With so many large online retailers nowadays, it’s so simple to open up a website, look up an item, and place an order with one click. You believe you’re getting the best deal out there. But what you don’t know is that there’s an unseen cost behind every purchase you make.

A signpost at sunset.

Opportunity Cost

Let’s start with the opportunity cost. This is a little phrase from economics, meaning that choosing one option means losing the benefits of all other options. Well, what are the other options besides large online retailers? Of course, you can buy locally, however they don’t always have the items you need. A wonderful option is buying from small businesses.

You might say, “But you have to pay a few dollars extra!” or “Shipping isn’t free!” This is where opportunity cost comes in. Sure, if you buy from a large online retailer, you’ll maybe save a few bucks. But opportunity cost doesn’t weigh in just dollars. It weighs in all extrinsic and intrinsic benefits, as well as the incurred costs. You may not have to pay for shipping with a large corporation, but you’ll pay in other ways: whether it be your environment, your culture, or your economy. But how are small businesses any better?

Women gathered around a table, crafting greenery

Small Businesses Foster Happy Communities

 

Small businesses are vital to creating a happy and healthy community, for a large number of reasons. No matter where the small business is located, you can feel happy about supporting and uplifting a local community.

They also add a feeling of meaningfulness. Small businesses create jobs with greater job satisfaction than positions with traditional large corporations. Workers feel like they’re truly contributing to the company – that they’re fostering something from nothing.

Small businesses are also important for local economies. Supporting them helps create new jobs, and helps build up local communities. Consider buying from small companies in areas of need of economic stimulation, or maybe your favorite locations in order to see the community grow to new heights.

Some small businesses are even integral to local identity. Those campaigning for worthwhile causes or helping out local efforts are especially beloved, and supporting these companies supports their cause as well. This is another one of those unseen benefits: buying small will grant you the pleased feeling that you’ve done something good.

Man holding a glowing lightbulb in his hands.

Small Businesses Spur Innovation

 

Smaller businesses are willing to take on something radically new. Without them spurring innovation, large corporations become complacent and stagnant. This is the main reason monopolies were outlawed: without competition, things won’t change. This past year I took a class on Start-Ups, and how they’re absolutely vital to the world moving forward and improving. If large companies aren’t threatened by competition, they’ll never push themselves to be better. Supporting small businesses and start-ups are a way to hold these large companies accountable. Because if the large corporations fail to deliver, these smaller companies are all prepared to overtake them. Buying from smaller companies helps herald a brighter, more innovative future.

Five businesswomen at a table, working on their laptops

Small Businesses Provide Opportunities

 

Smaller businesses can also promote a new image of leadership: one that is minority-owned. Promoting small businesses owned by women, people of color, LGBTQ+ or disabled people can help move the status quo and change the image of traditional leadership. Supporting these businesses and helping them become big can benefit entire communities by providing great representation and increasing support for these groups.

If you want to support small women-owned businesses, check out ShopFromHer.com. You can look through their specialized directory to find whatever you need, and then order it. The directory consists of small women-owned businesses, so you can be sure that your money is going to the right place and promoting women leadership in the workforce. The time for equality is now, and supporting female-owned businesses helps level the playing field for all women.

A warehouse.

The Cost of Big E-Commerce

You now know why small businesses are important. But what’s wrong with shopping with large online retailers? Besides the opportunity cost of not receiving the benefits of supporting the small businesses, you would also be contributing to the destruction of the environment and the mistreatment of employees.

“In 2018, Amazon emitted 44.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide — greater than the carbon footprint of Switzerland.” This is not even taking into account the other large e-retailers, like Walmart, eBay, Target, etc. For most large online retailers, their business model relies on overconsumption. Cheap prices and shipping means you can buy more, which means they ship more, and produce more, and require more and more materials until forests are razed and the land is stripped dry of minerals. Overconsumption will kill the Earth (which is why some CEOs are reaching for the stars – so our rate of destructive consumption can continue). Don’t fall prey to it.

Earlier in the article we talked about how small businesses provide careers with great job satisfaction and meaningfulness. Working with large online retailers seem to provide the opposite. As Amazon workers are pushed to work faster to earn them more money, gruesome work conditions and morale drop. There’s high injury rate, high firing rate, and high employee dissatisfaction.   In a way, there is a detachment from humanity in these workplaces – humans are expected to work as quickly as robots, and are monitored and written up by computers if their performance is not up to par. It almost sounds like something dystopian. But it’s real. And the more money we pour into these huge e-commerce websites, the more we buy into this future.

Artistic futuristic-looking glass.

We can follow a different future. One where we support communities, improve job satisfaction, and spur innovation. We can help out small businesses. Besides… the money we give to our communities comes back to us in one way or another. Can you say the same about where you shop now?

Taylor Jordan

Taylor Jordan

Content Management Intern

I aim to help business owners through my writing, in whatever way I can!