Thursday, June 28, 2012

Another Reason for Wanting to Ban the Internet

Let me begin this by saying that yes, there is pornography available on the Internet.  I have no problem whatsoever with parents being educated about filters that would prevent their children (or adult males) from getting to this stuff.  However yesterday I became acquainted with another reason that many frum Jews would like to ban the Internet.

In a word--shopping.  I accidentally found myself on the periphery of a conversation which involved a few people who have shops selling merchandise geared for a frum population.  What came up more than once in the conversation was that the Internet is bad for these frum-focused businesses because it would draw customers away from the stores, making parnoseh much more difficult.  I got drawn into the conversation when one of the store owners pointed to me and the clothing I was wearing.  She said to me "I bet you didn't buy that in one of the frum stores here in Brooklyn.  I've never seen that particular style skirt in any of them.  Did you buy it from a regular store?"  Honesty required that I answer truthfully--"No, I bought it on the Internet."  She smiled triumphantly.  "Why would you do that when you know that frum clothing store owners rely on the frum olam to buy from them or they wouldn't have any customers."

Now things got really sticky.  How to put what I was going to say without causing a ruckus.  I tried a neutral approach first.  "As you say, you don't carry this style of skirt and that is what I was looking for and what looks good on me."  She didn't seem to be buying that so I tried something else.  "You also don't carry all the colors in clothing that I like to wear."  She asked me what colors I was talking about.  I basically answered "all the colors of the rainbow and there is no black in a rainbow."  I got "not all colors are tsniusdik" muttered under her breath.  She wouldn't leave it alone so blunt honesty got trotted out.  "Frankly, I don't like being rooked when I'm shopping.  I won't pay X amount of money when I know that I can get an item waaaaay cheaper by shopping elsewhere, such as on the Internet.  And I don't like cheap, flimsy material.  I don't want items that are going to shrink the first time they are washed, cold water or not.  And I particularly don't like being told that the frum olam HAS to support frum businesses so the owners can make parnoseh , particularly when those businesses are going to cost me money and are not offering the quality I'm looking for." 

I walked away from the conversation seeing that WW VII was going to break out.  And yes, I'll stick by my guns on this one.  If you are going to be a retailer then you need to understand that competition will be out there, whatever form it takes.  Yes, all other things being equal, I would support a frum store owner.  But it's those "other things being equal" that is the deal maker or breaker. 

Comparison shopping is a blessing for consumers, especially when it has become physically lots easier to do so, thanks to the wonders of the Internet.  This week alone, on items we needed to buy for the house and comparison shopped for, I saved $479.35  I'll bet you could all find some good uses for a sum like that.

Ban the Internet?  Not in my house.


AztecQueen2000 said...

I never shop in the frum stores in Brooklyn if I can avoid it. The last item I bought there was a little black dress--not too hard to find. For my kids, I avoid them like the plague because everything is overpriced, poor quality and funereal crepe. I'm not dressing my preschool-aged children in deep mourning, especially in the summer!

Reader said...

Not to mention, if it weren't for all the anti-internet haranguing, some of these places might have actually had a chance to adapt to the internet age and create a booming web presence.

One need only to compare the experiences of Barnes and Noble to that of Borders to get the idea...

Anonymous said...

Instead of banning, why don't purveyors of "frum" products branch out a little, by actually using the Internet? If you only want to sell modest clothes, why not try to reach conservative Christians and Muslims who might welcome covered up styles? If you sell wigs, why not branch out to the hair loss market? Etc

Mark said...

Aside from the quality and variety issues, there's another reason I, and many members of my family, avoid the heimishe stores of Brooklyn. The proprietors and other customers in the store simply don't treat us right, they are very often rude and dismissive. I don't know exactly why, but I suspect it may be because we don't wear "the uniform" and aren't part of the heimishe "crowd". So add bad service and bad attitude to bad selection and bad prices.

profk_offspring said...

If you only want to sell modest clothes, why not try to reach conservative Christians and Muslims who might welcome covered up styles?

Interesting that you say this. My favorite place for Tzniustic skirts is a website run by conservative Christians (my friends call them my "Duggar skirts"). The quality is far above what I get in the frum stores (never had the skirts leak dye all over me, for one) and the price is way more reasonable.

I once came back from a shopping trip in Monsey and complained to my mother that everything was boring black and seriously flimsy. Being frum isn't a license to rip others off in the name of parnossah.

Miami Al said...

When you go to a "normal" store, whether owned by a public company, a small business owner, a conservative Christian, a secular Jew, or an Orthodox Jew, they are offering a service and hope to make money doing so. As a result, customer service, respect, and competitive pricing is the rule. That's shopping retail.

When you go to a "Frum Store" (as opposed to a store owned by a Frum individual), they believe you OWE them Parnossah, therefore they have no obligation to offer good merchandise, compete for your business, etc.


If these owners of "frum" products were interested in being retailers, everything would be different. The reason that they can't reach out to those markets is they are not offering a "modest" product or a "wig" they are offering "tznius" clothes and "sheitals."

What you propose would require them to offer a quality and competitive product, they don't want to do that. In fact, I wouldn't be shocked if they buy their inventory from one of those retailers, less work than actually working as a buyer and sourcing good product.

Anonymous said...

You're absolutely right to stand your ground. Perhaps if the frum clothing stores were to try to actually compete on price oand quality they would have a stronger claim that the 'Oilam' should patronise them as a matter of course.

Maya Resnikoff said...

I agree with pretty much everyone else has said already. Also- not everyone who wants tznius clothing lives near Brooklyn... And being observant is expensive enough as is, too.

little sheep said...

I'll tell you why I don't shop in frum stores in my area-if I would, I would need more tzedakah than I already ask for. If said businesses would pay for my minimum $350 worth of therapy (not covered by health insurance) per week, I'd gladly spend a little more to support them. But since I live above my income by taking care of my health, I sadly have to avoid your stores. Poor Brooklyn.

Anonymous said...

The reason I don't shop in Brooklyn stores if I can help it? I basically wear the "uniform" but I still get harassed every time I enter the stores! They have to realize that they need to encourage me to shop there, not give me mussar shmoozes over the choices I want to make.
I was buying a skirt for someone I know. They gave me their size and I knew about how tall they were. The owner came up to me and said "that isn't your size". "I know- its for someone else who lives out of state". "Well I dont let you buy it for them as I don't accept crumpled returns".
What? Returning it doesn't mean it will be crumpled. I was seeing them that weekend and would have returned it monday if it didn't work out.
"Its ok, this skirt is too short for her anyways".
Uh oh. Mussar 101- "I raised 4-5-6-22 girls and they are all married to XYZ now and none of my girls were ever accused of being untzniyus. all my clothes are tzniyus here... yadda yadda". I replied that this person was really tall, it wouldn't cover her knees so have a nice day. And I left.
If I get that every time I shop, there is a reason I learned to buy online and alter them myself.

Any ideas on stores that sell longer skirts?