In today’s culture we see a lot of disdain for what are deemed to be “big” businesses and franchised corporations. “Buy Local” is a growing movement, especially among Millennials, and mass-produced, cookie cutter products are often met with massive eye rolls and upturned noses. We see a lot of hate for six and seven figure CEOs and we are outraged when tax breaks are given to these corporations. The economics of giving big businesses a tax break is a discussion for another day, though.
Today, I want to talk about why we see such hate for big businesses. Is it founded? Is it logical? I don’t think so. I am a 100% supporter of big businesses… I know, I’m utterly evil.
However, let me give you an extremely relevant personal example. Right now, at the time I am writing this, we are several weeks into the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic and Safer at Home restrictions are firmly in place. Many local and chain restaurants alike have been forced to close their doors and many have adjusted to the situation and are offering take-out options and even free delivery. I’ve gotten take-out from several restaurants in the area during this time and my experiences have varied, to say the least. Let me walk you through them:
Local Irish Restaurant – The “Buy Local” example
I decided to order in from a local restaurant since I didn’t want to cook and I was in the mood for a Friday fish fry. I went to their website and they had posted a more limited take-out menu since they seem to think they can’t offer their full menu for take-out. Understandable. I’m grateful they recognize that some of their items might not travel well. They did not have an online order option so I called them directly. Here’s what happened:
- An annoyed voice answers the phone, does not offer their name, and asks if they can help me. Alright, no problem.
- I ask if I can place an order for takeout and she says “Sure, what would you like?”
- I order two meals, one sandwich for my roommate and one fish fry. Questions are asked and answered and side options are selected.
- Then I’m told that my order will be ready in an hour and a half – after I’ve already spent 10 minutes ordering. It’s currently 7pm. “So it won’t be ready until 8:30?” I ask. That’s correct. I laugh kindly and jokingly say, “But we’re so hungry!” I’m met with dead silence. “Ok, that’s fine.” I finally say. She tells me they will call me if it looks like it will be done sooner. Great!
- 8:15 rolls around and I get in my car to head to the restaurant to pick up my very late dinner. This place is literally right around the corner from my house so it’s a short drive. I pull into the restaurant and call to check if they want me to come in or wait in the car (after all, there’s a virus about). They want me to come in. No problem.
- I go in and pay with ease. They are nice enough and I check the bags to be sure everything is there. Everything is present and accounted for, so I’m off home.
- At home, I pull everything out and start eating. Everything is room temperature or straight up cold. I wonder if it was done earlier and they just didn’t call. Not the end of the world but it is, after all, $40 for two meals. The fish was tasty. The potato pancakes were not edible at the cold temp. A well. C’est la vie.
Olive Garden – the “evil big business” example
I am in the mood for some delicious salad and breadsticks from my favorite restaurant chain. Mmmm, mmmm! I go to their website and, while they have an online ordering tool, the website keeps crashing and a message says they are experiencing high traffic. Probably because everyone loves Olive Garden, right? So I call them to place my order and here’s what happens:
- A chipper voice answers the phone, says their name, and asks how they can help.
- I ask to place an order for pick up and am told I can absolutely do that but, just so I’m aware, there is an hour and a half wait. Huh, it’s so weird that they know how long the wait time is before I actually order. Must be magic.
- I say that’s fine and place my order. I’m told that they have a special going on that is “buy one, take one” so I can get a free meal to warm up later. Excellent! I take them up on their offer and get two free additional meals since I’m ordering for two.
- I’m told I will pay when I arrive. Great!
- An hour and a half later, I have driven 20 minutes to the Olive Garden and as I pull in, I’m met with an employee with an iPad standing in the parking lot. They smile at me as I roll down my window and they ask me what name the order is under. I tell them it’s under Veronica. “Great, Veronica! You can pull into spot number one and your order will be right out!” Efficient!
- I pull into my spot and a couple of moments later, another employee comes to my window with a bag.
- “Hello, Veronica! I have your order here [relays order]. That will be $30.29.” They take my card payment on their iPad (I swipe it so they don’t have to touch my card – NICE! After all, there’s a virus about). “Thank you so much, Veronica! Have a great night!” Wow, they are so nice!
- I get home 20 minutes later, pull everything out, and start eating. Everything is still perfectly hot due to their insulated packaging and my roommate’s soup is even too hot to eat. All items are delicious, as expected. I also got FOUR meals for $30.
While I certainly agree with the idea that small businesses need our support, I am a consumer that is looking for the best product at the lowest price. Aren’t you? If a local business can provide me with that, great! And many certainly do. That’s not often the case, though. The reality is, big businesses were, at one time, small local businesses. They are simply the successful ones! They provided a superior product that became popular and they found ways to produce it en mass for less money in order to meet the demands of their customers. Monsters, right?
Big businesses are tried and true and offer a reliable product at an affordable price. That’s where I’ll spend my money. Sorry, not sorry.