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It all helps, and helps all of us

Thanksgiving is over.

Now, the action heats up.

The time to spend is here. Gift-giving becomes a focus, the retail market opens wide.

News has it the “Black Friday” rush to retailers set a record. Americans were out the day after Thanksgiving, buying up a storm. Television news accounts featured footage with avid shoppers breaching entryways to large urban retailers, scuffling with one another on the path to bargains. One segment, played again and again on various outlets, showed one woman’s desperate attempt to secure a computer gaming system. She used pepper spray on contenders, disabling them and allowing her easier access to the prize.

The flip side of the holiday coin, however, reveals a sometimes-poignant side of the commercial run-up to Christmas.

This holiday season will be tough for many among us. The most recent figures regarding unemployment and poverty in Pagosa Country are far from bracing. The percentage of residents in Archuleta County living below the poverty line, according to the latest census, is at 13.1 percent. The local unemployment rate is easing, but still sits at 8 percent.

The upshot: there are a lot of folks in Pagosa Country who will struggle with the extra burden of the holidays.

There are, however, a number of us who, while not flush, are not struggling. And some are doing well. Our shopping habits this season could be a gift, of sorts, to our fellow Pagosans.

The question for those of us who are not behind the 8 ball is, “Where are you going to do your shopping this holiday season?”

We asked this question of online readers, and of people out and about in the community, as part of this week’s Whaddya Think feature. A surprisingly high percentage of respondents said they will do little if any shopping close to home.

The response should cause local retailers to become more creative. The question we ask those who responded in the negative is, “Why not?’

If there is one thing we can do that clearly helps the community, it is to spend as much of our money locally as we can. Local business owners have done what they can to stay afloat during difficult economic times; our money helps them and those they employ.

To help, we need to contend with two problems.

First, the notion that the same goods can be had at a lower price in other towns in the region. Most often, this assessment fails to take into account the cost of travel. If you find an item locally, chances are good the price you pay here will be less than you pay at a distant retailer once the cost of gas and wear and tear on the vehicle are figured in.

Second is the threat to local retailers posed by Internet shopping. The Internet provides easy access to just about every kind of item. In many cases, even with the cost of shipping, prices remain competitive with all other sources. The damage caused by Internet shopping is similar to the damage the Internet brings to other areas: it acts to undermine certain kinds of bonds and systems — and not always for the better. Just as the Internet has eroded the “reading” public’s ability to discern quality and character of information and information sources, it has weakened systems of local commerce already injured by aggressive major retailers and big box stores.

This season, reinforce local commerce; push away from the keyboard when possible and stay with our local merchants when you can. And when you have the yen to travel to do your shopping, think again and do what you can at home first. It all helps, and it helps us all.

Karl Isberg

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