Brands Are Not Your Neighbors…

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This morning I noticed that my four-year-old son had some cool new red sneakers. They had arrived via UPS from Zappos the previous day while I was at work. I said to him, “sweet shoes, where’d you get ‘em?” He responded in his matter-of-fact four-year-old way, “they came from the computer…” Interesting. Here is a small child growing up completely disconnected from the people who make and sell the stuff he uses. He thinks his Mama taps some computer keys, and his stuff miraculously appears. I’m certainly not old enough to have grown up with a bespectacled Gepetto cobbling our family’s shoes, but when I was my son’s age, the couple who owned Altier’s Shoes in Rochester were our neighbors. We’d run into them buying groceries at the Super Duper. We’d trick or treat at their house. They belonged to our neighborhood pool club (swimming pool, lest you get the wrong idea about the Altiers). Even if our coveted Addidas, Pumas and Converse All-Stars were manufactured in factories far away, every pair came with a connection to Mr. and Mrs. Altier. They wanted us to be happy with our shoes, because they where our neighbors. Our REAL human neighbors who we’d wave to when we saw them. Listen: I love Zappos and Amazon, because they make instantly getting what I want so effortless. But, if our connections to the names and faces of our communities of commerce are gone, I think something has been lost, because you cannot replace human relationships with faux branded ones and social media likes. Nike isn’t going to help you shovel your driveway after a snowstorm. Apple’s not going to pick your kids up from school if you’re running late from work.  I don’t think we understand the consequences of the loss of our local communities of commerce, because it has happened so quickly.

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