The Commerce Conflict: Where Should I Buy Ray Charles?

Ray Charles - Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music

I struggle with purchase venues:

Let’s say I would like to purchase an album by Ray Charles, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. The first thing I need to do is decide where I should go.

– First, I need to find a place that has the album. For the sake of this argument, I know that Amazon and my local record shop both carry this album. So where do I make this purchase? What factors do I consider?

– Personally, I first think of cost: where can I get this album the cheapest? As it turns out, Amazon has the album for $10.99, and I can get it used for as low as $5.99 through the Amazon Marketplace. Then my mind wanders: maybe I should buy this album at my local record store, even though it’s more expensive at $12.99, simply to support my community and local businesses. Notice what’s happening: I start to hold moral obligation over the most competitive seller. I’m considering rewarding the losing offer simply because I feel they deserve the money more than the larger competitor.

– Then I think: Amazon was once a fledgling company that would have failed without the support of people willing to take their business away from the dependable, larger chain stores like Best Buy, Sam Goody, and Coconuts. At what point did Amazon “cross the line” and become the very store that I am now “protesting?”

– More importantly: Is it right to protest the more competetive, successful seller simply because they are larger and more successful? My gut tells me that no, it’s not right. Capitalism is founded on Darwin’s principle. ‘Survival of the fittest’ and all that jazz… So, then, how are smaller store expected to enter the market and compete?

The answer, I feel, lies in the buying experience. As long as new competitors can bring an appealing buying experience to the market, they will have a chance to succeed. The real brand loyalty, and conversion, comes from consumers who are willing to pay a premium for a fun shopping trip, even if it means paying more for the same item you can get for cheaper somewhere else. I don’t believe that morality plays as big a part as I previously thought. For instance:

– In the morning, I buy coffee at “The Bean” on 6th Avenue (not Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts) because I like the smell of the rustic wood decor mixing with fresh roasted coffee beans. They also have a cool little garbage can built into the “condiments” shelf, and the cashiers are cute.

– I primarily buy books at St. Mark’s Bookshop because I like the idea of reading a book that has already been read, even if it means dealing with water-damaged pages and penciled-in notes on page 22. It’s as if me and some unknown stranger are both carrying around the same images and knowledge after having read the same physical set of bound pages. Also, the door is antique and I can find great older editions hidden on the shelves.

– On Saturdays, I eat breakfast at “Bagel Zone” on Avenue A because I like the accents of the African staff. Also the tables, chairs, and old-world-style decor makes for a relaxing morning. They even bring your order to your table. And while the coffee is, in fact, particularly good, the bagels are not. But I eat here anyway.

I tend to value a great experience over cost-saving benefits. So capitalism is still in effect: may the best business win. I simply don’t consider the best to necessarily be the cheapest.

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