Our Town: The decency of our Main Street

Dr Tom Ferraro

Pick any store keeper in Williston Park and assess you’re shopping experience.  

Go to Pembroke Cleaners, Village Gift and Flower Shoppe, Pyramid Jewelers, Bagel Express, Luigi Suppa or John’s Variety Store and you leave feeling an essential decency, kindness, accommodation and even generosity. 

This is the heart and the soul of any small town and why we all love the Pulitzer Prize winning play “Our Town” where they ‘never had to lock their doors.” But this decency and humanity is nowhere in sight if you decide to shop in one of the big box stores.   

In fact I did that this past week and my experience was so grotesque and unnerving that I find I have to write about it to get the vulgarity out of my system.  

Let’s start with my experience last night at a high end organic super market chain store. . They have branding themselves as altruistic, green minded and organic and in fact I love their food. 

But they do have the art of seduction down to a science. The packaging is irresistibly appealing.  

I typically go to pick up a few things for dinner and invariably will spend $50 to $65. I don’t mind all that too much. But the thing I can no longer tolerate is what always happens on the checkout line.  

After they tell you the cost they then ask “Do you want to donate a dollar to one charity or the next?”  

No I don’t want to donate. You just overcharged me already and now you have the audacity to ask for a dollar more. 

Furthermore you present me with the shameful conundrum of having to say no to you in public.   

But the vulgarity does not stop there. I give them a hundred dollar bill, which is the only bill that covers their cost and they take out a pen and scratch away in an effort to discover if I am trying to pass them a counterfeit bill. 

They then hold the bill up to the light and look with deep concentration at the bill. And finally to the delight of all the customers waiting behind me they actually call over a manager to look closer yet.  

Do I really want to endure these kinds of interactions?  Does anyone? 

Of course high end food chains are not alone in this regard.  I am continually asked and embarrassed by the same donation request at the low end food stores as well. 

When I say no to them I get the icy stare from the clerk that makes me feel I’ve just caused much pain and suffering throughout the Third World. 

I flash back to the 1976  film Network where news anchor Howard Beale played by Peter Finch shouted out to the audience “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”   

And it’s true. I am mad as hell and I don’t want to take it anymore. I despise the endless effort to sell me, trick me and embarrass me into giving you my money.  I also despise seeing celebrities on TV selling me everything from credit cards to golf balls.  

Honestly don’t they already have enough money? Do they really have to completely sell their souls to the devil to make another million? 

 I have said before and will say again that the modern corporation is the most powerful entity on earth, exceeding the power of governments. 

The modern corporation is best described as a faceless monster with unquenchable thirst for profit. They are run by the one percenters, those arrogant, entitled and self-important greed mongers first made famous in the film “Wall Street.” You will recall the famous line spoken by Michael Douglas when he said “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.” Well here’s a better line, “Greed, to put it bluntly, is a cancer.”  The mercenary nature of the modern corporation has resulted in massive profit for them and incredible suffering and anxiety and angst for the people who live and work on Main Street. 

Okay. I got it off my chest. I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.  

But in fact I am going to take it. I will continue to shop at these places and to use these companies, buy their  impressive stuff and to experience their endless attempt to get in my pockets. 

This is 21st Century capitalism at its very best. But it sure is refreshing to be able to ‘shop locally’ and know I will not be sucked dry or stolen from. 

Pembroke or John’s Variety or Pyramid Jewelers or Luigi Suppa are the good guys in this story. 

But the corporate big box stores are all circling us like sharks lying in wait, ever hungry. 

Thank goodness we still have our Main Street in order to experience a little decency and generosity and respect.

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