Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Duty to Tell the Truth

Satanic Mechanic recently brutally fisked a columnist from the Daily Evergreen that sent must have him scrambling for an electrical engineering textbook.

Undergrad Kool-Aider Haley Paul is back in today's Watermelon with yet another uninformed, sophomoric column about local business that demands a similar response.

Let me take her most outrageous allegations point-by-point:
With a fair number of small businesses around the Pullman and Moscow area to choose from, you too can participate in your own little form of activism. Going to an independently owned store is about more than just buying something, whether it's a sandwich, a book or a shirt. Frequenting small businesses – as opposed to large national franchises – is a way to support the local community. Going to Heros N Sports as opposed to Quizno’s for lunch is a way of quietly saying, “Hey! I like having diversity in this town. I like that every store is not a cookie cutter box store. I like that I can choose from a bagel shop, a panini place, or a coffee shop.”
Has Paul ever heard of the term "sales leakage?" How does shopping in Moscow support Pullman and local Pullman business? And has Paul never heard of franchising? Many national chain stores and restaurants in Pullman are owned and managed by locals. Quizno's is the perfect example of that. Ryan Davis, a Pullman resident, and his brother Aaron, opened Quizno's franchises in both Pullman and Moscow in 2003. They were so successful (Pullman has been one of the top Quizno's franchises inthe country) that they opened a Cartridge World franchise in Pullman last year. Davis is the kind of entrepreneur we need more of here. He has created jobs, provided more services to local residents, and helped keep tax dollars local. Who cares what the name on the door reads? Franchises are great for these local entrepreneurs because you get built-in advertising and reputation and therefore a greater assurance of return on your investment. What's wrong with that? Is a Quizno's sub intrinisically less "local" than a Heroes N Sports sub? Don't you think they both get a lot of their ingredients from the same suppliers? Do both restaurants not pay local wages and taxes? This is just an incredibly naive, short-sighted, reactionary, and elitist viewpoint.
I don’t know about you, but a world solely dominated by McDonald’s and Wal-Mart does not sound all that interesting.
Let me answer this with a quote from an Evergreen story from January 20, 2005:
Six people spent the first 21 minutes of the two-hour joint meeting between the Pullman City Council and ASWSU voicing opposition to the possible construction of a Wal-Mart Supercenter. Several people also wanted a public comment period. April Overlie, a senior human development major, said the retail giant will hurt the Pullman community and that “our community means nothing to them. We are just another statistic.” Overlie also said there will be a meeting of Pullman Against the Wal-Mart Supercenter at 7 p.m. tonight at the Jefferson Elementary multi-purpose room. City Attorney Laura McAloon said the scheduling of any public hearing has not been scheduled yet. ASWSU and the City Council also heard reports about campus safety, game-day parking and recruiting new businesses to Pullman. ASWSU District 4 Sen. Matt Sobotta said the results from a survey of students conducted last year are finalized. “Students want for a sit-down restaurant — a Red Robin or Taco Bell for a fast food restaurant, and Target as a retail store,” Sobotta said. Fritz Hughes, executive director of the Pullman Chamber of Commerce, said the next step is getting together with students and other people in the community. Sobotta said there has been some communication with Taco Bell and Target, but not Red Robin.
So again, it comes to down to the name on the sign. We don't want to be a "McDonald's and Wal-Mart" town, but I guess a "Red Robin and Target" town is okay. What does that possibly have to do with planning? But let's suspend reality for a moment and assume that Paul wasn't being snobbish and really supported an all local business environment. If college students want national chains (and studies show they overwhelmingly do), and college students make up 70% Pullman's population, the market is going to give them what they want. What's wrong with that?
Then of course there are the bigger societal implications to consider when spending money at a large corporation. All too often, large companies fail to practice sound business ethics with practices such as reducing costs at any price by outsourcing jobs to Third World countries. According to the Omnex website – a company devoted to helping other companies find places to outsource “certain repetitive, non-core processes” – taking advantage of overseas labor in countries such as India, China, and Thailand can produce cost savings as much as 60 percent.

So while corporations get bigger and richer, Americans lose jobs here at home, and the few in control make the decisions that affect our society as a whole. The costs of the decisions that corporate executives make are then distributed throughout a society, as is the case with the United States losing manufacturing jobs overseas.
Oh no, not this again. So just because a store is local, they don't get their goods from overseas? Go take a look at the clothing labels in Tri-State, Haley. Just what is sold locally that is made (or even grown) locally? And just what is wrong with lower prices? Do elitists like Paul, who can already afford higher-priced domestic goods, want lower-middle class consumers to have their standard of living diminished?


Paul E. Zimmerman, M.A. said...

Tom: "Do elitists like Paul, who can already afford higher-priced domestic goods, want lower-middle class consumers to have their standard of living diminished."

Actually, I wonder if that's even true in her case. My guess is that it's not, but since she has had multiple trips to the kool-aid bowl up there on campus, she probably doesn't even realize that she's arguing against her own personal interests. Maybe mommy and daddy are still tossing a financial security blanket over her, I wouldn't know, but I suspect that her sophmoronic ranting is going to get washed away by a cold splash of fiscal reality once she crosses the commencement stage.

Paul E. Zimmerman, M.A. said...

Actually, I take that last bit about Haley back. Now that I've thought about it some more, I realize now that this is yet another case of someone who simply does not understand how business works. Even after she leaves the padded walls of academia and gets a job, it's entirely possible that she'll persist in these ignorant delusions.

I'll turn these lemons into lemonade though - I'll start devoting a portion of my investment portfolio to trading in and out of "local" national chains that have been deemed PC by virtue of aesthetics alone.

Satanic Mechanic said...

$10 says she does not practice what she preaches.