It all started with a robot unicorn. You know, the kind with pink hooves, huge eyes, rainbows for eyebrows and, of course, the requisite alicorn.
It might sound like pure fantasy, but it’s a very real toy. And that was what my niece wanted for her birthday.
So I set out to find one. This is not the kind of thing one finds just anywhere. No. In fact, they can’t be found in any store at all. Rare and elusive, Build-A-Bot Unicorn Robots live only in warehouses in undisclosed locations, accessible via a singular portal: Target.com.
And if you forget to order one until a few days before the birthday party, shipping will cost nearly as much as the $20 dollar toy. But one can’t attend a 6-year-old child’s birthday party without a gift. Or worse, one she doesn’t like.
Yes, I ordered the bot, paid extra for rush delivery, and vowed never to wait until the last minute again.
And now, dear reader, after a happy Thanksgiving, the Christmas shopping season is nigh. Even though I don’t consider myself the materialistic sort, I’m not about to deprive the children of the holiday’s toys, noise, song and feasting — all those things that so bothered the legendary Grinch who, in the end, did not steal Christmas. So in search of gifts suitable for nieces and nephews ages infant to teen I will go.
I’m using that unicorn robot experience to justify what might seem at first glance to be pricy local gifts. A pile of new books or a gift certificate to the local ski hill will seem like a bargain considering what I spent on several pieces of garish plastic headed for the dump in a year, if that.
Just as importantly, I’d prefer that my dollars help sustain people in our community than evaporate into the void of the internet.
According to the American Independent Business Alliance, when we purchase from an independent local business, 48 percent of each dollar recirculate into the local economy. While that number might not seem extremely impressive, when we buy from a chain store the figure drops to 14 percent. Internet? The AIBA didn’t list a figure, but I’d be willing to bet it’s close to zero.
Shopping locally is a popular concept that’s been gaining traction for years. And although I may be preaching to the choir, I do want to reinforce that it has a very real and positive impact on our communities.
It might, however, require not asking any children what they would like for Christmas. From here on out, all gift requests must be filtered through parents — or Santa Claus.
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