shoppingI’ve just gotten back from a little birthday getaway—we had a long weekend here and the Beloved took an extra day off to whisk me away for the big 3-6. And I realized that there is nothing better for clarifying the issues facing bricks-and-mortar retail right now than a little cross-border shopping. Lessons learned?

1. In the Brave New Internet World, it’s Always Party Time!

The Internet means you can celebrate anywhere. Isn’t that fun? We were halfway to Buffalo, N.Y., when my phone bleeped with an email greeting from my dad, complete with an Amazon gift card appended to the message. I love technology!

2. There are Some Industries That Simply Cannot be Outsourced to a Foreign Country

If you want a guaranteed solid career path which cannot be outsourced away from you, consider hospitality. Sure, can book our reservation remotely, but there is no way to outsource the actual bed itself, and the people who are needed to provide it for us.

3. On the Other Hand, Nearly Everything Can be Outsourced to a Multinational

We were staying in a budget hotel, and I think they tried to economize on food service by simply not having any—the lobby stank to high heaven because where the usual restaurant should be, there was a tiny food court shared by Pizza Hut, KFC, Baskin Robbins and Taco Bell. And ads for them in the elevator. Yuck!

4. Credit Card Land is a Glorious Place, Blissfully Free of Geographical Restrictions

After shifting so much of my media purchases to rights-entangled digital stuff, it was refreshing to deal with the physical world, which is still thankfully free of these barriers. No geographical restrictions here—American restaurants, retailers and vendors of all stripes were quite happy to take my Canadian credit card. Some of them even took the Beloved’s Canadian cash at par. One helpful clerk at a big-box chain even offered to loan us a pair of scissors to cut off the tags in case we were planning to try sneaking all of it past the border guards. That’s service!

5. Too-High Prices Practically Invite Your Customers to Shop Elsewhere

Aside from a fleece blanket, some outlet mall shoes, and a few novelty T-shirts, my big purchase was a DVD set that was a whopping 48 percent percent cheaper on the American side. You want to keep business in Canada, or Australia, or the UK, or whatever non-US country you’re in? A price difference of a few dollars probably won’t affect the bottom line too much. But if you can’t run your business in at least a moderately competitive way, don’t be surprised if your customers look elsewhere. Forty-eight percent less is too much savings not to buy American. And that’s a lost sale for the retailer in Canada who could have sold this to me.


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