Marco (7) walked into our local bike shop, Menlo Velo, through the back door, with his bike today. Christian, an employee there, said, “Hi, Marco!” as soon as he walked in. I got there first and was waiting for him. You see, I had him ride from our house to there to meet me.
I asked Christian to reattach a part for the speedometer we bought there a few months back. He grabbed Marco’s bike and started working on it immediately without asking for a receipt. We hung out in the repair area next to Christian, and Marco peppered him with questions. We hardly ever venture past the front counter when we visit there.
Clearly, Menlo Velo is now part of Marco’s Village, an area which I first wrote about a year ago that grows as Marco matures. It’s a place where he can go on his own and feel comfortable. The people there know and like him, and vice-versa. He’s very comfortable getting there on his own.
In addition, Marco, his two little brothers, and I are regulars at Golden Shears, a local barber shop. Last week, Marco rode there alone, straight from school. As soon as he walked in, Sam and Woody yelled out a cheery, “Hey, Marco!”
Marco kissed me, then walked straight up to the hair cutting area to say “Hi” to Sam, Woody, and his brothers, who were already in barber’s chairs.
Because I take Marco to local retail shops regularly by bike, he feels connected to these places and to the people who work there. Soon, he’ll be going there on his own, making his own decisions, and handling money on his own. Before long, he’ll spend his own money at these places.
So, he’s gaining confidence and mastery in doing these things for himself. He’s starting to manage business relationships with adults on his own. As a side benefit, my wife and I won’t be forced to chauffeur our kids around as much.
I’ve made all this happen as a conscious decision. Our consumer culture pushes us to optimize all transactions – i.e. get the best products at the lowest prices. It ignores the relationship aspect of business.
Sure, it’s good to save money, but that’s not the only thing that matters. If that’s all I cared about, I’d drive my kids all over the place for the best deals. Once we got there, I’d do all the talking, almost always to someone none of us knows because employee turnover tends to be high at stores with low prices (e.g. Target for bikes, big haircut places).
To me, paying a couple of extra bucks at local places like Menlo Velo and Golden Shears is well worth it. Marco, and soon his little brothers, learn how to deal for themselves when we stay local. They build important navigation, social, and consumer skills, and they enjoy themselves a lot more than they would getting driven all over town. Besides, my wife and I are freed up from some chauffeuring duties.
Does this sound like a good deal to you?