The Little Man

I spoke with a guy who runs a convenience store the other day. Vietnam vet, nice guy, I’ve known him for several years. You walk into his store now and the shelves are bare, a little bit of beer, no cigarettes. So I asked him about business, he said the majority of people in the surrounding area are unemployed (which is true). He said before he was selling 300 cases of beer per week, last week he sold 12. As I said his cigarette shelves are bare so he isn’t selling those either. It’s sad to see any mom and pop shop in decline, but the story takes a sadder twist. He said the distributor he bought cigarettes from went to $64 per carton (his price) for Class A cigs like Marlboro Reds. At places like Wal-Mart the same carton is low to mid 50’s. He said that companies like that and bigger gas stations get a kickback from Philip Morris because they sell so many cartons, basically making it near impossible for the little man to sell them. Another story about his milk distributor who went up to 6 dollars per gallon on milk when you can buy it yourself for 3 bucks on sale at a chain drug store. The little man cannot compete with these national chain stores, not even close. So either they have a very loyal customer base who just ponies up the extra money, which in the best of times may be plausible, but in a wrecked economy like this it’s not going to happen. So the little man folds, gone for good and we become a nation of huge multi national corporations. Don’t misunderstand me, there is nobody who I hold in higher regard than entrepreneurs, and I realize that in the case of Wal-Mart it is the fruits of arguably the most successful entrepreneur. I also understand the buggy whips, and I wouldn’t want to feel nostalgic for them. But at the same time we see well connected companies getting kickbacks while the little guy struggles, it doesn’t seem like the way things should be. The entire 20th century there were big companies, but they coincided with small mom and pops, only in the latter part did the corporations begin to take over as government involvement (taxes and regulations) raised the barriers of entry to the point where nobody can compete other than those standing on the top of the hill. So whoever is to blame it is a sad day when the little man gets shut down.

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