Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Big Business vs. the American Dream

Everyday when I get into my car to go to work, it is always time for "Business News with David Johnson" on 1080 AM KRLD. I enjoy this segment because I like to know what is going on in the business world, who is doing well, what sector of business is starting to sag, etc. Lately, everyday David has been talking about mergers. It seems like somebody is always buying somebody else. AlCan and ALCOA USA, IHOP and Applebee's, Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp and The Wall Street Journal and many others.

It is necessary for all companies to be affiliated or stem from a major conglomerate? I was in my closet this morning getting ready for work when I saw one of my boardgames, "Dallas in a Box". It has a Six Flags logo for Six Flags over Texas and under the logo, it said, "A Time Warner amusement park," or something similar. I never knew that. I knew that Six Flags and Time Warner had some sort of relationship with each other because they use Warner Brother's characters in the park. I researched them just now, and found that this was old, but at one time, Six Flags properties were once a Time Warner property (incidentally, I found out that Time Warner has 50% control of one radio station, one that I used to listen to in Houston a long time ago...werid..).

Just think of the companies that you interact with everyday.. Walmart (a major worldwide chain), Target (Nationwide chain), Old Navy (division of Gap Inc., nationwide chain), McDonalds (worldwide chain), UNT Bookstore (division of Follett Corporation, serving in many educational outlets), Voertman's (owned by Nebraska Book Company), KXAS NBC-5 in Dallas (owned by NBC/Universal, major network) all are a part of a major corporation. Approximately 99.5% of the stores that we shop or the companies that we deal with on a daily basis are a part of a major corporation. Nobody goes deals with small family owned stores or local companies.

A part of the "American Dream" is the ability to own your own business and participate in the capitalist society that we live in. It is getting harder and harder to do that these days because of these major chains and major corporations that divert customers and saturate markets. What about the little guy? Does the "American Dream" today still include the hopes of owning a business? It seems that the only industry where the small businessman can prevail over big chains is in the convenience industry including gas stations and mini-marts, but even that gap is closing in. Yes, many are franchised, but with petrol prices rising and profits soaring, it is just a matter of time when the big oil companies will start turning some stores into company owned & operated stores.

Are all of these mergers in the best interest of consumers? It is definitely in the best interest of the purchasing business (most of the time), but what about the merger's effects on consumers? The Federal Trade Commission is the governmental entity that is supposed to keep that in mind when approving or disapproving mergers, but there are still some that slip through. In addition, they do not regulate where stores go to prevent saturation, that is up to the local city/county council, but those guys only care about the tax revenue that the new business will generate.

I know that in our society today, we do not want the government to be watching over what we do with our businesses and some will say that they are too involved as it is. However, there needs to be somebody to protect the consumers from big business. It is not fair to those who are uneducated and also unfair to those hard working Americans who are trying to take part in the so-called "American Dream" and own their own business and put their hand in the capitalist economy. Many who do this do not come out successful and end up closing shop within a year. Here in Denton, there was a burger restaurant called "Big Time Bob's". They served some great hamburgers, but I was informed recently that they were closed. Why did they close? It is not known for sure, but in front of their store was a Chili's, Black Eyed Pea and across the street was a Jack in the Box. Could this have played a part in Bob's demise? It is definitely possible.

What can we do about all of this? Nothing. I would say boycott by not shopping a big box store, but it is virtually impossible. If one store does not have it, the big box does and they are probably the only one in town that does have that one needed item. There are not enough Mom & Pops out there with all of the goods that one may need. Something that we can do is go to a Mom & Pop shop when you can. We all have seen a locally owned business as we drive around town. Next time that you need something that they may offer, stop on in and see what they have. You never know, they may have it. Making a purchase at that store will give you a good feeling knowing that your dollars are staying in the community. Big Boxes say that most of their money goes back into the community, and some of it does through good deeds projects, but most goes back to the corporate office, most of which are outside of Texas. I know for sure that the local entrepreneur will appreciate your purchase. Your purchase can mean the difference between closing and staying open for that store.

Photo Credit : Boston.com

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