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Sage grass & cedars
by Darrell Thompson

Outside the box

 How can a regular size, 8.5”x11”, piece of paper be placed on the floor so that two people standing face to face with their toes touching the opposite edges will not be able to touch each other? Their hands are not tied and they are not impaired in any other way. Read the rest of this letter if you want to come up with the answer yourself.

The answer may come very quickly to you or you may have to think for a while as I did. To get the answer, you will have to think “outside to box.” That means you will have think in channels that you do not normally think in or outside that imaginary box that confines our thinking. 
Thinking outside the box can be frustrating if there is a problem to be solved and we must think outside our normal channels to solve it. However, the rewards can be great if we are willing to put forth the effort. The guy (or gal) who invented the wheel was thinking “outside the box.” Think of the rewards of that thinking and where we would be without the wheel.

Other things besides thinking, if done outside the box, are rewarding as well. What about the trend in shopping? The masses of people seem to go to the “big box” discount stores that seem big enough to have everything. Another huge trend is the internet where there is no personal interaction with people unless you happen to see the UPS man when he delivers.

I recently needed to replace the dead bolt lock on our house. The “big box” store would have had it and probably a little cheaper, but I thought of a locally owned lumber/hardware store where I could buy it and they would key it so that my other house key would work it as well – for no charge! Things like that help, especially when I already have so many keys that I take them out of my pocket when I weigh myself. I can’t say that I never go to the “big box” store for anything. They have their place for all of us at times. But sometimes shopping “outside the box” can be just as rewarding as thinking “outside the box.”

I thought that our Co-op store is much like the store that set my new dead bolt to match my old key. Sometimes you will pay more at the Co-op and sometimes you will pay about the same or even less. The best price is not “always” at the “big box.” The “big box” stores do have a lot more buying power, but they also have professionals whose job is to know what margin can be made on certain items. Some items are price sensitive and they know they have to be the cheapest and have the buying power to do so. There are other items that people don’t shop price and greater margin can be added. The Co-op is not that sophisticated and sometimes we don’t make the margin that we could and thus are actually cheaper on some items.

Chances are that you will also be greeted when you enter the Co-op; but that person will probably be able to help find what you need, explain features and benefits and even process the sale for you.

The “in and out” time should be faster at the Co-op. You can park closer to the store, get waited on and be on your way many times before you can even find what you want in the “big box.” Many items such as feed, seed, fertilizer, etc. are routinely loaded for the customer, not just the big bulky things that the customer can’t handle alone.

Sometimes a Co-op and a “big box” will have exactly the same items. Sometimes you will find the same name brands but different quality. A large conglomerate with thousands of stores nationwide can have things made to their specifications. When they compete with other “big boxes,” there is pressure to be the cheapest. Pressure is put on suppliers to produce cheaper products. The name brand may be there but something else called quality could be missing.

Shopping at your Co-op or other local business should give the customer more satisfaction in helping the community. The profits are not being shipped off to the corporate office hundreds of miles away but will turn several more times in the community. Thus a dollar spent at your local Co-op will have greater impact on the local economy.

Many personal relationships and friendships have developed between Co-op employees and patrons that probably would not have happened in shopping the “big box” stores. I have a several good friends that work at the “big box” stores, but they are not friendships made by my shopping at the store where they work.

Society normally thinks in terms of penalties for being “outside the box.” Think of the batter’s box, coaches’ box, having to color inside the lines. There are good reasons for the coaches’ and batter’s box and deserving penalties for infractions. But society would have us think that there are always penalties for not conforming to way of the masses of people. Each of us benefit in more ways than we can imagine from someone, somewhere who was willing to think outside the parameters deemed logical by the masses of people.

We need to change our way of thinking and see the positives in being “outside the box.” That’s easy to do on those sad occasions when you’re at a funeral home. We need to get used to looking at the positives of being “outside the box” on a daily basis.

For positive, “outside the box” shopping, I’ll see you at the Co-op!

(The most obvious answer to the riddle is to put the paper on the floor in a doorway and close the door.)

Darrell Thompson is the manager of Lawrence County Exchange in Moulton.



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Date Last Updated January, 2006