The consequences of not buying local

Over the weekend, Linette and I went to Big George’s in Ann Arbor, in hopes of finding a camera to replace the one that fell to its death after being catapulted off my belly like a bullet and into a brick wall, only to find that they no longer sell cameras. I know this probably won’t mean much to a lot of you, but I really liked the folks at Big George’s, and trusted their opinions when it came to cameras and the like. (We bought our last two cameras from them.) I guess, now, unless someone has a better idea, we’ll have to go to Amazon, and rely on the ratings of people we don’t know… At any rate, I thought that I’d mention it here, in hopes that the next time you’re thinking about buying something new online (perhaps through my Amazon link, once I get it working again), you consider the unintended consequences of that decision.

And, I should add, I’m not totally without blame in this. While I did buy my last two cameras from Big George’s, when it came time to buy a video camera several years ago, I got it online and saved a few bucks. Now, in retrospect, I wish that I hadn’t.

One positive thing… Having gotten to Big George’s and found that they no longer carried cameras, we decided to purchase our new energy-efficient washing machine from them. (The motor in our old one, which was probably about 20 years old, finally gave out a few days ago.)

And, one last thing… Here’s hoping that Big George’s didn’t have to lay off the people that used to work in the camera department. I’d like to think that they were able to find a place for them in their home theater section, or something, but I don’t know…

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  1. Sticks
    Posted April 19, 2009 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    Try Adray’s in Dearborn.

  2. Posted April 20, 2009 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately, Big George’s camera department closed a year or so ago, and they did indeed lay off staff, including friends of mine.

    And alas, the poster above is too late, Adray’s is also now closed.

    The only decent locally-owned camera store left in the area (even the non-locally-owned Ritz is closing) is Huron Camera in Dexter. Give them your money!

  3. Posted April 20, 2009 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    Big George’s is also environmentally conscious. Their new building has a green roof.

  4. Paw
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    It sucks that those guys lost their jobs. One would have hoped that Big George’s would have made an effort to place them elsewhere if possible. (Maybe they did.)

  5. Murf
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Unless the Adray’s of Dearborn closing is really new news, it looks like it’s still open for business…or at least a storefront for their online business:

  6. Curt Waugh
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    I just bought a couch from Harry’s west of Saline. Great local folks. Great prices. Go there. But furniture is a higher-end product. We still need to go sit in the things to find out if we like them. There’s no substitute for tactile response with a tactile item like furniture. That’s a huge value-add from a local retailer.

    I shifted my ample alcohol purchases to my local party store in hopes of keeping them there forever. But there is differentiation in alcohol products and our state regulations prevent anybody from doing much with prices. You might as well buy local for the convenience alone. It won’t cost you much (if anything) more. Having them close is a big value-add.

    But when it comes to small appliances and electronics, that boat sailed an awfully long time ago. It’s one thing when there was product differentiation, but that’s long gone as cameras have become cheap commodities, none of which are even built by the company whose brand name is on it. I’m all for local, but what exactly did Big George’s add to the value of an inexpensive camera to justify the money you would have given them? Yes, I understand we love our follow man and want a robust local economy, but small electronics is not the place to fight that battle. It never was. The products, as much as anything, changed a while ago and killed that idea.

    (Remember the old SNL skit from eons ago where Dan Aykroyd was trying to sell handmade paper clips? This reminds me of that.)

  7. Posted April 20, 2009 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    I think the value local resellers of things like cameras is this:

    Every time I’m in the market for something like a camera or phone, I have to spend 20 hours reading about, researching, and comparing similar products by 5 different manufacturers. Then I have to select some target models and go look if there’s a major complaint, recall, or problem with the model.

    I’d rather not have to become an expert in every single product. I would gladly pay 15%-20% more to have someone else go through all this crap for me and just carry a couple of well-researched models of each product.

    I’m now an unwilling expert on cameras, compact dishwashers, and motherboards. Though by the time I need to buy a replacement, I’ll need to start over.

  8. Curt Waugh
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Doc, you make an excellent point. I suppose I have always followed electronics just as a matter of habit/hobby. For those folks not so inclined, I can now see where that might be a pain in the ass and worth every penny.

    Assuming that there are others like you, why did these places close? Is it possible that, because of people like me, the market isn’t big enough to support independent outlets? Did folks like you just get schnookered by the lure of low prices? Did the retailers lose the very trust that was their key added value to you?

    Interesting issues.

  9. Dirtgrain
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Motorcycle dealerships (some are rightfully known as stealerships, so I’m not overly sympathetic) have similarly lost sales of motorcycle gear to internet based stores. But, when buying gloves, pants, jackets, helmets and other gear, some people go to the dealership and try the items on; they then leave the dealership and order the appropriate size from an internet store at a cheaper price. That’s not too cool, right?

    What will it be like when we have no more local shops to try things on? Will the number of people wearing ill-fitting clothing increase? Or will the hassles of returning/exchanging internet-purchased items be a bigger part of our everyday lives? Just wondering.

  10. Posted April 20, 2009 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Boo!!! I got my camera from Big G’s too.

  11. Steph
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    I think a lot of people got recommendations there, tried the stuff out, and then bought online.

  12. Lisa
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I know that people specifically said that people would look at it at the store and then buy it elsewhere (not realizing even that they can match prices fora lot of things). I know this also happens at Independent bookstores.

  13. vera
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    The problem that small retailers are facing is that the companies that make these cheaper products have decided it was better cost-effective to no longer supply goods to low volume retailers. This makes the small business unable to compete. Some have compensated by only carrying high-end products, but with today’s economy the market for such things are dwindling.

  14. Posted April 20, 2009 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    Try Ritz camera on State St. at North U. in A2 on campus. I think it’s still there.

  15. tommy
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    I fear the storm is coming my way in Saline. The new Walmart is supposed to open this Summer, I believe. I fear that it will suck up our local businesses that are marginally successful putting them on the edge of survival. I, for one, will gladly pay a bit more for good service and local revenue. Unfortunately, with the economy like it is, people will be looking for low prices primarily.

  16. jean
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    I have a friend who works in a local shoe store. People go there regularly to get fit and get advice and then leave saying they want to “research” prices on-line. She’s a single mom with a kid to support who works on commission. We think cheaper is smarter, but we are not calculating the ‘real’ cost of what we consume. What are we supporting when we buy a $4. t-shirt? Hell, in the 70’s a t-shirt cost $5-8. Ritz on State is closing or closed by now. Shaman Drum is re-configuring as a non-profit. Even Border’s is taking a dive… can’t find much there these days. The only place left with a decent stock selection will be Amazon. And when oil goes back up to $150 or even $200. a barrel, how many bargains will they have then?

  17. Posted April 20, 2009 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    People are stupid. Most of the time the stores will match online prices. All you usually have to do is ask.

  18. dragon
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    The first basic law of human stupidity asserts without ambiguity that:
    Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.

    At first, the statement sounds trivial, vague and horribly ungenerous. Closer scrutiny will however reveal its realistic veracity. No matter how high are one’s estimates of human stupidity, one is repeatedly and recurrently startled by the fact that:

    a) people whom one had once judged rational and intelligent turn out to be unashamedly stupid.

    b) day after day, with unceasing monotony, one is harassed in one’s activities by stupid individuals who appear suddenly and unexpectedly in the most inconvenient places and at the most improbable moments.

    The First Basic Law prevents me from attributing a specific numerical value to the fraction of stupid people within the total population: any numerical estimate would turn out to be an underestimate.

  19. Posted April 20, 2009 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry to hear that they were let go, Matt. I feared that was the case, but I was hoping for the best.

  20. Patty
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

    Aw…Your post brings up memories of going to Big George’s as a kid with my dad. He was an amateur photographer and shopped there all the time for his cameras and lenses. I remember seeing Big George himself in the store…too bad they seem to have gotten rid of the sign with his portrait on it. I guess one of the results of getting older is that a lot of the stores of one’s youth seem to vanish. Or at least their camera departments. Sigh.

  21. Posted April 21, 2009 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Mark, it’s Dave Lewinski (photographer por Concentrate),

    Go to Huron Camera in Dexter and talk to the dude with the glasses. He knows his stuff.

  22. Miriam
    Posted April 21, 2009 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Hi, a friend forwarded me this posting and its very gratifying to read. I worked in the camera department at Big Georges for years.

    Although its true that small appliances is not the arena in which to fight for local economy, Big Georges camera department did not only sell regular amateur photography products. That department was one of two remaining places that had really good people selling professional products. There is now nowhere in Ann Arbor to buy darkroom equipment or chemistry, and no experts to help teach customers how to buy their cameras.

    I bought my fist camera there and then got my degree in photography and helped lots of other people learn how to use and enjoy their cameras through Big Georges. It really was a great place.

    Huron Camera is good. I bought my last lens there. But the staff at Big Georges (myself not included as it has been years since I worked there) was exceptional. They supported the local photographic community single handedly, and that community turned to cheaper prices online. I cant blame them, but it is a great loss for Ann Arbor.

  23. Joanne
    Posted April 21, 2009 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    Huron Camera! When I had a video class at WCC years ago, that was the go -to-store! I completely forgot. Yes, go there!

  24. NativeOfYpsiRU?
    Posted April 22, 2009 at 7:34 pm | Permalink


    LONG time reader, first time poster.

    Let me preface this by saying, I too, wholeheartedly agree with buying local whenever possible. But I have a question. Why would you buy your camera from Amazon instead of from another place locally? I realize, it would probably have to be a “big box” store, as most of the mom and pop camera shops have, unfortunately, met their untimely demise, sad as that is. However, let’s discuss the word “local”. “Local” in my mind means buying from the locally owned little guy primarily, but when compared to ordering off the internet from (which I realize can also mean buying from the little guy too, but that usually isn’t “local” in the sense of the term), buying from a local “big box” store could also be considered buying local too if you think about it. I say that, because you supporting that “big box” store still supports “local” jobs in this area. And given our economy and unemployment rate in SE Michigan, I should think that would be more important than just sticking it to big business in general. Therefore, your thought process on your camera purchase fucking befuddles me. In these times, why would you support another locales economy, especially if you knew going into it, you were not going to be purchasing from a locally owned “little guy” business? Please don’t take this as a personal attack because it’s not meant to be, but I guess your decision doesn’t surprise me as you own two foreign vehicles. I say this because you don’t even have the foresight to do your part to support the jobs that are the stronghold of the entire SE Michigan region, I guess I can’t expect you to see that you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face by ordering online as opposed to purchasing locally, albeit, maybe in a “big box” store. If you haven’t already made your purchase, I implore you to rethink your options, and consider an alternative, a little closer to home that will support the economy here in the 734, even if it’s “big box”.

    Thanks for listening.

  25. BornInYtown
    Posted April 22, 2009 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    Try ABC warehouse, while not located in Ypsi, they are based out of Michigan. Local and big box.

  26. Karl
    Posted January 17, 2010 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    Joining Shaman Drum and myriad others, the John Leidy store is closing in downtown Ann Arbor.

  27. Rodrigo Laflam
    Posted July 9, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    No one supported Liberty Street Video in Ann Arbor and now it’s going to be something called Bongs n’ Thongs.

  28. Edward
    Posted July 10, 2011 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    It’s just a matter of time before Ann Arbor has no locally owned stores.

  29. Bye Bye Ann Arbor
    Posted November 10, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    The Flim Flam diner in Ann Arbor just went out of business after 30 years.

    Eventually, Ann Arbor will be one giant Panera.

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