I wrote a comment on the story The Squeeze: Have you become an ‘insourcer’? this morning, but after thinking about it a bit more I’ve decided that I want to open up the conversation a bit further.
Please read the original post for context prior to continuing here. It’s a good article and Peter St. Onge raises some solid points, but there is one assumption that I feel needs to be called out and addressed.
The basic gist of the story is that people are reducing their expenditures for services like lawn care, house cleaning and car repair due to the downturn in the economy. That makes sense, it’s a natural reaction, and a responsible one. But I take issue with the idea embodied in the following quote:
Oakley tells The Squeeze that behaviors like insourcing – productive and self-improving as they might feel – aren’t deep-rooted. When the conditions that cause behavior change, “consumers will return to natural tendencies,” he says.
If all of that makes us sound … weak, well, we are who are we are. But there’s possibility for change.
Peter St. Onge
Wow. That’s not how I view it at all. Using a service isn’t necessarily a a sign of weakness – it’s trading money for time. It provides the opportunity to focus on subjects and projects that are and challenging. It affords the chance to grow personally.
Not mowing a lawn does not make one weak. Watching TV instead of mowing the lawn makes one weak. That’s an important distinction.
Yes, there is definitely a point where the cost of a service is too high which is multiplied if there is the risk of financial instability as we now face, but it’s dangerous to assume that the idea of using a service as a whole is bad.
One commenter noted that Walmart stopped selling thread because people “don’t do things anymore”. That’s odd, I know people who knit, sew their own dresses, woodwork, build robots, barbecue (woot!), restore their houses, build bikes and do many other projects. They don’t go to Walmart for materials because Walmart doesn’t provide the level of quality they need. People do stuff, they just have better sources for their materials than a giant retailer. Walmart finds it more profitable to encourage customers to buy a finished product than to sell components, so it makes sense that they’re modify shelf-space accordingly.
Pieces like this are frustrating because the core premise is interesting (how people change their behaviors during tough times and whether or not those behaviors will become ingrained is fascinating), but it’s quickly derailed by false assumption that we as a species, country or community are lazy.
Not being interested in lawn care doesn’t make me lazy. I’d prefer to spend that amount of time thinking about the tools I want to build, the communities I want to improve and the challenges I want to beat.
What money-for-time trades do you make? Which will you hold onto the longest and which is the first to drop?