Buy local: The Matrix
Guest column by Chris Larson
In “The Matrix,”, a meme is introduced that there is more to this life than what we’ve been led to believe. It’s where the term “red pilled” originated. The movie was so effective in presenting this concept that it soon became taught in college philosophy courses.
A Matrix experience happened to me several years ago, when I realized just how much of a threat the internet had become to local merchants with brick and mortar stores.
For much of my 28-year career as a local small business owner, I thought of the business world as “survival of the fittest,” and whoever wasn’t running their particular enterprise in an efficient manner that clearly benefited the consumer, well, they deserved what they got.
But the internet has changed all that. Sometimes, a new innovation does not actually benefit consumers. Sometimes, that so-called innovation that is labeled “disruptive” by all the cool kids writing articles for Wired magazine is actually just a way for some giant corporation to make more money at the expense of small business owners without providing any significant benefit to the individual consumer, particularly in the long term.
This is, I believe, where we are now in history.
Much of our citizenry has become enamored with the idea of buying things on our small personal device; even purchases that can make a huge difference in our quality of life. Shoes, cars, beds, houses …
Instead of taking the time to drive to the actual business, seeing the product in person and requiring the seller to look us in the eye while they make their case for why we should choose to trade our dollars with them, we rely on the pixels in our 4-inch screen to convince us that this magical brand in the metaverse really does have the answer to material needs and their 5-star reviews definitely are from satisfied humans-not-bots.
But, what if this “innovation” is having a damaging effect on the community that you actually LIVE in?
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As a mattress manufacturer, selling directly to the consumer for the past 28 years, I have learned a lot about serving the needs of the end-user. From messaging (advertising), to design, display, presentation, communication, producing, delivering and servicing, we have to get nearly every one of these steps right to acquire and maintain our customers. I spend a portion of every day trying to perfect this complicated and interconnected system.
Which is why it makes me sad/mad to see the disease of planned obsolescence infect so much of American business. If you’re not aware, planned obsolescence is the practice of manufacturers intentionally constructing their products to break down or become obsolete (think cell phones and computer operating systems), purely to increase their revenue and profits. Unfortunately, it has become the operating system for many brands.
Truly, we are living in the “They don’t make em like they used to” era. But what if it doesn’t have to be this way?
What if consumers seized on their inherent buying power and used it to insist that their money be spent with companies that are honestly trying to build the best products possible?
We now live in a dual-reality world, where most of us split our time between real life (IRL), interacting with our material universe and other real humans and the virtual (fantasy) world that lives in the pixels on our devices. Some people spend so much time in the fantasy world that their posture has conformed to the neck-forward curved spine of the hunchback.
Is this progress?
I say no, it is not. The reality is that we live in a very special place. Sioux Falls is one of the safest, friendliest towns in America. And the Midwest, while being virtually ignored by the media coastal elites, is about as wholesome as it gets in these modern times. Wholesomeness is a good thing, but it needs to be nourished to be kept alive.
Sadly, most of our fellow citizens do not give much thought to the key factors that make our community so healthy and vibrant. Many simply enjoy the schools, parks, bike trails, roads, charities, eateries and drinkeries, well-lit streets and countless other amenities that exist in our town, as if they just magically grew there for our pleasure.
Seeing the Matrix, as it were, means to me seeing the reality that a community grows and thrives because it is interconnected in a variety of ways. And one of those ways – a major one – is the hundreds of local merchants that exist to serve the needs and desires of our fellow citizens. Local businesses employ your friends, neighbors and family and typically pay salaries at a higher rate than a behemoth corporation would. We also are the tax collectors for the state and city governments, for which we receive no thanks or recognition. In fact, the only time we’ll hear from a government employee is when they believe we are in violation of some statute.
Local businesses also are the main contributors and supporters of local charities. Without small local companies’ contributions, many charities would vanish.
Local businesses are also the main funders (sponsors) of youth sports. Just look at the jerseys sometime.
Local business owners are the main benefactors for our zoo, theaters, the arts and our churches.
Most importantly, local businesses support us, every one of us, in some form or fashion.
I could go on, but I think you get the point.
Even if your job is with a large organization, such as a hospital or school, you must realize that every job in this community is dependent on other small organizations supporting it. We all are, as cheesy as it may sound, in this together.
Buying products online may seem like the best choice in the moment. The internet fantasy world is enticing, to be sure.
But you can do better for yourself. You can demand that the company you buy from sell you products that are made with durable materials. You can demand honesty in advertising. You can take pride in spending your money with real life fellow citizens who also live in your community, and who also may do business with the company YOU work for.
You can see the Matrix. You can Buy Local.
Larson is the owner of Comfort King Mattress Factory.
Mr. Larsen makes a business point that deserves continuous reinforcing. Indeed, we’re all in this together. LOCAL IS GOOD. Actually, in the longer term it’s necessary for our town to flourish.
My wife and I have been talking all morning about mattress shopping and I open my phone to this. Is Dakota scout eavesdropping on me? ￼😂