Monday, February 4, 2013

Week Five GONE LOCAL: Buy Local, Buy Direct

This buying local is getting to be a habit now, but as I wrote a check for my Pampered Chef order as part of a fundraiser for the SPCA, I paused. Are Direct Sales local? If you live in a rural or semi-rural community such as ours, you are more than familiar with the party invitations that say “no obligation to buy”. When shopping and employment options are limited, it’s easy to see the draw of becoming a “consultant” or “rep” or “ adviser” for any number of Direct Sales companies. Tupperware is still out there, but boy has the landscape changed when it comes to home parties.

I’ve been to parties where we tasted so many different dips that I wound up throwing up half the night.  I’ve been to so many jewelry parties, I had to create a new system for storing my treasures. (see pic). And I’ve been to parties where it was necessary to draw the shades to protect the privacy of the guests as we perused the samples of toys, lotions, costumes, and tools that promised to add a little spark to our love lives. Sometimes it’s a great chance to get out of the house and enjoy some girl time, but more times than not I spend much more than I should and come to regret it.

Confession: I have been a rep for one Direct Sales company for ten years. In the beginning I went at it great guns. I didn’t know anyone in this town, and I used it as a tool for meeting new friends. It worked. Some of my best friends were a result of my business. These days the business is very low key. It pays for my own products, my cell phone, and provides an excellent tax write off, but I’m certainly not making any money.

There are plenty of people who do make good money from Direct Sales. Some of these people live in my community. So, even though their business is national and the national office certainly stands to profit much more than they ever will, do I consider their business “local?”  I do, and here’s why.

As I said at the start of this post, employment opportunities are very limited in this small community. This is why most people commute a healthy distance to work every day. But for those of us who are bound to this community because of family responsibilities, profitable work is hard to find. By the time you factor in child care and transportation, a part-time job hardly pays.

Enter Direct Sales. It’s a great solution for self-motivated people and they can work their own hours. But Direct Sales is no easy money. I know of which I speak. You can make money, but you’ll bust your butt to do it, not to mention strain the bonds of friendship and get tired of hearing yourself talk. So my sympathy goes out to anyone trying to earn even a partial living in Direct Sales, and I am ready to support them as a local business (this doesn't mean I’m hoping for any more party invitations though). I know these women are working very hard for every penny. They are my neighbors and friends and if I can help them to pay a few bills or take an extra vacation, I’ll do it. I’d rather give my money to them, than some large national retailer. And besides, who can ever have enough stoneware?

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