Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Corporations Make Less Gossip

By Cap'n O

MAY 11, 1998:  I'm a discriminating shopper. When I want something, like a new assault rifle or surplus nerve gas, I shop around. If two stores have the same item, I'll buy it from the one that charges the higher price.

That's stupid, of course. Only an idiot would waste money like that. But shopping at the higher priced store is what the people in the Monte Vista neighborhood who oppose a new Walgreens there would have us do.

The Walgreens will go up at the corner of Carlisle and Lomas. But not before we've been numbed by the selfish ranting of the neighbors who oppose it. They are whining about how their cherished stores in the Monte Vista shopping center will be lost forever, how the locally owned Model Pharmacy across the street will be put out of business by the competition, how small businesses are being ravaged and how the soul of the neighborhood has been blackened by the evil Walgreens.

It's garbage.

Although my knees wobble when I think about the noble small-business people who open stores and seek freedom from blustering bosses, I'll shed no tears for the Model Pharmacy or for some of the stores in the now-razed Monte Vista shopping center.

Small businesses are nice, but when it comes to prices, they can't compete against the big chain retailers. I went to one of Monte Vista's stores. Its selection was limited. I later found the same item for a lot cheaper at one of the chains.

The Model Pharmacy isn't my kind of store. It carries some expensive specialty items and has a soda fountain, but so what? I can get soda from a bottle, and I mostly drink beer nowadays anyway.

I prefer shopping at places like Walgreens and Wal-Mart. They have stuff that I need on a daily basis and at cheap prices. If you want to see how really great this country is, go to a Sam's Club or to one of those giant warehouse stores. They have everything you can imagine--computers, books, mountains of fresh red meat, aisles of liquor, power tools, camping equipment, car tires and more--all under one roof! It's like seeing the entire gross national product in one place. It should make any American proud.

It's the cheaper prices that chains like Walgreens offer that are important and that the store's opponents ignore. New Mexico is one of the poorest states in the country. Demanding that we shop at higher priced stores is criminal. I'm not going to throw my meager paycheck away to satisfy the nostalgic cravings of a few elitist yuppies.

And nostalgia is all it is. Since World War II, this country's population has increased by more than 100 million. We're no longer a nation of small towns, mom-and-pop shops and lazy Saturday afternoons. That stuff is for paintings and museums. Today we make less and work harder. We have less free time and we have to get as much out of that time as we can. Super grocery stores that house bakeries, dry cleaners, pharmacies, bank outlets and post offices might offend purists who seek simpler times, but the public demands and uses them. That's the reality that the Walgreens opponents ignore.

They also overlook the benefits of having the big, impersonal chains. The checkers don't know you and you don't know them, and they can't keep tabs on you and gossip to your neighbors about how much liquor or how many condoms you buy. If you pay with cash and refuse to use those frequent shopper cards, no one will know how many jars of petroleum jelly you bought last week.

Those who weep for the mom-and- pop stores fail to mention the danger they pose to us. I know this danger because I grew up across the street from one--The Corner Store. Fat Sophie owned it. Like all such stores, it had a limited inventory. Sophie stocked whole milk, bread, bologna, butter, eggs and a brand of greasy chili. We shopped there often. But a steady diet of Sophie's butter, eggs, milk and bologna gave my brother a heart attack at age five. Sis had a quadruple bypass at 10 years old, and I didn't know what lettuce was until I was in my 20s.

So bring on the Walgreens.


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