Bigger not necessarily better

Of the multitude of really foolish ideas our society naively buys as unquestionably true, one of its most foolish, fiercely held, and utterly false beliefs is this: Bigger is always better.

In 1927 British essayist and author G.K. Chesterton, in a book entitled “The Outline of Sanity,” wrote about what he called “The Bluff of the Big Shops.”

Chesterton wrote more than 35 years before Wal-Marts and such would begin metastasizing all over America and beyond, but already in England he was seeing little shops being gobbled up by big, and thus supposedly better, shops. He wrote an essay basically asserting that big stores are rarely ever better than small stores and that a society that allows its little shops to be gobbled up by big ones ends up far poorer for its folly.

He wrote that “a big shop is a bad shop” and “not only vulgar and insolent, but incompetent and uncomfortable.” He opined that “shopping there is not only a bad action but a bad bargain.” If you care about the quality of the product and the quality of the service, bigger is almost never better.

The largeness of the big shops is mainly convenient to big shop owners who are able to gobble up “better businesses and advertise worse goods.” Chesterton was quite aware that in this world big fish eat little fish, but he doubted that little fish have to “swim up to big fish and ask to be eaten.” Surely people who recognize the importance and value of little stores would do well to “vote” with their feet and their pocketbooks while some small stores with large quality (and owners and customers with real relationships) were still un-gobbled and available. Little did he know how few “little fish” would remain undigested.

Well, I’m out of space. So we’ll just let this week’s “Focus on Faith” focus instead on modern marketing. Don’t be blaming me for any comparisons or contrasts you might be tempted to draw between mega-marts and, say, some mega-churches.