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Expat saves local community for Christmas

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December 20, 2010 Culture & People 6 Comments

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).

spend locally 1 150x150 Expat saves local community for Christmas

Porchetta - Testaccio Market

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.

spend locally Carmelo Expat saves local community for Christmas

Carmelo D'Agostino

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.

hooker 201x300 Expat saves local community for Christmas

The hooker (not really, My wife)

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.

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Currently there are "6 comments" on this Article:

  1. Rebecca says:

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Great article.

    I can think of one “pet local supplier” right now:

    Wine shop on Viale Aventino (around no 91), which sells a wide variety of wines and always has great special offers.

    • Keith says:

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      Good start.

      And does he sell local wines (not local to Viale Aventino, but lets say Lazio)? It would be a bonus on top of being a local supplier.

      • Rebecca says:

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        I believe he sells local wines. From what I understand, his suppliers are mainly from the region. He’ll say “oh this friend of mine just sent me a lot of this and that wine from his vineyard, it’s really good, and I’m selling it at 6 EUR a bottle”.

  2. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Social Trap. Social Trap said: Expat saves local community for Christmas http://t.co/RsSkiZ3 via @theromejournal [...]

  3. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Very well said and 100% on the money – no pun intended :) We do 95% of our shopping at local, family owned and run stores (I will admit to an occasional trip to the supermarket for specialty items or when I need something and the stores aren’t open). You get the freshest products, the best service and after a few visits you will become part of the extended family.

    Shop owners work very hard, usually six or seven days a week from 8:00 or 8:30 in the morning unitl 8:00 at night with just a few hours break for lunch and these stores often support two and three generations. There is also the intangible benefit in that entire families work in the stores and thus they are kept together. And, the paternal presense in the neighborhoods keeps the kids in check and there are few if any latch-key kids.

    • Keith says:

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      Ah. Bonnie.

      Thanks for your contribution. In fact your article about Ikea or Scavolini (article here)
      was part of the reason for prompting me to repost this. There was a bit of buzz on Twitter such as your article, and then a couple about local food and then another about 0Km (buying locally) that I thought I would throw this back into the pile – it was posted back in December because of my interest in the commercial side.

      Here again you have thrown in another core benefit. Community and the power gives to those involved in it. One of the great things about Italy (more to the Mezzogiorno) is that the community still exists, although, as I will be covering in some future blogs, it is dying in places very quickly (not least because of the financial crisis) and my personal pet peeve is the rapid decline of the Centro Storico of Rome. At the current pace of change it will be full of restaurants and bars and nothing else – without a soul and completely reproducible on the Las Vegas Strip.

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