Like getting into a bleeding competition with a blood bank.
The other day I was looking for an automotive trim item, a bug shield. It was a popular item with the camping crowd. It spanned the front of the hood of a pickup truck and forced bugs to fly over the cab instead of hitting the windshield.
I really hadn’t thought of a need for it but my wife thought it would give a personal touch to the used motorhome we recently purchased. Every auto store, Target, K-Mart, discount or sporting goods store seemed only to be able to order them, they had none on hand.
Yes I could get it online. But why? In the past it was a same day purchase and installation. But that was because the store that would carry an item such as a bug shield was called GI Joes.
GI Joes started life as a surplus store in north Portland Oregon. It was a single location store that by the time I first shopped there it covered three huge warehouses. One for clothing, one for sporting goods and one for automotive. I still own a pair of Canadian military surplus mukluks I purchased some 30 years ago. They are in excellent condition. Simply put, GI Joes had quality items for sale.
In those thirty years since my first purchase GI Joes stores grew to encompass several states with. The inventory covered sporting goods, clothing, automotive and more. Needed a cargo mat for your pickup truck, they had it. Need a map of the backwoods of Idaho, it was there. Need a portable refrigerator for camping, yep, you’d get it there.
GI Joes was the go to place. But as with everything that had been in business for over 50 years and family, owned the founders retired and the next generation did not seem to respect the consumers that their fathers had worked so hard to win, they sold the inventory, split the proceeds and closed GI Joes for ever.
As a result of that I can’t find a bug shield for a one day project.
Is it a lack of understanding of the business, is it greed, or is it the changing market place that caused the inheritors of GI Joes to close the doors? This little tale has two paths. I will focus on the disappearing choices, competition and monopolizing of our merchant class.
With the drive starting in the 70’s to give greater tax breaks and reduced regulation to corporate America our government stopped enforcing the laws that prevented monopolies and predatory business practices.
Back in the day I remember watching the opening floor speeches for the House of Representatives where Patrick Kennedy the congressman from New York assure us that by removing the regulations in the banking industry we as consumers would have lower costs and greater choices for banks.
This same logic was applied to business by the Regan administration. While they turned a blind eye to bigger corporations gobbling up small ones. Allowing the opening a mega store in a small community that the local, small business entrepreneur or “Mom and Pop” couldn’t financially compete with.
These mega stores offered their wares at a fraction of the price that the small guy could. Simply because their size allowed purchases in a quantity that still made a profit. This reduced completion and forced the small guy out of business.
The mega store carried only the fast selling products and the niche market items disappeared from the consumers view as the small business couldn’t compete on the day to day price gap.
AH, you say, there’s the internet. It has created a new form of entrepreneur, a new store owner, one who deals in a virtual world without keeping an inventory on hand thus lowering his cost and offer great discounts to the consumer. They will fill that niche market need.
It’s not the same as a brick and mortar store. At a store you can see the item, feel it, measure it; check the color, quality and decide it’s the one you need. Try to do that on the net! The consumer has lost his ability to have a choice in his purchases.
Yet a solution is as simple as the one created by the great Republican president Theodore Roosevelt’s anti trust laws. Yeah, the loss of regulations does nothing to create competition it only stifles and kills real competition. It offers no choices to the consumer if any thing it forces the consumer to chose from a limited inventory and often forcing the consumer to an inferior product.
What the Boehner’s, Cantor’s and McCain’s do not understand is that corporations can’t really dictate what to manufacture because it’s ultimately you and I that dictate it. When we have jobs, income and the ability to consume we create the jobs.
Jobs in the construction industry will lead to jobs in textiles, travel, cars, rv’s, food and the list goes on.
Manufactures will stop holding on to money, they’ll spend it on raw materials to make more inventory. They’ll hire workers in their factories to make that product. Real entrepreneurs are able to start businesses that create new jobs, existing brick and mortar stores can hire more workers to handle the increase demands of the store. This is the true trickle down theory as restaurants, bars, hotels and theme parks see a resurgence of clients.
So just creating a construction job, or a government job will result in the trickle down of money entering the economy in creating jobs.
I still have a job, I haven’t seen a true raise since 2001, I have my wages reduced and my pension taken away in a corporate bankruptcy. I have reduced my consumerism because of that. And only made purchases when I had the cash. My spending habits followed by many Americans will not spur growth in the economy. My employer will not recall laid off workers or hire new ones until more Americans travel. So I wait, hoping that the stupid Republicans will realize it’s time to put Americans to work.
I really miss GI Joes, I miss the choices I had as a consumer and I really would like to get that bug shield.