Shop Amazon or local?

Hawthorne camera store owner clarified why shopping local is so important

I’ve heard the phrase “Shop Local,” for years, and have always believed in it, but it was Mark Comon, my local Torrance, California camera dealer, who really gave it the clarity it deserved.

“We’re hoping more people start to realize that shopping online is not the best thing for our community,” he told me in a recent chat. “Going to a local store is a benefit.” 

I met with Mark, the owner of Paul’s Photo in Torrance, California, to do a profile of him for my local community newspaper, the Easy Reader. With masks on our faces, we sat in his small office at the shop, surrounded by, vintage cameras, large computers and assorted tech gear laid out everywhere.

And yes, we sat more than six feet apart from each other.

He pointed out that the pricing on cameras is pretty standard. What costs you $100 on Amazon or B&H Photo also costs $100 at Paul’s. “The margins are very low but the prices are stable and everybody charges sales tax now, so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t come here,” he says. 

And speaking of sales tax. You know the phrase, “Your tax dollars at work?”

Bring it to your neighborhood.

It’s the small business that helps fund the schools, police and fire department, he notes. “If you want them, you need to support your small business because that’s who supplies the sales tax revenue.”

I started thinking about this after our meeting. Let’s see, if I spend $100 at Paul’s, the money goes to recouping his cost on the item and the profit goes to paying his employees, rent, utilities and advertising. The $9.50 sales tax is split by the local town (in this case Hawthorne), the county of Los Angeles and the state of California.

How does that compare to $100 spent on Amazon?

Manhattan Beach mayor Richard Montgomery did the math for me. The e-commerce site collects the same $9.50 in sales tax, “which is then distributed to cities based on their point-of-sale receipts.”

Manhattan Beach only gets 0.5% of the pool, he added.

I’d rather support the independent business, but even shopping local at Best Buy, Home Depot, Target and other national chains at least is helping to pay the salaries of the employees.

But there’s more to it than just the puny cut of e-commerce sales taxes. An article in PTO Today ( a publication for parent/teacher school organizations) suggests many ways locals can get sponsorship of their events, and notceably missing was any notice of hitting up giants like Amazon. Instead, they recommend pounding the pavement and visiting the owners and managers of local businesses, for a dollar contribution that will pay off with their things like their name on the back of T-shirts and splattered across their website or Facebook page.

Who signs up for stuff like this? You know. Local small business owners, people like Mark Comon, or my friends Linda McLoughlin-Figel from {pages{ a bookstore in Manhattan Beach and Cris Bennett (Good Stuff restaurants) who support the community and in return, get support from locals to patron their businesses.

Amazon does indeed have a charitable way to support the community, with its Smile program. But good luck convincing your network to shop at instead of to qualify to get you the donation. And sponsor a local event?

Think of that last school play you went to, and all the local businesses that advertised in the program guide. Or the local names splattered across a sign at the Little League game.

Who do you think is supporting the Little League? Amazon or Paul’s Photo? (Which also delivers, direct from their website.)

Ponder that the next time you shop from Amazon. I know I will.

A Video Bio

Speaking of the mayor, he was kind enough to invite me to speak to the local Rotary Club this week on Zoom, which was a lot of fun for me. I loved hearing what was on the mind of the members from their tech questions. (“Why are iPhones more popular than Samsungs?” “How much do I need to spend on a good new TV?” “What do you think of HBO Max?”)

In prepping for this, my friend Mimi Bliss suggested I make a video intro, to break up the monotony of the Zoom, and you know me, I ran with it, grinding my career into 3 minutes. Take a look at the intro if you have a minute and let me know what you think!

I don’t need much of a push to yank my old Kermit & Jeff clip out of the closet! Thank you Mimi. And Mayor Montgomery!

Tweet of the week

When you open up your Skype and there’s Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak on the other site of the webcam, that’s a pretty insanely great moment.

My favorite tidbit from the USA TODAY interview, which was pegged to his 70th birthday bash this week: Woz was donating authographed Apple products to a charity, which he would be handing out to children. I asked if Apple made him a deal, and he said no, he paid full retail. But he did learn recently that he qualified for a 10% Apple employee discount.

“Are you still an Apple employee?”

Yes, indeed. He’s been receiving a check from Apple every week since he and Jobs started the company in 1975. For 45 years.

Even though he stepped down from a leadership position eons ago.

More Hi-Jinx

And even if you get tired of seeing our young crazy kat, you’re in-human if this little Jinx doesn’t make you laugh out loud.

More from the beach

Hey gang—I’ve started compiling my morning beach photos into their own unique, monthly galleries. Take a look? Does Manhattan Beach seem different in August than in February? There’s one way to find out.



That’s it for today’s edition. I hope you enjoyed it, will tell all your friends and share it everywhere you go. And don’t forget to shop local this weekend!