The entire financial problems in Testaccio were solved in less than 10 minutes last week when an American arrived with 100 euro bill… Here’s what happened.
The American tourist walked into a hotel in Testaccio and asked to see one of the rooms. The hotelier said, “No problem, Signore, but I would like a deposit to give you the key.” So the American placed a 100 euro note on the reception counter and took the key to the room. As soon as he was out of sight, the hotelier grabbed the note and ran down to the market. He paid his bill of 100 euros to the tomato seller who provides tomatoes for his restaurant. The tomato seller ran immediately to the local wholesaler who brings him the tomatoes and paid his debt of 100 euro. The wholesaler went straight to the local service station and paid his fuel bill. The owner of the service station went straight to the local prostitute and paid his bill of 100 euros. The prostitute grabbed the 100 euro and raced straight to the hotel and laid the bill at reception, and said to the hotelier “payment for the room usage”. Gave him a wink and left.
Just then, the American tourist returned from the room and said, “it is nice, but I have decided to move on.” He picked up his 100 Euro note and left.
100 euro brought into the community for 10 minutes, debts of 500 euro paid off, 100 euro leaves the community 10 minutes later. It isn’t a true story, but it could have been. How does that work? Well, I am not going to cover that here (there are many thousands of books on the subject).
But there is a very salient point – to a large degree, it is not all smoke and mirrors – it does work. Money, spent in a local community, helps that community enormously. The most important thing is the suppliers and sellers and everybody is local to that community – in other words, more money stays in that community.
Elenora Baldwin gave a great interview a few days ago. I had a sneak preview before it went out and it inspired me to expand on just how important some of her points were – for additional reasons.
Elenora seemed quite insistent on using local produce, and I quote ” Supporting small, local specialty stores, farmers, butchers, fishmongers, cheese vendors, bread bakers, etc. is not a trendy fad. It’s how it’s been done here, for centuries. Healthy, fresh and local ingredients, traditional preparations, and the calendar define our cuisine. “
Wise words indeed. Buying local produce (and to encompass more, “Buying Locally”) has also become incredibly important economically. If you shop at a remotely owned business like a supermarket chain or restaurant chain etc, an estimated 80% of that money leaves the community – it goes to pay big central suppliers in other communities, and shareholders that can live up to 18,000 kilometres away.
But when you buy local products from a locally owned shop or market, an estimated 80-90% of that money stays right there in the community. And is distributed amongst people who live there and spend there.
In fact, the effect is so powerful, that many small towns have started to develop their own currency. Yes, they print their own money that can “only” be spent in the local community. I have no links to Italian examples (if someone does, please send), but it is being done more and more across Europe. Even Brixton in London has started printing its own money (google “Brixton Pound”). The UK govt has just announced that they will permit local councils to actually create a local bank only for locals and local projects.
If you are like me, and believe one of the greatest things about Rome IS the small shops, local service, markets and fragmentation, and you don’t want to see Chain supermarkets, chain coffee shops, chain Pharmacies, Chain Burger stores dominating every street in your community or through the historic centre, then give a thought to dumping the credit card and the supermarket for Christmas, drag out some cash, and shop at a local supplier. The experience is worth the effort on its own, but you might just save some of these local businesses and help maintain the local character for years to come.
This article isn’t really so much for tourists coming to Rome. More for the locals in Rome, around Italy. If any readers have a “pet local supplier” that you think is worth supporting, then drop it in the comments below so that other readers can make an effort to spend their money with that small business.
My personal favourite is a Tomato seller (Carmelo D’Agostino) in the Testaccio Market. He is easy to find as he “only” sells tomatoes. Things are not going so well for him lately financially. But don’t expect to just buy one of the myriad of varieties of tomato. He will demand to know what you are cooking and will suggest exactly what you need. The first time I approached him I thought a tomato was a tomato… Boy did I learn something that I never would learn in a supermarket.
Dump your credit card, get cash, skip the supermarket and spread your cash around your community.Rate this article by clicking here.
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