Layoffs and Buying Local

They refer to January 26, 2009 as Black Monday. On that one day alone, 65,400 layoffs were announced. And that wasn’t the end of it. According to government data released today, another 651,000 jobs were lost in February, bringing our unemployment rate to 8.1% – the highest it’s been in the past 25 years.

For the sake of comparison, at the start of the Great Depression, in 1929, the unemployment rate in the United States, as I recall, was 8.9%. And I can’t find it at the moment, but somewhere here on my desk I’ve got a graphic explaining how, if we were still calculating unemployment today the way that we were in 1929, our rate would be higher than 8.9% right now.

There’s no doubt about it – things are bad, and getting worse. If you’ve got a job, be thankful for it. And, if you can, try to lend your neighbors a hand. And, as always, support your local businesses.

On that subject, there was a good piece in the news today about one man’s effort to demonstrate the power of shopping local. Here’s a clip:

A small-town pharmacist intrigued by the government’s economic stimulus plan decided to launch his own version with $16,000 in $2 bills, and area stores have already felt the impact.

Danny Cottrell gave each of his full-time employees $700 and part-timers $300. He asked them to donate 15 percent to charity and spend the rest locally, particularly downtown, where store owners say that business has been lean.

“I wanted to do something for my employees, let them know our business is not in jeopardy, and for the local merchants,” said Danny Cottrell, owner of The Medical Center Pharmacy with its main store in Brewton and a second in Atmore. “This seemed like a good way to do it.”

Cottrell said he paid his employees with $2 bills so he and the rest of the Escambia County business community could see how the money circulates…

Brilliant, right? And so obvious. For all that we talk here on the site about the importance of keeping our dollars circulating in the local community, it hadn’t occurred to me that there would be such a simple, elegant way to demonstrate it. I’ve always relied on abstract studies and the like to make the case. It didn’t even cross my mind that there could be a way to demonstrate it so vividly… What it we stamped “Spend in Ypsi” on every five dollar bill? Other than being illegal to alter U.S. currency, I think it might be a pretty cool little experiment.

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  1. Ol' E Cross
    Posted March 6, 2009 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    As you may know, I don’t have much money. But, a little while ago we were at the Toledo Zoo. My daughter put fifty-one cents into a machine and it gave her a totally unique piece of currency.

    Maybe we could implement this in Ypsilanti?!

    (It is actually a very compelling story.)

  2. Ol' E Cross
    Posted March 7, 2009 at 12:19 am | Permalink

    As you may know, I don’t have much money. But, a little while ago we were at the Toledo Zoo. My daughter put fifty-one cents into a machine and it gave her a totally unique piece of currency.

    Maybe we could implement this in Ypsilanti?!

  3. Brackinald Achery
    Posted March 7, 2009 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    I’d also suggest, if someone doesn’t have the money to pay for some service or item you offer, try working out an alternative method of payment, such as barter or some labor they can do for you. Sure, you can’t pay your bills or taxes with it, but you might be really helping someone out when they need it most.

    Or just do it for free, if you feel like it. That works too.

  4. Posted March 7, 2009 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    I know that one of the farmers at the market gives $2 bills as change (they aren’t there now), and I’ve gotten some from Blimpy Burgers, too. I love the idea of stamping currency…uh, I had no idea you weren’t supposed to write on it. Not that I do, but still.

    Re: unemployment…they also don’t count “underemployed” (people working part-time jobs) and those who have stopped looking. I’m calling it Depression v2.0 because really, I think that’s what it is (or close to it).

  5. Amanda
    Posted March 7, 2009 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    how do you get that much in $2 bills? can you order them from a bank?/

  6. Amanda
    Posted March 7, 2009 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    so what if we each do this with $2 like they did? get, say, 100 people to each commit to spending $100 all at local Ypsi businesses (and donating to nonprofits, too) in a certain period of time– maybe the month of April. that’s $10,000 of local circulation at a minimum, and it would be super cool to see how far it goes… and maybe try to get local businesses to spend it back locally, too.. and maybe after they receive it they could make a little dot on it with a sharpie or something, so we know how many times it has circulated… we could see just how long we see evidence of them recirculating… this sounds like so much fun!

  7. Posted March 7, 2009 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Generally, if you let them know that you want a large quantity of them, a bank can order $2 bills for you.

    On a barely-related note, the US Mint allow people to directly buy $1 coins. They will ship them to you at no charge, so for $250, you get $250 (and, as some personal-finance blogs have observed, if you put them on your credit card, you can do a little interest-rate arbitrage and earn some rewards points).

  8. Posted March 7, 2009 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Movies4Sale closed. There’s nothing for me to spend money on in Ypsilanti.

  9. Brackinald Achery
    Posted March 7, 2009 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    “This $2 bill defaced in the name of Mark Maynard. Long live Ypsi!”

    Are there any local ink-stamp makers?

  10. Robert
    Posted March 7, 2009 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Let’s just get a stamp made that prints Mark Maynard’s face over whatever president is on any particular bill, and then see how long things go before the Secret Service makes a visit to Mark’s house.

  11. Iggy Wuzfromannarbor
    Posted March 7, 2009 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    “Buy local” not a a solution. A fallacy.

  12. Posted March 7, 2009 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    …something like this:

    …or this:

    …or this:×210.jpg

    …or this:

    …but with Maynard’s goofy mug on it.

  13. galan
    Posted March 7, 2009 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    Several communities in the U.S. have initiated a local currency which is accepted only by local businesses. In most cases you have a choice about what sort of change you get from a participating commercial entity…normal currency if you spend regular money or, (in our case) “Ypsi-Bucks” or some name like that. Google “Local Currencies” and see what you get. It’s not as far-fetched as one might think.
    There is an “Eat Local” movement in Ann Arbor, and both “Buy Local” and “Give Local” efforts here in Ypsilanti, the first to help local commercial entities and the second to benefit local non-profits.

  14. ScottK
    Posted March 7, 2009 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    Actually there is little article about this sort of thing in the January 24th issue of The Economist” (p.81) It talks about a “Stamp Scrip”, an alternative currency that was used during the Depression v1.0 that was periodically taxed so that it would be spent and not hoarded. It was also used in several areas of Europe before that. A company would even issue these as pay and say if you don’t use it in 30 days you pay a tax. Keep it moving around and it gets the economy moving out of deflation. When the Japanese economy bombed in the 90’s the same tactic was used.

    So here’s the idea….the city offers a discount…say $25 in Ypsi Scrips for $20. Use it in 30 days. If you try to past that date it won’t be accepted and has to be renewed at City Hall for a fee.

  15. roots
    Posted March 7, 2009 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    I love it! Please keep developing this idea and then advise us how to act! I like the stamp idea, and I would gladly take $100 from my tax return to implement…

  16. Posted March 7, 2009 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    Teacher Patti and Amanda –well you can’t write on a bill, but you could put an easily removable temporary sticker on them, or a coin. I love the idea! .>>>>>>>>>>> Let’s!

    And Dude,
    you are soooo full of hooey balloooey. If you can’t find great places and stuff to spend your money on in Ypsilanti you are just nuts. We just keep you here to provoke us and keep our blood roiling.

    I can easily spend $100 here doing my grocery shopping between the co-op and Dos Hermanos, or a nite out at a RAC play/and one of our many terrific restaurants that, of course, serve chicken. (you dude probably only eat at mc dee’s)

  17. Posted March 7, 2009 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    I was more trying to lament the fact that Movies4Sale closed than rip on Ypsi. I was saddened.

    Perhaps a stack of $2 bills at Deja Vu would be a good way to buy local.

  18. ScottK
    Posted March 7, 2009 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    But spending it at the Vu would only be local if the girls are local….not sure I want to know the answer to that one

  19. Brackinald Achery
    Posted March 7, 2009 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    I am interested in the logistics of the local currency thing.

    Who would print it? How will it be made counterfeit-resistant? Will it be backed by regular money? Who would be in charge of how much is in circulation?

  20. ScottK
    Posted March 7, 2009 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    Skipping the first two questions for now…#3 it wouldn’t need to be backed by money per se. I’m thinking a main source to distribute it…chamber of commerce?…or a couple of locations. A stamp could be unique and held by each vendor. The vendor could cash it in with the “banker” or restamp it with a new date and offer it as change or as part of pay to employees….this goes with #4, the more in circulation the better. The coupons are originally bought with regular currency. The stamped scrips just guarantee it is spent here.

  21. John on Forest
    Posted March 7, 2009 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    I like the local currency idea too. But, very good questions you ask, BA. We need a central back of Ypsi and an Ypsi mint.

    More realistically, plastic would probably work. Many businesses in town issue gift cards. The technology is pretty simple and I’ve never heard of counterfeiting issues with them, although I’m sure they could exist. There could be a Ypsilanti Currency Card, issued using gift card technology. The Ypsilanti Currency Card would then be honored at participating businesses. Said businesses would have to be given a means to redeem collected Ypsilanti Currency and I’m not sure how this part of the problem would be solved. The goal of course would be for the businesses to use accumulated Ypsilanti Currency to buy local as well. Perhaps they could pay (partially) their employees with the Ypsilanti Currency.

  22. Lisa
    Posted March 7, 2009 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    The best local currency example is BerkShares ( – also a good place for links to learn more about local currencies). There are LOTS of examples of local currencies that very few people actually use… As near as I can tell what BerkShares did better than most other places that they got the support of many groups in the community ranging from most of the banks to the Chamber to lots of businesses before they launched.

  23. ScottK
    Posted March 7, 2009 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    Here is a link to the article I read about the topic. It wouldn’t take a mint, just the cooperation of businesses.

  24. ScottK
    Posted March 7, 2009 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    If small towns in Europe can do it, why can’t we? (assuming we don’t get city council/government involved)

  25. KP
    Posted March 7, 2009 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    Why is a special currency needed exactly? Couldn’t we all just spend our normal USA money in Ypsi?

  26. Brackinald Achery
    Posted March 8, 2009 at 1:28 am | Permalink

    I think the idea with the local currency is that it encourages spending locally by giving you a discount if you use it. Or something. Also so we can fall to fighting amongst ourselves as to whose face gets on what denomination.

  27. applejack
    Posted March 8, 2009 at 2:09 am | Permalink

    something i’ve been doing lately is to save my cash for when i buy at a local/independent store, and only using my credit card when i shop at a chain or big box store. i doubt this makes any real impact, but i know credit card fees can be pretty expensive for small businesses. and if everyone did the same thing it might add up. just a thought.

  28. Posted March 8, 2009 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Why not just issue discount cards for participating businesses? Seems like it would be cheaper and logistically easier than printing up local cash that’s useless everywhere else and unusable for the poor business that gets stuck with tons of it. I think Ithaca tried it and had real problems because the local gift shop ended up with more local currency than real. Can’t pay the bills with funny money.

  29. Oliva
    Posted March 8, 2009 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    I love the idea of April being a fully-support-local-businesses month. The fairly new manager of Midas on Michigan Avenue a little bit west of Prospect went way beyond the call of duty in helping me and my car out last fall, said he was working on improving the business’s reputation. I thought I should mention it in case anyone is in need of exhaust system work. The guy showed real integrity and generosity. Oh, always excellent service from the radiator shop on Huron at Cross, southwest corner (Lake’s!). Just starting to think of businesses worth promoting around here, I am tongue-tied. We have a lot–hardware, food, clothing, baked goods, toys, bikes, coffee, books, just a tiny beginning of a list. And the best P.O. staff a person could wish for (federal operation, though it is). So nice to think we can underscore the point en masse. (Thanks yet again, Mark, for being the best community organizer.)

  30. Kripen
    Posted March 8, 2009 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Where can you get books and clothing in Ypsilanti?

  31. Posted March 8, 2009 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    They probably aren’t for everyone, but Puffer Reds sells clothes. The same goes for the place next to VG Kids. I buy my jeans and stuff from Sam’s in Ann Arbor, which, I believe, is locally owned. They’re downtown, on Liberty Street. I also get stuff at the thrift stores. I also spend some money at the national chains. As for books, there’s Cross Street Books, which is a used book store. When you want something new, though, I’d say go to Borders, which is headquartered in Ann Arbor.

    More on the other stuff later.

  32. Posted March 8, 2009 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    You can get books and clothes at Value World.

  33. Oliva
    Posted March 8, 2009 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    I know it’s a matter of taste re. clothes, but Value World really does have some wonders (sometimes special books too). But the amazing place for books is at the Friends of the YDL Bookstore at the Whitaker Road branch. Some extremely generous benefactors donate brand-new, just-released books regularly. It’s one of the best Christmas shopping stores in town. Books are alphabetized, and there’s a surprisingly big offering for sale, but I realize it’s not quite like a full-blown bookstore where you can order specific titles.

    We also have a glass-making studio over near Peninsular Place, Baron Glassworks, which offers classes and has a great (warm) feel.

  34. Oliva
    Posted March 8, 2009 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    Ah, dude, we are on the same wavelength–see, wonders and Value World!

  35. Posted March 8, 2009 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    I like Sam’s too, Mark, I knew those guys well when I used to work next door at Tortoise and Hare. Also love Value World for their shirts.

    My favorite Ypsi store is the bike shop, Ypsilanti Cycle. Great service and rates and they go above and beyond to meet their customer needs (at least mine). They’re currently doing a tuneup on my commuter bike which I’m excited to get back soon.

    I’ve been meaning to go back to Puffer Reds to check out their hat selection. Not a lot of people talk about them on this site but they’re one of the most succesful independent retail businesses Ypsi has ever had.

    I’m all about buying local but I don’t think the special currency would be a good idea (maye fun though) – but promotion like this thread and what goes on during the holidays is fantastic. I also think, like Mark alluded to with some Ann Arbor references, that we should think outside of just Ypsi. It’s SE Michigan, or Michigan for that matter.

  36. galan
    Posted March 8, 2009 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    The new store between Haab’s and Materials Unlimited has some women’s clothing and sweaters as well as cards and gifts. If I am not mistaken there is also another men’s clothing store on the north side of Michigan Avenue west of Dalat sort of across from Puffer Red’s.

  37. Oliva
    Posted March 8, 2009 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    Puffer Reds has great sales, also tons of cds in the back. There was a very cool see-through men’s jacket on sale . . . (our nephew got one).

  38. Posted March 9, 2009 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    So what’s the next step? Do we try to sign up 25 people each willing to spend $100 in $2 bills in Ypsi? Is that reasonable?

  39. Posted March 10, 2009 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    Mark, good idea to me…I’d be willing to do that…(i’d do it anyhow)

    but I really think you could easily avoid all of the difficulties around local currency minting, and fussing — by, in the future, simply putting a sticker (there are ones that won’t so adhere they’d ruin or deface the bill) on normal currency encouraging folks to spend that bill in Ypsi. it could simply say:
    shop Ypsi or ??? something else brief — what should it say?

  40. Posted March 10, 2009 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    BTW, inspired by this discussion, — I’d be happy to create a website where we could post all of our favorite places to shop in Ypsi, along with photos, finds features.

    Check out Kim’s blog which I love, it a favorite….The Farmer’s marketter – a terrific blog that covers/review/features all kinds of great places around SE michigan that offer local/farm food — we could do it like a wikipedia with people posting pics and an article on their favorite place – ie it could be participatory rather than my doing it all… would anyone help? The topic would be shopping Ypsi.

  41. Oliva
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    chicken, that is a great and generous offer, making a web site for our buy local efforts. I’ll help. I’m putting on my thinking cap . . .

    Mark, let’s do it. I have been coveting two $2 bills and will go get the balance for the $100. I’ve always loved Blimpy’s $2 bills for change, and Dominick’s also does it sometimes.

  42. Posted March 10, 2009 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    Well Oliva, thanks for the reply… correction: I’ll arrange a site…can’t really make one. But I’d be glad to get a digital and do a ‘feature’ on some Ypsi shop… the way the farmer’s marketter did with “foods”, how’s your thinking cap coming?

    I would see this as a collaborative effort where all of the folks above, for example, could post something about their favorite Ypsi spot… and what one can get there… try this as an example:

  43. Oliva
    Posted March 11, 2009 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    chicken (and everybody), that Ypsi Green site is quite fine, and ours would overlap for sure, but it could be different enough. I like the idea of photos (and other eye-catching images) to go with posts about local shops, restaurants, operations–and who knows what else?

    I seem to have misplaced my trusty thinking cap for a spring bonnet, which just blew away in the raucous wind. But I really like your idea and want to think (or join in thinking) of an alluring name for it and character for it–ah, and attractive color scheme. I’m afraid I’m feeling more sidekick than innovator at the moment, but I can rise to the occasion and will–as soon as I knock off a little work that’s due later today.

  44. Posted March 12, 2009 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    When I visited Europe in 1999, I paid for 39/40 nights of accommodations with an IOU for a night back in Canada worth 5 Hours.
    It’s only a matter of time until all systems based on the Time Standard of Money will use the internet to intertrade globally. I did.
    We need the United Nations Millennium Declaration UNILETS Resolution C6 to governments for a time-based currency to restructure the global financial architecture. Barter Timebanks are economic lifeboats. See my banking systems engineering analysis at with an index of articles at where I also suggest not only that state governments pay their employees in small-denomination state bonds (like Argentina’s provinces did) but also that corporations pay their employees with small-denomination corporate bonds. So long as the FED isn’t running money right.

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