How's the non-mask shopping been going?

I still get people mocking me (and people like me) for the sentiment expressed in an earlier post in which I said that any store which required masks would no longer receive my business. Even the big corporate stores.

My friend and I took it seriously.

We ended rewards programs. We called and let them know why we were doing it. We stopped shopping there. We cut up credit cards. We called around and found alternative places that didn't require masks, or didn't relegate non-mask wearers to the back of the line. Some stores we went in apparently had "required signs" buried in all the signs taped to the front door (some putting it on the moving door making it impossible to see), but never enforced it. Some, like the Bismarck Sam's and TJ Maxx, were confrontational with people I was told.

I'm not sure why some people think it is both impossible and hilarious to avoid some of these stores, but let's see how it's been going over the past month since I wrote that post.

First, there were the initial weeks where I had to do the work to purposefully change habits. This has been the year for doing that, so this was probably round three of changing how we do things. Go out for coffee? Sure, but...not where I used to go. Somewhere else. Need a gizmo or whatzit? Yep, but skip Menards. Go somewhere else.

I've been going to locally owned stores. Even my mom, back on the farm, has been doing her grocery shopping at a store in a smaller nearby town instead of driving to Devils Lake to shop at WalMart.

I've spent less money because I now literally go to a store to buy a specific thing instead of going to a store to shop as an activity. This helps negate the argument that the big box stores are cheaper and that's how you justify going to them. Most of it is made in China, and saving a few dollars on an item you didn't need isn't a savings.

I've got most of my Christmas shopping done because, to prove a point, I have done my shopping at the smaller non-mask stores during this time period and actually found some fun and unique things.

It has become very clear, yet again, the problem of letting massive corporations take over your city and kill your local businesses because they act as a monopoly on policy without any concern or apparent awareness that each locality is different than the generic personas used at FarAway Headquarters where decisions, like their products, are decided in bulk.

I've discovered that some stores I'd not given thought to previously, stores I'd driven by on my way to WalMart and Target and Menards, have the same items, at least, and sometimes suprisingly better. Many are locally owned clothing boutiques, gift stores, and restaurants. Some are what I call "farmer" stores (like Runnings, which is great). Some are locally owned franchises. 

Ace Hardware? Pretty much everything except groceries. Hardware, home improvement, gardening, paint, kitchen gear, spices, camping -- just walk the store.

Parable bookstore? Gifts, books, music, cards, and great quality with custom attention and service.

Bismarck Food Co-op? Fantastic groceries, supplements, personal care items, and an amazing lunch counter with coffee, smoothies, sandwiches, and more. (And while they have a hot chocolate that isn't super chocolatey, it is really good and has an unusual flavor I kind of love.)

No one wants to promote this too loudly, of course, because the accepted narrative is safety and compliance in the form of masks. But there is a strong underwswell of people who do not fit that narrative, and they are very interested in finding businesses who don't require masks. It's funny, really, that stores cater to the noisy folks who demand masks. They are still going to do their shopping at the big box stores, whether a smaller forced customers to wear masks or not. They shopped at TJ Maxx and Target before, and as a local shop, going along with what TJ Maxx and Target do won't bring you any new customers. But letting people have the freedom to make their own choices will. At the very least, acknowledge there is now a new market out there, and they are people who absolutely will not wear a mask and are actively looking to continue doing commerce. The people flocking to big box stores and complying are going to go there anyway.

Local businesses, here's your chance. Put on your Facebook page that you leave mask wearing up to the individual and don't require it. Everyone is welcome, no one is excluded.

People are paying attention.

In a Facebook group dedicated to the idea that no masks should be required for commerce, people have been great about sharing stores, restaurants, and events where masks aren't required. We have an excellent running list of where you can shop and eat mask-free. We even share places where, happily, employees aren't required to wear masks, either. We share links to relevant news and information. We talk about studies regarding masks and compile resources for people to use and share with others. We share updates and concerns on mask mandates for students, and alternative options for schooling. 

It's great community.

So are these other stores.

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If you would like, get a free poster to hang in your place of business if you support the right of people (including employees) to decide for themselves if they will wear a mask, and that no one will be denied the right to participate in commerce no matter their decision.