21st Century Commerce

[I have a dream as a blogger. That someday my sissy will comment. Today’s post is written with that in mind.]

In the 20th century, when someone said, “I’m going shopping,” it usually meant they were driving to a nearby store. As a pipsqueak, I’d routinely shout to my mom as she hurried out the door, “Bring me something.”

Increasingly, we log onto to our lap or desktop computers to make purchases. I do a google search and then press “shopping” to see where it’s available and for what price.

Recently, I read a Wall Street Journal story about a young professional’s finances. He buys lots of things on Ebay that I wouldn’t have ever thought of buying on-line. Razor blades for example. So I ran the razor blade numbers and found they’re 50 cents cheaper per blade on Ebay than at Costco. Google shopping doesn’t seem to link to Ebay, so now I’m going to try to remember to search Ebay separately.

Last week I was shopping for mountain bike pedals. I decided I wanted these*. I had at least four choices on where to buy them: 1) in person at the local LBS. . . local bike shop; 2) in person or on-line at a chain/cooperative/club store like Performance Bicycle or REI; 3) on-line at the behemoth, Amazon.com; or 4) on-line at an independent bike store anywhere in the world.

I didn’t even check the local bike store because I was doubtful they’d have them in stock and they just can’t compete on price. In fact, now I stock up on chains, cassettes, and cables on-line, which cost considerably less than at the local LBS, and just pay the LBSers for labor.

They were listed as $269.99 at Performance, but on sale for $199.99 (before tax and shipping). REI, $269.00. Too expensive even factoring in the 10% or so I get back as credit as a “member”. (Of course “cooperative or club credit” is of no value if it prompts me to later purchase things I don’t need).

They were available at some independent associated with Amazon for $159.99, or $173.91 with tax. For some reason, the shipping date was late July, early August.

Finally, they were 87.17 euros or $126.39 at a Barcelona sporting goods store. No tax, but the only shipping option was DHL for $20.58, for a grand total of $146.97.

So they went from Barcelona, Spain; to Leipzig, Germany; to Cincinnati; to Seattle; to my door a few hours ago.

* yes weight weenies, 100g heavier than the normal, smaller 985s, but with these is I can more easily do short, tennis shoe-based rides around town


2 thoughts on “21st Century Commerce

  1. So-clearly, cost is the top priority. $146.97 was the final “cost”, as opposed to $269.00 plus tax and shipping at a more conventional on-line stores and who knows how much at a brick in mortar store in town.

    Yet, besides the money that was paid for the pedals, what other costs were paid? A pair of bicycle pedals that travel from Spain to Olympia, WA clearly costs the planet some of it’s non-renewable natural resources. The waste produced from burning those fossil fuels costs the earth and it’s inhabitants some of their clean air. The often excessive packaging that accompanies purchase-by-mail products costs the earth some of it’s square footage to store the packaging in a landfill or more of it’s non-renewable fossil fuels to recycle it. The overseas purchase also costs the local bike shop owner some of his/her profits. It lessens the viability of their business and the chance that it will remain in business. It costs the community in which we live because TBS owner has less money to spend in restaurants, and other businesses. And finally, it costs friendships that aren’t built as a result of not stepping foot into the shop to chat and compare cycling experiences while looking for some pedals.

    Vale la pena? In English- Is it worth the pain?

    • THAT was the reply my sissy was supposed to write. Jeez, rob me of my dream why don’t you. For the vast majority of consumers, the lowest price is all that matters. That’s exactly why a new Wal-Mart just opened in Tumwater. Forget the environment, forget Chinese work conditions, forget the loss of American jobs, forget everything when I have to stretch my (relative to inflation) declining wages. Personally, I’m willing to factor some of the externalities in, but not to the degree you probably are. Note that I do go to the LBS, to have my bikes serviced. That’s where they have to distinguish themselves. Every brick and mortar bidness has to figure out what their niche is in a global, internet-based market. Any bidness that depends on well-to-do liberals to support prices that can be 50% higher do so at their own risk.

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