Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Elephant in My Room

Outside the Chicago Tribune Building, December 2009

This is a post a long time coming. I feel like I'm in a constant quest of good versus evil. The whole fabric of our lifestyle is to buy local, support local. We are local. We are small business owners, small scale home farmers wanting to be so much more, and find a way to contribute to CSA. We want the best of all worlds and are in a constant struggle against the forces to find our balance.

I'm thinking about this especially now as I've had a situation that I abhor, and please don't think less of me for writing my weakness here. The year end, slow season for our business is always difficult, but always doable. It's just ever so more difficult having had two mortgages for going on 3 years.

Now, I have taken huge steps to do many, many handmade gifts for the holidays, there is still some, ahem, Santa purchases that must be made. So I look to my credit card rewards to get gift cards for our holiday shopping. Now I'm going to say it, please don't leave my blog forever for doing so. The best value for my points this year wasn't in Visa, but specific retailer cards. Yes, I'm ashamed to say I got the best value with half of my points through Wal-Mart. ((sigh)) But I really want to be sure my kids have a great Christmas and needed the most bang for my buck. So I bit the bullet and did it, redeemed the points for the gift cards. I just couldn't see any way around it. I did have other avenues through other points and redeemed them as such.

This has been about 10 days ago now, and guess what? In that time, I've found coupons, and deals, and managed to finish my Christmas shopping all without a need for the Wal-Mart cards, just a need for their value. So, now the dilemma. What to do with them? They still have an important value. Should I sell them?

Then I begin to think about this in further depth. I hate what they stand for; the take over of American business and the failure of so many a small town mom and pop retailers (of which I am one). But then I also see that so many need the deal in order to live and provide for their families. I don't fault anyone for whatever situation they're in. I also think that in striving for a Great Value (double meaning, intended) many haven't even contemplated the scope of what Wal-Mart's presence has done in their economies. I don't want to be elitist in my ideals. There is a practicality and necessity to so many for that company. It is unfortunate the power they yield. I just want my life to be about having the ability to choose and support those hard working local businesses around me.

I was prompted to write this evening as I was reading this newsletter. I found out about the organization through etsy and was very taken by this article from the Huffington Post.


  1. as an addendum. Funny enough I called to follow up on my gift cards today and found out they take up to a month to ship! Jeez, should have told me that to begin with I think. So I canceled them and had them credit the card for cash which I will advance out for responsible spending :)

  2. problem solved! I know though, I think I've told you that I end up at Walmart every quarter or so....I need to stop that too. It's laziness. That is a bad place if you have the means to avoid it....

  3. i'm finally catching up! :-)

    i think you outline very well the complex issues involved with being a wal-mart shopper (or not), because sometimes reality does set in and the economic reality is that wal-mart makes it so that we have to choose them to make ends meet.

    i think we have to move towards a place where we live our lives differently and decrease our dependence upon such retailers--by giving more meaningful, but less gifts. by feeling on the whole less obligated on that front (this gift thing is really getting to me, can you tell?) and i think we need to work on our expectations - why have we let our kids think they need a dozen presents? (i'm just as guilty, don't get me wrong.)

    but i'm discovering that it's a process and we have to move slowly towards it, making progress a little bit at a time.



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