The meeting was sponsored by Liveable City, a group of prominent Austinites who have made a mission of tending to the city’s social, environmental and economic needs. The group’s board members made it clear that their goal is to keep Borders from moving in near the intersection.
I of course am also “firmly against fat white-noise chain stores making in-roads into our unique Austin downtown culture”, but I’m a little perplexed by all the protectionist hoopla. Forgive the naivete on my part, but if Book People and Waterloo are better than Borders — which I strongly think they are: have you seen the music selection in a Borders? — what’s all the worrying about? That is, if Book People and Waterloo are truly good enough, then they’ll survive having a big chain store right across the street: people will go to our beloved local stores where they’ll find the products they want, rather than the Borders.
If, on the other hand, Borders does draw away customers from Book People and Waterloo — that is, the people that are currently going to those two places go, instead, to Borders, taking away money from the local stores and causing them to suffer or go under — then doesn’t that either
- make Boarders truly the better place,
- mean those people are tasteless and culturally stupid, or,
- mean that Book People and Waterloo are not better than Boarders?
(Maybe the first and third are the same, but never mind that.)
Now, I understand the need to protect the “minority consumer;” that is, if the majority of the people like going to Borders, and drive the Austin stores out of business, then “minority consumers,” like me, who like the Austin stores, have no choice. To use the percentages that are used in the political form of this argument, “the market” cares only about 51% of the consumers, and the other 49% can suck a dick. That is, the market only needs to please a certain percentage of the people — usually a majority of them — and it can leave the remaining percent displeased.
Thus, if my fellow Austinites — present and future — favor Borders over the Austin stores, I get screwed. But, on the other hand, if my favored two stores over-take Borders, the pro-Borders crowd has Borders taken away, and they become the minority consumers…and some people — just not me and, no doubt, many of you, dear readers — still end up loosing.
Neverminding that boondoggle, the point is, if Book People and Waterloo are better, and our fellow Austinites can be trusted to have good taste, the Austin stores will win. I mean, isn’t that how retail works? The broader point is that if, assuming it gets built, the Borders is successful, there’s something stinky in Austin: be it the newly tasteless populace, or the long hidden crappyness of our local stores. I certainly wouldn’t want Book People and Waterloo to go under, but I’m not sure the line of reasoning people are using, well, is more than rhetorical legerdemain.
Now, there is the “about $2.2 million in incentives” that Borders — or their developer — is getting, which does mess up the “game” a little bit. Why (a.) a store as large as Borders would need incentives, and, (b.) the city would give away that much money for a Borders is a good question. You’d think after that whole Intel building cluster-fuck the city council would have learned.
(Thanks to the Statesman’s moronic, weekly expiring pages, the above link won’t work in a week. What the hell is up with articles that expire? I mean, have they heard of this whole “web” thing? Also, I apologize for using the word legerdemain, it just looked so tasty.)