Even if you want to shop local to support your community, the math can make it hard. E commerce sites more often than not best the local outlets. Add to that the time it takes to make the trip to and fro, not to mention gas and traffic. And parking, while adding just a few cents, can be a hassle. Yes, local stores give you the chance to see and feel the merchandise, and ask for help. But when you add it all up, it often tips in favor of the locals only if you put your thumb on the scale.
The one place where the equation is different is dining. Sure, there is Fresh Direct and Blue Apron to get either raw ingredients or ready-to-sauté meals directly to your kitchen. But if you want to choose from a menu and have someone make it for you, you either have to go to a restaurant or be a college kid home on break with a mother who misses you dearly. Amazon won't cut it.
Even then, location and ease of access make a difference. If you have to travel far or look for a place to leave your car, the equation starts to tip. Regardless of how enticing the menu, if it's a trial to get to the front door of the establishment it's just as easy to pick another. After all, meatballs aren't exclusive.
Still, when we journeyed to nearby Port Chester for dinner, we knew what we were in for. It's a little farther than a casual jaunt, but it was a quiet night during the holidays. And while parking can be a problem, the main street meters were suspended in the spirit of the season. Besides, I really felt like Peruvian food, something you can't get just anywhere.
Of course the street was all parked up with folks with the same thought as us. It was a very cold night, and didn't seem worth driving in circles looking for a freebie. So we pulled into a muni lot with plenty of spaces. That meant hassling with a meter in bone-chilling temperatures. OK, so be it: we bought enough time to enable us to enjoy our meal, and headed in for some lomo saltado.
Ninety minutes later we came out to find a slip of paper on the windshield: a ticket. I knew I had put 2 hours on the meter, so what was it for? Turns out I had parked as I always try and do, backing into the space. Not allowed: the violation was "Rear Wheels to Curb." And it's true, there was one sign saying "Head In Parking" that I discovered when I walked around. So I was clearly in the wrong, to the tune of $30.
But especially on a night when all the other parking in town was free, on the day after Christmas at 7:33PM, why did a cop decide that THAT was worth ticketing? I reached out to the mayor and members of the Village Board. One responded, explaining that the "Head In" directive was because the town used resident parking stickers which were placed on the rear bumper. And enforcement was easier if the cars were parked front wheels to curb.
OK, that's their choice. If they mandated that all cars were to be parked upside down, that would be their choice as well. But I wouldn't go there. If you want to attract people to your town, if you want them to patronize your businesses, if you want them to spend money within your limits, knowing the competition you face, why wouldn't you make it as accommodating and easy as possible?
So I took two steps. I sent a check to the Justice Court of Port Chester for $30. And I made a mental note next time to go to dinner somewhere else. Call me silly. But while the scale may be different, like Amazon, I'm going where they want me.
Marc Wollin of Bedford enjoys eating out. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at http://www.glancingaskance.blogspot.com/, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.