Taking Care of Business – Locally

All of us are interested in a good deal, right? Sometimes I shop online or go to the “big box” stores to get the best prices. Online auctions like ricardo and ebay are great ways to find things on the cheap. However, if something goes wrong with the transaction or the product, it can be a headache to deal with.

Over time I have discovered that we can find just about any product or service in our village or a neighboring one. When it came time to buy a washer and dryer, my wife and I took a recommendation to visit a local appliance store, Kühne in Au ZH. For nearly the same cost as the big chains, we got exactly what we wanted, delivered and installed. Every time I need an accessory or spare part for other appliances, I always go there to get advice and buy it directly from them. They almost always give me a small discount, and I know I’m getting the right item. I have learned that sometimes it is not worth making a costly error by ordering the wrong part, in an attempt to save just a few francs.

As long as prices are fairly close to what we find online or at bigger chains, my wife and I have become increasingly inclined to shop locally as often as we can. For one, it is more convenient to shop the local stores, especially when you know you have to go back to pick something up. Secondly, we have found so many things that are made right here in Switzerland, sometimes just around the corner. This is one of our favorite aspects of living in Switzerland.

We are replacing windows in our house, and we received positive recommendations for four Swiss companies. We received competitive offers from all and ended up going with the one whose factory is just five minutes from our house. They were not the cheapest, but their products are highly rated and the sales representative drives past our house on his way to the office every day. During the planning stage, he happily stopped by to address questions we had. Windows are a huge investment, and we have no regrets thus far going with the company who has been there to support us every step of the way.

We could have shopped Italy or Germany as many do for renovation projects like this, and I’m sure we could have saved some money. However, having peace of mind that customer support will continue after the sale is well worth it to us, and it is nice to support a company that provides jobs in our local community.

Some of the really cool experiences are the ones that you find in your neighborhood on foot or by bicycle. What’s better than going for a morning bicycle ride and returning with farm-fresh eggs and freshly cut flowers? There is also a farmer in our area who makes various wood carvings. They have seasonal themes, and are sold directly from a stand with a cash box, relying on the old-fashioned honor system.

In our old neighborhood, we had a farmer who sold vegetables directly from his cellar. Everything was weighed on an old-fashioned counter-balance scale and sales were logged into a small booklet. It’s definitely a neat thing to do with kids and I think they get a lot out of experiences like these.

The other nice thing about shopping locally is that you get to know the owners and staff. It’s so much easier to resolve issues when they know who you are. Sometimes it’s hard to resist big savings offered online or at bigger chains, and like most people, we still purchase a lot that way. However, after having many positive experiences going to the local shops, we would rather give our local businesses a chance first.

Text and photo by Brian Wilson

Brian is the father of three children. He teaches golf and coordinates a Zurich Dads group in his spare time. email: bwilsoniag@gmail.com

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