Friday, November 24, 2006

Shopping local and getting donations go hand in hand

There's a story that circulates regularly among the valley's business owners. It goes like this:

A person walks into the business, goes to see the owner, and asks that the business donate a substantial amount of money to support a worthy local cause.

The person explains how the donation will further great work with kids, animals, the environment, the infirm and the misfortunate. With a long list of nonprofit organizations in the valley, the possibilities are endless. The person tells the owner how his or her business really owes it to the community to help.

The business owner sizes up the person who is wearing clothing bearing logos of out-of-town merchants, or who may be well-known for purchasing items or services used in their own business or home from out-of-town merchants.

The business owner then asks, "When did you last do business with us?"

The person asking for the donation looks puzzled, then unnerved and asks, "What do you mean?"

The business owner can't believe the question, and more than once has had to explain what should be obvious. The clever ones say, "I'll give what the out-of-town company listed on your vest gave."

Valley businesses donate to every cause under the Sun Valley sun every year. They donate goods, they donate services, they donate space, they donate time, and they donate tens of thousands of dollars in cash as well. Most are generous to a fault.

Most understand that life isn't all about the bottom line. If their sole goal in life had been to become rich, they wouldn't have opened businesses in the Wood River Valley—or stayed in business—because the business climate has always been difficult. They are here for other reasons.

They understand that a good life is about community—friends, neighbors, kids, and even strangers. They know that good and great things can be accomplished if everyone helps a little.

They understand that they have had to differentiate their goods and services from those offered in the big city.

Retailers stock higher quality and more upscale goods, but at reasonable prices. They understand that they don't offer every cheap item in the world in every single size and every single color. But they do well in providing top-quality merchandise and top-quality service. If they don't have what you want, most will order it.

What local business owners don't understand is why the same people who solicit their donations don't shop or purchase services locally first before looking elsewhere.

Shoppers, today is the beginning of the biggest spending season of the year. It's a good day to ponder what makes the valley tick—and to act accordingly.

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