Who Can I Blame?

by Russ Roberts on July 2, 2006

in Competition, Environment, Wal-Mart

I’ve been out of town with limited computer access. Many thanks to Don for his active fingers and active mind.  One of my travels took me to Boston and Cambridge. To my disappointment, one of my favorite stores in Cambridge had closed after years of delightful shopping. Gone, I asked an employee of a nearby store? Yes, he said, gone. Who can I blame for this loss? So I composed the following haiku, no doubt influenced by the miasmas of the Boston area:

On Creative Destruction

My favorite store closed
Must be Wal-Mart’s fault or due
To global warming

One of the virtues of this construction is its versatility. The first line could be any five syllable complaint: My knee is aching or Red Sox lose again or My basement’s leaking or Wish I had more hair.

Can you feel the consolation?

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happyjuggler0 July 2, 2006 at 10:25 pm

Yeah, like Cambridge would ever let in a Walmart. When I lived in the Boston area a few years ago Cambridge wouldn't even let in fast food chains.

But I'm also sure that if you blamed it on Walmart or global warming you'd get a lot of local heads bobbing in assent.

True_Liberal July 3, 2006 at 9:14 am

Didn't Ann & Hope, and Lechmere, start in Cambridge?

Half Sigma July 3, 2006 at 12:51 pm

I presume it was a specialty store, and its customers discovered that whatever it is the store sold could be less expensively and more easily obtained on the internet.

Blue sky July 3, 2006 at 4:21 pm

AH…the simplicity of haiku and the free-market. It's like a cartoon…

liberty July 3, 2006 at 6:10 pm

The South Park on Wal-Mart is funny. Its so evil its banned from South Park but they sneakily open anyway and then nobody can stop themselves from going there late at night and buying everything. They burn it down and it comes back. They try to kill it but *must* *stop* *and* *buy* *cheap* *stuff* …

LowcountryJoe July 4, 2006 at 6:00 am

Abolishing Inequalities

Markets do not work.
They're unfair to the lazy.
Central planning now!

Xmas July 4, 2006 at 11:34 pm

Hubba-Hubba moved to a location just down the street from The Middle East.


John Dewey July 5, 2006 at 9:57 am

half sigma: "I presume it was a specialty store, and its customers discovered that whatever it is the store sold could be less expensively and more easily obtained on the internet."

Why do you think that? I've known the owners of a dozen specialty stores that closed since 1996. Not a single one was forced out by internet commerce. Small retail stores close for many reasons: death or retirement of the proprietor; lease renewal terms that cannot be supported by the business; products that are no longer fashionable; decisions made by suppliers. Internet competition is a possibility, but why would you think it likely?

John July 5, 2006 at 12:37 pm

Was it Wordsworth?

McIntyre & Moore is gone from Cambridge but is now in Somerville in Davis Square.

Don July 5, 2006 at 3:20 pm

The Trade Deficit? Global Imbalances? Anything at all that is currently deemed 'unsustainable'?

Half Sigma July 5, 2006 at 4:39 pm

Russell mentioned "creative destruction," so we presume that the store's business model no longer works the way it used to.

This implies internet competition.

Scott July 5, 2006 at 8:52 pm

I doubt internet competition is the only thing Schumpeter was thinking when he introduced the phrase "creative destruction" in 1942.

There can be many other reasons that a store's business model no longer works without it having to be internet competition.

happyjuggler0 July 6, 2006 at 12:32 pm

I'm sad to hear that Wordsworth is no longer. I guess they couldn't survive without my money once I left the Boston area. ;) Seriously though, I can't imagine them getting too many new customers in the Amazon.com age and with bigger selections in downtown Boston chain stores. So when older customers like myself leave….

"Stavis blamed the decline on the rise of Internet bookseller Amazon.com and on other giant chains. ‘‘It’s too much Amazon, too much Barnes & Noble, and too little Harvard Square,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s generally symptomatic of what’s happened to the independent bookselling business.’’"



John July 6, 2006 at 4:30 pm

Yes, Wordsworth was a nice place to shop for books.

When I was growing up in the 60s-70s, just about every town in my suburban county had its own small independent bookstore. One by one they've closed over the years, while B&N and Borders have moved in.

However, while I miss having a hometown bookstore, there's no way that I would want to go back to the pre-Borders, pre-Amazon days.

China Law Blog July 10, 2006 at 5:10 pm

Don't be so provincial. Do what all good Americans do: blame it on China.

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