Wednesday, 30 May 2012 INDEX

A thousand lines
Who would you prefer to do business with, a giant faceless international corporation or your friendly local craftsman, a person you know and can get hold of if something goes wrong?

Well it turns out that in almost all circumstances it's the faceless corporation. Yes, you prefer to do business with organisations that have huge profit margins, who will despoil the Earth's resources, exploit child labour, prop up dodgy regimes and worst of all contribute to one of the political parties in America!

You like brands. You like high street shops and impressive web sites.

There are so many things you could buy (or even better barter) from people in your community, but apart from a few specialist services (like plumbing) you will almost always choose the corporation to do business with.

Somehow you just don't trust those locals. They aren't up market enough, they might be unable to do what they claim or it might make the whole process more difficult.

In Germany there are loads of mum and pop businesses. It is the heart of their economy. In Britain they usually have to duck and dive to survive. You don't want to know about that ducking and diving.

So why is that? When they become popular everyone beats a path to their door and they can quickly become mega businesses (defeating the object, you might say). But it seems impossible to run a very small business serving your community (providing help with computers, growing vegetables, repairing shoes, making curtains, designing and installing electronic systems, making furniture, whatever).

It's hard to think of anything that can not be done better by the small, local business: banking services and insurance might be examples but it's pretty obvious to anyone who's followed the eonomy over the last few years that these enterprises should be run on a co-operative basis. Profit making banking in a world where people gamble trillions on invented financial instruments every hour, is obviously lunacy.

So be a revolutionary or stick up for Adam Smith (the big corporations do everything they can to avoid market disciplines, that is what branding is all about) buy or barter local. Take a thousand lines from your community. You will regret it, lots of times, but as you pick up experience as a local trader you will also empower both yourself and your community.

The excuse used for sticking with the brand is "no-one ever got sacked for specifying Big Blue". Big Blue is (or was) IBM the huge American computer giant parodied in 2001: A Space Odyssey. But Big Blue racked up some of the biggest losses in financial history because it was unable to understand what was happening to the market (Apple, Microsoft etc.). And as a consumer who's going to sack you?

Posted by Jonathan Brind at 10:15
Wednesday, 30 May 2012 INDEX