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Good reasons for big-box stores in Tucson

By Matt Zwolinski
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
October 28, 1999
Talk about this story

To the editor,

Those who, like Mr. Armstrong, condemn so-called "big box" stores for failing to live up to their standards of aesthetic merit ought to pause so as to consider the reasons why we have so many of these stores.

The simple reason, of course, is that lots of people shop at them.

But what can we say in their favor beyond this? Mr. Armstrong himself gives one reason: convenience. The peace-of-mind afforded by the reputation of an established national chain is certainly another.

But the biggest reason for success of stores like Wal-Mart is price. Simply put, they sell products more cheaply than their competition. Look around at the parking lot the next time you drive past one of these stores. Chances are, you won't see too many BMWs. These businesses are patronized mostly by poor and lower middle-class customers, who are willing (or forced) to sacrifice the cozy feeling one gets from shopping at Ma and Pa's in order to conserve their limited income for more pressing needs.

To be fair, I like the personal service and aesthetic of small businesses too. And if customers like Mr. Anderson and I want to express our preferences in the marketplace, then so be it. That's what free markets are all about. What worries me is when a small, privileged portion of society tries to use its political muscle to force its preferences on everybody else (a phenomenon which is becoming increasingly common in cases like this). In general, this leads to fewer consumers getting the goods they want at prices they can afford. In the particular case of "big-box" stores, it leads to one more option being taken away from some of the most underprivileged members of society, so that you and I don't have to look at their ugly stores.

Matt Zwolinski

Philosophy graduate student

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