Small business swallows pride
thought it was a nightmare. I innocently opened the pantry door for my
morning cereal and cowered at the sight of a huge box of Cheerios looming
To my right stood an enormous carton of
Cheez-Its, on my left a gigantic can of baked beans.
Still disbelieving, I checked under the kitchen
sink. The dishwashing soap was eight times its normal size! I ran to my
beloved shower and felt the hysteria when I saw my favorite shampoo. It
looked too gargantuan to lift.
"Aiyeeeeee," I screamed. "Iím
My wife came running from the bedroom. "Whatís
the matter?" she asked. "Are you all right?"
She seemed the right size, which calmed me slightly.
"The cereal, soap, shampooÖ" I stammered. "Much biggerÖhaving
"Thatís no nightmare," she replied. "I
forgot to tell you I took my first trip to the new Costco yesterday."
"Aiyeeeeee," I screamed even louder.
"Now whatís the matter?" she asked.
My wife, bless her heart, has the loyalty of a
wood rat. "Have you forgotten?" I replied. "I am a small
businessman who happens to be in the retail business. These warehouse
clubs are the arch-enemy of small retailers."
said, "whatís your point?"
"These warehouse clubs are cutting the throats of
small retailers," I repeated. "Neighborhood stores are suffering
a dramatic loss of revenue because people like you are dropping them left
and right just because you can save a few pennies."
My wife opened the cabinet and, after cutting through
the shrink-wrap, pulled a tissue from one of the 12-pack cartons of
Kleenex she had purchased. She handed it to me. "Oh, cry me a
river," she said.
"Donít you have any conscience," I sobbed.
"What about poor old Mr. Winkle at Winkleís Hardware on North Main.
What do you think he would say if he saw you up at Costco?"
"I donít know," she replied. "I should
have asked him. He was behind me in line."
Not Mr. Winkle! My fellow retailer, associating with
the enemy! My business isnít even affected by the competition of the
wholesale clubs, but Mr. Winkleís hardware store will be gobbled up any
minute. What was he doing there?
"He was buying frozen lasagna," she replied,
matter of factly.
"They sell lasagna!" I blubbered. "There
goes the Italian restaurant business. Who else is left to ruin, besides
My wife was beginning to enjoy this. "Now that I
have my membership card, I thought I might go again today. Want to come
She seemed pleased about the membership card. I
wondered how someone's self-esteem would handle being turned down for
membership by a wholesale club. "Never," I replied.
"They sell boats and cars, too."
"I donít know. I guess."
"Letís go." I paused, looking her in the
eye. "But Iím not buying anything."
We drove to Costco that same morning. I breezed through
the aisles of computers, copiers, faxes, telephones, televisions and
stereos, sadly thinking of the little electronic stores that once graced
My wife was beside me, preaching the virtues of
warehouse shopping. I would have none of it Ė until I saw that toaster.
All white, with four slots, wide enough for waffles.
Hating myself, I glanced at the price. $24.99! It was the deal of the
I tried to remain calm but the twitch under my eye gave
me away. "You want it, donít you." she said.
"Mr. Winkle has toasters," I replied.
"Maybe he does, maybe he doesnít," she said
in her most seductive tone. "But if he does, it will be much more
Before my twitch could spread through my entire body, I
grabbed the toaster. The battle lost, I quickly scooped up a video for the
kids ($9.99), a warm-up jacket for me ($14.99) and the largest container
of mixed nuts Iíd ever seen ($12.99). And I never looked at my wife
She paid, using her membership card, and then urged me
to get my own photo I.D. membership card so I could come without her. But
I would go only so far. In honor of all the small retailers who are
suffering from these warehouse clubs, I refused to smile when my picture