Blogversation: How will you support your local businesses during the holidays?

Throughout this year, several bloggers will engage in a conversation on Newvine Growing—asking questions of each other and responding. Others are absolutely welcome to join the conversation, as well. Learn more about the Blogversation 2012. I wrote the following post around Black Friday.

You Get What You Pay For.

Writing my humor blog and then book, Things I Want to Punch in the Face, healed me when I was grieving, and made me not only face my dark side, but get comfortable with it.

Now, publicizing the book has changed me again. It’s made me rethink my purchasing habits and the kind of person I want to be. After a month of throwing Punch Parties at local bookstores and meeting independent booksellers at various conferences, I see the magic that exists within this community. Magic that I—we—can’t take for granted.

I emceed the author’s luncheon at the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association conference a few weeks ago and warmed up the crowd of bookstore owners and staff with a few Things They Might Want to Punch in the Face. First up: customers who regard their store as an Amazon showroom, coming in and snapping photos or making a note on their smartphone so they can order the book later online. This is an all-too-familiar scenario. I know, because I’m guilty as charged. At least I was. I’ve wised up because I’ve learned something.

You get what you pay for.

And what I get at my local bookshop is an experience. When you pay full price at your local bookstore, you get customer service, a wealth of knowledge, the continuing resource of a neighborhood gathering place, a full-on community.When you buy a book on amazon or another discounted retail site, you get the book. That’s it. The 30-40 percent you are “saving” is the cost of having a storefront, a knowledgeable and lovely staff, and books you can thumb through at your leisure. When you choose to “save,” you sacrifice your experience and your community.

You get what you pay for. And often, you lose what you don’t pay for.

Queen Anne Books, one of many local bookstores I’ve frequented over the years, hosted my last Punch Party in Seattle. Five days later, it closed its doors. This is deeply saddening, but not unique. It’s happening everywhere—bookstores, yarn shops, record stores are all going the way of the dinosaur.

I get it. I’m practical and lord knows, I love a good deal. As an author and a consumer, I like that amazon exists, that people can find my books no matter where they live, that I can easily ship out gifts to friends and family across the country.

But this comes at a price, and I’m not talking about free shipping.

Amazon is the hot dog of retailers: we know it’s bad for us but we want it anyway…with relish.

I’m not trying to slap anyone’s wrist as they reach for their mouse to click the BUY button. I’m just suggesting that we make more informed choices, value all that our local businesses provide to us, and as we dive into another holiday season, choose quality over quantity and save our local businesses instead of saving 40 percent off a copy of Where’d You Go, Bernadette (which, by the way, is terrific. I have Suzanne at Secret Garden Books to thank for the recommendation).

You get what you pay for.