Somehow, you've stumbled on this web site, and you're wondering exactly what this is all about. Well, in case you haven't figured it out by now, The Big Box is a parody... there is no Big Box store, no Walton Bernie, no large store in Eastchester NY. There are, however, thousands of stores that bear a striking resemblance to The Big Box, and that's what this page is about. What follows, in no particular order, are some observations on the effect of the "big box" retailers on communities all over America.
A Vested Interest - As the owner of a small store, I obviously look upon a big-box retailer as competition. Business that goes to them is business that I stand to lose. However, I don't look on my store primarily as a business venture or a place that exists to generate income. My hardware store serves the community, providing the things they want or need at a fair price and in a convenient location. We employee people from the town and surrounding communities and we support local community organizations (sports, social, etc.) with donations.
Since I live in the community, the income I generate gets reinvested locally, through improvements to my business or through the money I spend for personal and business needs (where do the profit dollars from your "local" big-box retailer go?). It's important to realize that although local businesses stand to lose when a big-box retailer arrives in town, so does everyone who looks on their town as a community, not a new store location.
Please, not in their town! - It's amazing the lengths local zoning boards and government officials will go through to get a big box retailer into their community. The prospect of one of these large retailers opening in the next town, and sucking sales (and sales tax) dollars out of the community is enough of a threat that over and over we see communities making special concessions and allowances for these large retailers.
Contrast this to the difficulties many local businesses have getting zoning variances for their stores, stores which have been in the community for decades before most big box retailers even existed.
Grilled Cheese - A few days ago, I walked over to the local deli for a sandwich. I looked at the menu board, looked in the steam tray at the hot food available that day, and wasn't in the mood for any of the offerings. I was in the mood for a grilled cheese... on rye... with bacon. So, I asked for one... and got it.
Have you ever tried to order a grilled cheese on rye at McDonalds?
Now, this might seem to have little to do with "big box" retailers, but have you ever asked an associate at Wal-Mart for something they don't stock? "Big box" retailers can help you so long as your needs meet their product lines... and that's as far as it goes. They can't pick up something for you on their way in to work, or put together something in the shop.
So, once the local deli goes under due to competition from McDonalds, once the local pharmacy goes under due to Wal-Mart, and once the local lumber yard goes under due to Home Depot, you can forget about grilled cheese... on rye... with bacon... and all the trimmings.
Other Resources on the Web
Wal*Mart Watch - Great site with all sorts of info about Wal*Mart's business practices
Wake Up WalMart - Great resource for info about WalMart wages, prices, labor practices, and more.
Whirl Mart - Performance Art and Protest combined
Is Wal*Mart Good for America - PBS's Frontline produced this informative documentary.
New Rules Project - Protecting local communities
Subsidies for Wal*Mart? - Why does the biggest retailer in the world need over $1 billion in taxpayer assistance?
Sprawl Busters - Consultant who assists in battling big box retail developments
Big Cities Big Boxes - Battling big box stores in urban areas like New York City
Reverend Billy - and the Church of Stop Shopping
SprawlWatch - Online clearinghouse for groups opposed to "sprawl"
Sierra Club Sprawl Page - Resources and info from the Sierra Club
Impact of Mega Stores - Study documenting impact of mega-stores on communities
DailyKos - Progressive news and discussions