Shopping ain’t easy out here (which is mostly a blessing) but it is definitely more interesting.
The regular shop is do-able enough, of course. We go to town, buy cheese and wine and bolts and paint and then head home. It has it’s logistical challenges but, basically, it is just like shopping in town – only more physical and time-consuming. Usually more hurried, too. A smidge more of an element of danger, too, I guess. Especially in the winter. But, still, our shopping is much like you’d think shopping out here would be like.
But not all shopping is ‘regular’ shopping. Some needs have to be met by hunting farther afield. And this is especially so with regards to many off-the-grid-type products such as pumps, winches, etc. The 7/11 just won’t do it for for us. In fact, in some cases, Home Depot won’t even do. Believe it or not, Home Depot is too ‘lightweight’ for much of the stuff we need.
I can buy a shackle at Home Depot. Maybe even get one that is designated 3/8″ (thickness of steel and pin) but, for me and my neighbours, 3/8″ is not a serious shackle. Serious starts at 1/2″ and goes to 1″. Even bigger shackles are made, of course, but we are not that serious. Docks held by chains to the shore will be considered secure with a one-inch shackle. The thing is: anything over swag-lamp specifications and Home Depot is inadequate for us.
So we have ‘accounts’ with companies that serve industry. We all do. And, in the spring and summer, it might even be argued that we shop more at such ‘industrial-level’ stores than we do at ‘normal’ stores. Hell, sometimes I shop more at the scrap metal/salvage yard than I do at Save-On.
Another way to ‘try‘ to shop out here is by way of the Internet. Natch. But that doesn’t work like it does for urban people. Shipping can be prohibitively expensive for us. Sometimes artificially so. Postage is crazy-expensive but sometimes the companies shipping charges make it even crazier. Plus we can’t get a heavy object by mail because things come in by float plane and say, a two hundred pound winch with cable would be as much to deliver as it would be to buy. More, in fact.
Good example: a neighbour wanted to ship a largish cardboard box that was fairly lightly packed to Toronto and the cost was going to be almost $500. It didn’t get sent.
Another example: I ordered a small box of special tape from Toronto (24 rolls – in a box about the size of a couple of pounds of butter) and the shipping was $3.00 to Campbell River, $30.00 to our island. The box of tape was $18.00. We had it shipped to a friend in Campbell River who was good enough to bring it when he next came out to the island.
But, by far, the weirdest way to shop is by way of Craigslist or Kijiji or some other ‘net-based classified ads’. That requires a lot of hoop-jumping. You’d be stunned at how many times I have responded to an ad and told the seller that I live remote and can’t get there for a couple of weeks only to be met with silence or an e-mail accusing me of running some kind of scam. It seems that, if a seller doesn’t understand where or why you live outside their neighbourhood, you are likely a crook trying to cheat them. Very weird.
The counter to that, of course, is the seller who somehow relates to our situation and makes an effort to accommodate us. I suppose it helps that I rarely dicker. If I find something that I need for $100.00 and I am going to have to ask the seller to wait until I come to town in a few weeks, it is only fair to pay the going rate (given that it is close to fair in the first place). So that and the fact that they can relate has made for some interesting transactions.
In one such case I bought a box of silicon bronze screws from a guy in Victoria. But I wasn’t going down for months. He was OK with that. As it turned out my son was able to get over to his place a week or so later and the guy was so pleased with meeting him and the fact that he had sold his screws to a guy up the coast that he ‘threw in’ a few small tools to ‘sweeten the pot’.
Some people just ‘get it’. And that is great. Some people ‘get it’ and do something helpful just because and that is even more great. And some people have been so good that we have become friends. Yes, Gail. I am talkin’ about you.
And I am talkin’ about a few others, too. Mountain Equipment Co-op is by far the best ‘big company’ for this. Their shipping is accurate, prompt and no more expensive because we live remote. In fact, their shipping costs are relatively low. There are a few other good ones but MEC stands alone as the best so far.
We have met some pretty nice people shopping on Craigslist for weird things. It isn’t always perfect but the good ones are frequent enough to keep me going back. In fact, I have to admit that I actually kinda like shopping this way. Not a lot. But a lot more than dragging my sorry self through malls.