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A shift may be coming

I’ve been seeing news segments and stories about how people are choosing not to replace things, but rather, repair them, saving money in the process, but hurting the big-box stores as well.

I can see how this could be a good thing in the long run, though.Think about it. Big-box stores sell cheap goods made overseas, paying underutilized and/or unskilled workers less than $10/hour to do it.

Repair is semi-skilled or skilled work, depending on what it is you’re fixing. By definition the work has to occur on the local level. And the local level is where we’re hurting for jobs.

Not only that, it’s easy to find storefront space, assuming the repair doesn’t take place on-site. Most commercial districts have some vacancies; go into the older parts of town or into shopping malls, and you can find lots of vacancies. Last weekend I ran into an acquaintance from high school who just opened a store; he said rent is dirt cheap right now. Landlords are begging people to lease storefront space.

In the long run, it’s almost always cheaper to spend a little more money on a higher quality product (say, a pair of shoes) and then repair it when it needs it. So it’s a win-win all around.

It’s bad for the big-box stores I guess, but having worked in a big-box store myself, I know firsthand that big-box stores aren’t good for anyone but the corporations who own them and the corporations who lease to them. They don’t utilize their workers to their ability, they don’t encourage their workers to better themselves, and if they pay a living wage, they just barely do it. That’s if they bother to pay the worker at all–in my second stint at a certain big-box store, they missed two pay periods before I got fed up and told the store manager I needed my money so I could pay my bills.

I’d love to see more big-box stores close and more small, independent specialty stores and repair shops open in the business districts that the big boxes destroyed. Society as a whole will save money, and it will create jobs that are actually worth having.

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