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Shop locally — your friends and neighbors depend on it

Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos doesn’t need your holiday business; our local merchants do.

Bezos’ net worth is approaching $200 billion even after the generous settlement with his former wife. He is by far the richest man in the United States. And while many local businesses are teetering on the brink of survival, amazon.com’s stock price has gone through the roof; that’s how busy the online service has been.

What I am asking you this holiday season is to take at least some, if not all, of the money you would spend on this and other online purchases to help our local merchants. Virtually all of them have either an online presence during these pandemic-conscious times or will make an accommodation to get your purchases to you in the safest manner possible. Of course, they are available for in-store purchases, too.

These are perilous times for these merchants, especially with the prospects of new shutdowns and reduced spending from consumers during the remainder of this critical holiday season.

Pennsylvanians are among those most concerned about the likelihood of shortages of products they want for gift-giving, according to a survey completed by What If Media Group, a performance marketing firm.

The survey also found that Pennsylvanians were the seventh most likely to make their holiday purchases online this season. Most said it was out of safety or convenience concerns.

Although Black Friday this year will be untraditional in the sense that many big-box retailers will be spreading out their holiday advertising and specials, Small Business Saturday a day later - Nov. 28 - will be more important than ever.

Along with these local retailers, I want to mention other small businesses, especially restaurants whose owners have been navigating the choppy waters of shutdowns, reduced capacity, fewer hours and other frustrating restrictions which have eaten into their profits and savings. This coming weekend would be the perfect opportunity for all of us to say “thank you” in a meaningful way with our patronage and support.

As Aimee Dotson of the Tamaqua Area Chamber of Commerce told Times News staff writer Kristine Porter, for every dollar spent at a local retailer, 52 cents comes back in benefits to the community, whereas just 14 cents is returned when the purchase is made at a big-box retailer.

Look at it this way: A successful small local business will undoubtedly hire more personnel, who then spend more money in the community.

Buying locally also funnels money into the critical needs of your community through school, municipal and county taxes that businesses pay, which improve your community’s educational system and infrastructure. It also contributes to an improvement in its quality of life for its residents.

I want to ask you a personal question: Many of you are involved with groups and organizations which rely on fundraising to remain relevant. Don’t many of your organizations rely on local businesses to make donations of cash and/or products for your events, auctions, raffles, etc.? When was the last time you received a donation from amazon.com or eBay? Shouldn’t one hand wash the other, especially during these critical times?

On a practical level, don’t you just love the unique character of your community which, in large part, is defined by the businesses that reside there?

Truth be told, one of the main reasons I shop locally is because of customer service. You are going to see these merchants and their employees around the community, and they are less likely to blow you off or be rude because you have frequent contact with them, and they know that you are their bread and butter.

You have the power to “vote with your wallet.” I hope you will exercise it wisely in favor of local businesses not only on Small Business Saturday or during the holiday season but all year long.

By Bruce Frassinelli | tneditor@tnonline.com