It’s 11:55 A.M. 55 minutes since anyone has walked into the store!
Meanwhile the bills keep on adding up as the clock ticks. Rent @ $ 10 per working hour, utilities @ $ 2 per hour, telephone, supplies …@ $ 3 per hour. Already $ 15 is out of the pocket. Her salary? Let’s not even talk about it even at minimum wages. She would be lucky if they can recover the business expenses from December to March.
Wait! Somebody is walking in-“Hello Madam! How are you? Yeah, Such nasty weather! Oh, I love your hair! So beautiful! And how’s Randy? Is he still planning that scorpion tattoo? Just water today? That will be $ 1. Thank you! Have a nice day!”
“O.M.G. Just sixty cents earned in one hour? How will this day go? Dev will have more worries for the day! Oh God, do something! I will light an extra candle today. Please…….”
Outside the four walls of your safe homes and the comforts of your jobs which get average Canadian families, at least $ 69,000 per year, there exists thousands and thousands of small businesses spread over the length and breadth of our country, run by ‘Mom and Pop and their families’ at close to half of your earnings.
These small businesses comprising of convenience stores, small gas stations, garment and gift shops, artisans, eateries and deli, repair shops, et.al. are run by very ordinary, sometimes very educated, low earners working tirelessly for 14-16 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year and perhaps all the years of their lifetime. They work and wait and wait and work for just one dream- to see you walk into their store and buy something so that they can carry on living.
You know they exist because you see them in your neighbourhood store just around the corner, in the downtown area, in various strip malls and outlets with people smiling back to you with anxious faces. You still choose to ignore their existence as you tread happily to the “Big Box store” of your liking to do your shopping or prefer having your coffee or pizzas from national chains with millions of dollars of advertising support or go miles to fill up your gas from a station which sells a cent or two cheaper or the one which matches your stature rather than going to your neighbourhood gas station.
However once in a while, when you do not have time, or are tired or want some change, you walk into your neighbourhood store for a small chocolate bar, or a pizza slice or a “tastes like mom made” tart.
You do all that and feel proud of your smartness since you feel that you regularly save yourself dollars by going to your favourite big box while using the small businesses for the only purpose they exist- your convenience . You are so right and bright.
But what about the time when these big boxes will be only ones left and will dictate their prices in a monopolistic market? Who is responsible for today’s world where the gas companies, the insurance companies, the telecom companies operate and dictate their prices and policies because of the powers that they have been able to seize over a period of time? You realise that but still proceed to make the big boxes stronger and your neighbourhood stores weaker in your quest to let your children spend more dollars while you save your dimes right now.
And what about the warmth and personal touch these small businesses provide? Like remembering your favourite topping on your pizza or your favourite lottery ticket or even sharing your stories and being a part of your happiness and pain when you want someone to be there for you. Standing by you! Standing for you!
These small businesses with a higher percentage of first generation or at best second generation immigrants who cannot reach the standards of normal Canadian families due to obstacles they face of language, financing, low purchasing powers leading to higher cost of procurement, or even pure simple racism, still try and survive, ever thankful to you whenever you visit them.
For how long? No one knows. Start noticing the number of shops closing in various areas or reaching a rundown depleted state and you would understand that while job creation in bigger corporations may give an idea of an end of down turn, yet a large number of Canadian families can only see an end to their dream of economic independence in the near future.
As these small businesses close and their tired, weary owners join the lines of people looking for minimum wages jobs in the big boxes, they also accept the fact that has been known to the capitalistic powers for years, the BIG MAN also belongs to the BIG BOXES!!!