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Acceptance of the Plenty is not indicative of a business's commitment to the local community

By Maclyn Humphrey
Posted Tuesday, June 2, 2009

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Pittsboro, NC - I was disturbed to read the criticism regarding Antonella's and the fact that at this time, they do not accept Plenty as currency.

I do not know Antonella, or anyone who works for her, as far as I know. I do not know anything about that business at all, really, except by looking at the website just now. But I do know how extremely difficult it is to keep a small business open at any time, but especially now, when money is tight for everyone. Anything that jeopardizes, or potentially jeopardizes cash flow for even a few days can be fatal to a small business.

There is a reason that the original Plenty failed to succeed as an alternate, local currency in its previous form. I do not pretend to know the reasons, but I do know what it was like for a business that accepted Plenty, that did almost all of its own business with local vendors, and that had difficulty using the Plenty to procure supplies, make repairs, pay rent, pay utilities, and pay workers, etc.

My husband ran businesses in the Chapel Hill area for more than 30 years. His most recent business was well established and in the same location for more than 21 years. He was very supportive of the Plenty and the concept of buying local, staying local. He always helped other local folks, other local businesses in their endeavors.

But when his business closed last August for the final time, he literally had a drawer full of Plenty that no one would accept for things that he had needed.

We attempted to use that currency personally at locations that supposedly accepted it, like one Pittsboro restaurant, which had a poster in the door declaring that Plenty was accepted there. But no one working at those times even knew what it was, and would not take it.

There are many ways to encourage citizens to shop local, buy local, use local services. Plenty is only one of those ways. Others are to talk with businesses, ask them to use local suppliers, whenever possible, and to make it known to the consumer just how much money leaves our county when folks go to restaurants, buy food, clothing, farm supplies, etc., from other counties
or online.

A community can create a consciousness about doing business locally without the entire emphasis being placed on an alternative currency.

Antonella's, or any other business that cannot figure out how to integrate the new currency into their daily struggle to stay open ought not be condemned. In fact, customers should still whole-heartedly frequent them, and hopefully those businesses will at some point become able to incorporate the Plenty into their business plans.

If consumers punish the businesses that do not use Plenty, then the result will be exactly the opposite of the intent of the Plenty. Local businesses will be driven out of Chatham. Places like Antonella's and Virlie's and whomever else will close, and be replaced by chain restaurants and salons, or not be replaced at all.

Please think about what a business like Antonella's is doing with the money it takes in. The business must pay for electricity, phone, maybe other utilities, that do not accept the Plenty. The business must pay taxes to federal and state governments. The business must pay for licenses to state and local governments. Governments do not accept the Plenty. The business must pay rent. Perhaps it pays insurance. The business must pay for supplies like hair care and skin products, specific utensils, maybe, like scissors, combs, even chairs or shampoo sinks, which more likely than not cannot be purchased in Chatham County. The business must pay employees, who more likely than not do not make a high enough wage to accept Plenty because they too must pay rent, utilities, taxes, or car payments, etc, to vendors or agencies that do not accept Plenty.

Please know that each business has its own unique set of criteria that was used to determine whether or not they can accept the Plenty. A Chatham Marketplace, for example, has a much larger clientele and therefore a larger cash flow, and the more folks who come through, the more will accept Plenty as change or in trade for the local products they sell to the Marketplace. But a small salon just may not be able to do that.

I am not condemning the use of the Plenty in any way. But its acceptance or non-acceptance is not necessarily indicative of a business's commitment to the local community.

Please, everyone. Continue to support our small local businesses, whether or not they are able to accept the Plenty at this time. Respect the decisions of the business owners, who only themselves know the small cash margins that are making or breaking their businesses.

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