I’ve been following you on YouTube and listening to your audio book. I’m a Korean American Christian, but have been interested and following Judaica lately.
I live in San Diego County and decided to go to a mom and pop Judaica store to purchase my first Torah. I had a very pleasant experience talking to the owner, and she helped me pick out my first Torah, business blessing sign, and accessories. We talked for a bit about her family, family history in the holocaust, etc.
I’m making an attempt to network and add more ‘real friends’ in my list of friends. I’m trying to specialize and bless others as well.
After I purchased my items at the store, I checked on Amazon (I buy almost everything online), and was disappointed I paid about $60 more than Amazon.
I’m currently having financial hardship. Should I be disappointed I paid too much or be glad this is a blessing to the business owner and her family? I feel guilty that I feel bad.
We appreciate that you have been following our work and that you wrote in with this dilemma. We think that because of the ubiquity of online shopping and the ease of comparing prices among vendors, many others share your question.
We use the term ‘ethical capitalism’ to define the best type of marketplace in a Godly society. While it is easy to focus on the obligations of business owner, that is only half the story. Certainly, a store owner must be honest in describing his wares and transparently above-board in his dealings. However, customers have obligations too.
One of these is not to waste the time and resources of a shopkeeper. For example, it is often hard to compare large appliances like refrigerators by only reading the online descriptions. Many of us still like to see what we will be buying and to ask questions of salesmen who have experience with the brand. In a similar fashion, we like to sit on a couch before buying it. Another example might be going to a department store and having a saleslady help you find just the right dress.
Torah practice as it is found in ethical capitalism forbids taking advantage of the sales staff in a store under these circumstances. If your plan is to order online, then you may not use the resources of the store. So, when you look at the price of an item online after having spent time with someone who helped you to choose exactly the right item, you aren’t comparing apples with apples. By purchasing in the store you are also paying for the expertise of the shopkeeper as well as being able to see and handle the item before buying.
In the same way, it would be wrong to buy an outfit at the start of a season, wear it, and then take advantage of a generous return policy so that you can buy the exact same outfit at an end-of-season clearance price. You paid a premium for having the item of clothing when you wanted it.
Rather than resenting the price you paid, or even chalking it up to blessing the shopkeeper, think of the transaction in its entirety. You not only have items that we hope will bring you pleasure but you were assisted in finding exactly what you wanted. You had what you described as a “very pleasant experience” and people legitimately pay money for very pleasant experiences. Don’t spend time feeling bad for paying more than you would have on an Internet order, or feeling guilty for feeling bad, but instead feel grateful for the entire experience.
I (RDL) often pay about forty times more for a cup of coffee at a coffee shop than it would cost me to make it at home myself. I consider that money well spent mainly because of the human interaction. The Hebrew word for a store alludes to it being a wonderful place in which two strangers make one another happier than they were before the interaction. Truly something that makes God smile. Sounds to us you got your money’s worth.
It goes without saying that there is nothing wrong with shopping by price. Purchasing online can be incredibly quick and efficient but obviously lacks all human contact. If that is what you want, then by all means shop online. It’s not your job to ‘bless’ the storekeeper by paying more than necessary. However, if you desire the human contact, and that can add value as in your experience, it can come with a price.
Finally, dear Sam, you confess to “currently having financial hardship.” We’ve discovered that for many people, financial hardship is the result more of a spending problem than an earning problem. If you are experiencing financial stress, should you really have been buying such expensive optional items? After all, $60 wasn’t the price but the sum you might have saved by buying it on Amazon. Perhaps this wasn’t a wise purchase.
One added bonus of buying in person is expanding one’s circle of relationships, as you are wisely trying to do. That is very much the theme of our audio CD set, Prosperity Power: Connect for Succe$$. If someone benefits from the information on it by paying full price for it and then it goes on sale, we trust that they will feel that the money spent on it at full price was worth having the teaching at the time they needed and desired it.
Wishing you prosperity within the system of ethical capitalism,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin