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Political Mercury

Redneck skeet shooting with prizes

7/5/2017

The comedian Bill Burr invented another shooting sport should the worlds of Amazon.com, the Goliath of modern e-commerce, collide with the diminished rural regions of the nation for which the Internet is proving to be something akin to the Smallpox-infected blankets white soldiers gave to Native Americans in the 1800s.

Redneck skeet shooting with prizes.

Imagine those buzzy little Amazon drones delivering everything from iPads to bulk-pack diapers across our skies. What’s to stop us rural folk from grabbing rifles, taking aim and having some self-styled Iowa State Fairgrounds fun with the Seattle-based seller of, well, all things? Hit the drone and see what falls.

E-commerce is no friend to rural America. In fact, we rural folks should strive to make as many purchases as possible that involve handshakes or friendly small talk with real people.

The New York Times Sunday published a devastating account of the effects of Internet sales on our part of the nation.

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Growth in e-commerce jobs like marketing and engineering, while strong, is clustered around larger cities far away, The Times reports, adding that rural counties and small metropolitan areas account for about 23 percent of traditional American retail employment, but are home to just 13 percent of e-commerce positions.

And then there is this in The Times story: Yes, e-commerce has also fostered a boom in other industries, including warehouses. But most of those jobs are being created in larger metropolitan areas, an analysis of Census Bureau business data shows.

Most of those Amazon fulfillment centers are located around the big cities.

So we get a double-whammy in rural Iowa. Our businesses suffer when people shop online, but we don’t get any of the replacement jobs. We can buy modern. But we can’t work modern. This leaves us two choices: move or get more stalwart about shopping at home.

Elections, of course, have consequences, but we can argue that the millions of individualized, day-to-day shopping decisions by rural Iowans to go online instead of downtown hurt us far more than any Washington, D.C.-directed policies.

Shopping online steals the rural futures of your neighbors in places like Carroll and Jefferson and Guthrie Center.

That said, complaining about the march of e-commerce won’t do any good. We need inspired action.

Rural Americans should do everything in their power to make purchases in their small towns first. One way to do this is what I call Reverse Showrooming. Showrooming is when people go to stores, scout out items and then search for them online.

Well, we can turn the tables on that, and look online for what we want and then have our local merchants order for us, keeping the money circulating here instead of paying for millennials to drink craft beers and scarf down avocado toast in Seattle.

I search for books online, make lists and then have Tom Langel at Carroll’s Good News Book & Gift Store order them for me. Other people do this, too.

In the past, I have made the case against leaving rural Iowa for the shopping malls of Des Moines and Omaha, Nebraska.

I stand by that — to a point. Try and find a way to purchase what you can in your small town, and if that fails, a nearby rural community.

But the rural-urban divisions are deadly for Iowa. We are one state, linked in more ways than we know. Take, for example, the fact that Kuemper Catholic High School in Carroll has more than 1,000 alums living in the Des Moines area.

Shopping in Des Moines and Omaha — while it should be a rural Iowan’s second or third option — remains a better choice for Iowa than keystroking purchases through the online retailers with no physical retail presences in Iowa.

In the end, if rural Iowans put the convenience of online shopping ahead of the interests of our local businesses, Bill Burr’s joke won’t be a joke.

We’ll have to shoot down Amazon drones. It will be the only way to get goods and services in rural Iowa, and it will be our own lazy, greedy faults.

Ditch the dot-coms and spend your money locally.

Or improve your aim. ♦

burns doug 12-10-25Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman. He and his family own and publish newspapers in Carroll, Jefferson and other neighboring communities.

 

 

2 Comments

  1. good piece. I shop local as a matter of ideology and practicality, but do not patronize shopping malls and strip malls which rely on folks commuting all over creation and most often in fuel-inefficient vehicles. I prefer internet over support of sprawl lifestyles . . .

  2. E-Commerce needs to be taxed with respect to the local state. That would help even the playing field for brick & mortars.

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