94 Brock Street, folks!) has a note pinned in the fitting room that says "Buy what you need. Love what you have." We can only hope that when you buy what you need, you try to shop at a local shop. We love what we have and we'd love to tell you about it.
So, yeah. Maybe you can get something like it on Amazon. Maybe it'll be cheaper.
But at what cost?