Amazon, My Guilty Conscience and the Decline of Detroit Shopping

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I was waiting for some photos to get developed at Meijer–a Michigan-based store where I had done my shopping since they opened in 1977, a short bike ride from my house. It was an enormous place–“Thrifty Acres” they called themselves.

Even now, when I walk through the produce area, I remember where the record and 8-track department was. I can still see the “Saturday Night Fever” and “Grease” cardboard mobiles hanging from the drop ceiling. My favorite memory is the foot-long plastic containers that encased the 8-tracks to discourage shallow-pocketed shoplifters.

Meijer also carried darkroom chemicals in their own specialized photo store, inside one of the acres. It was a pretty cool place for a kid creating a darkroom under the basement stairs.

I felt naturally drawn down the photo aisle, almost smelling those foul developers, fixers and stop bath solutions I used to mix up in the laundry tub. No longer in its own shop, the tripods were just down from the flash-drives and across from the 60″ LCD screens. I’d been looking at a mono-pod for my camera–something to hold it still–particularly for shooting video. There it was, $25.95. Not too bad. I should have picked it up, paid for it and the sales tax. I should have.

But instead, I picked my phone out of my pocket, thumb-flipped a few screens over to the harmless little square that is putting Best Buy out of business. (And it seems like Best Buy just put Highland Appliance out of business in Detroit.)

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I keep it on my fifth screen, because–I kid myself–I will do the right thing, “the front screen thing,” and support Michigan stores and pay my fair share of 6% sales tax. But perhaps it’s a little too much like Lord of the Flies.

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If left to our own devices, will we have to decide, to quote Albus Dumbledore, “between doing what is right and what is easy.” [It’s an interesting side-bar discussion of Michigan’s Right-to-Work mandate–will workers pay for dues even if they get the coverage that the union provides without being required to pay?]

I don’t think I’d do too well on that tropical island being chased by psychotic British boys with pointed sticks. I’m certainly not going to last long in the Meijer media aisle.

I typed in the target’s name in the white box and there it was–with the ultimate in enticements–“Prime”!

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I’m a member of the Club for $80, I’ve got the equivalent of the Disney Fast-Pass. Special deals–if I believe the markdown–and the ultimate in appeal to my cheap ol’ self…

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Should I go with the smarter little button on the bottom-right, the slightly less-smart little button on the left? Or go with the giant button on top that assures me that I’ll have it in two days and not only skip the sales tax, but skip shipping costs (once I recoup my $80 for the Prime membership).

Of course, I caved. Maybe I would have disappointed Dumbledore and shattered Piggy’s glasses while I was at it.

Perhaps it’s just mercantile Darwinism. My parents and grandparents have fond memories of dressing up and heading downtown to Hudson’s.

Hudsons

I have few memories of this mecca, but I recall a busy Christmas in the late 1960s. I think the wooden escalator impressed me as much as Santa scared me. There were still lots of shoppers, but many were already driving north on the Lodge to get to Hudson’s new location…

Northland

My parents told me that Northland Shopping Center, when it became the first mall in the country with its new roof covering the walkways, was a hike out of town, but it was exciting. How many stores do you go to that sells postcards of themselves?

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Now Northland is the least busy mall in the area–if anyone’s going to malls.

After all, they charge sales tax in those places.

About Kevin Walsh

Before creating MyMediaDiary.com, Kevin taught high school video productions and language arts for 25 years. He is the producer of the web-series and blog, www.DiggingDetroit, founder and producer for MMD Productions at www.mmdphotovideo.com which offers quick, professional photography, video and multimedia solutions for individuals, organizations and businesses. His text, "Video Direct," is used in 40 states. He is the current president of the non-profit DAFT (Digital Arts Film and Television) which sponsors the Michigan Student Film Festival. He lives in Royal Oak, Michigan, is married to Patrice and is tolerated by his two teenagers. Follow Kevin on Twitter @kwteacher
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