Should You Buy from People Like You?

others like you

Depending on where you live, you may see copies of Christian business directories, the most well known of which is The Shepherd’s Guide, in businesses around town. Though the stated purpose of such directories is couched in loftier terms, their basic goal is to promote businesses owned by Christians to Christian customers, encouraging people to buy from others like themselves.

This idea is not unique to the Christian community. A former boss, who is a lesbian, told me that when she and her partner were house hunting, their friends encouraged them to use a particular realtor because she was “family” — another lesbian. They were perfectly happy with their own realtor, who was heterosexual, so they bought through her, but they had encountered the same underlying idea that we should buy from people like ourselves.

Those who encourage you to buy from businesses owned by others in your ethnic, faith, or cultural group do have some legitimate reasons. For one, you may be more likely to trust someone who holds similar values to your own. When you come from the same background, you are less likely to have a misunderstanding about how business should be done. If you are part of a group that has faced particular disadvantages or discrimination, buying from others within your group may also give you a feeling that you are helping someone else overcome the same issues you have faced. Perhaps the best reason to buy from people like you is the assurance that the money you spend won’t be going directly to a cause you don’t support as soon as it leaves your hands.

At the same time, buying from people like you has several disadvantages. Most obvious is the fact that you might not get the best product, the best price, or the best customer service if you limit your search to a small percentage of businesses (only those who advertise in a Christian directory or are a part of the GBLT community, for example). A bit less obvious, but perhaps more important, is that by keeping your money within your own community, you miss opportunities to build relationships with people who are not like you.

I personally tend to look for the best deal, regardless of who is offering it. If I learn that a business is owned by someone like me, great — we have something in common. But I would gladly buy from someone who came from a different background, too. I would, however, be reluctant to purchase something from a company whose core values were obviously advertised and in direct opposition to my most passionate beliefs. Even if I knew that most of the money I spent would go to running the business and allowing the owners/employees to buy necessities and other non-controversial things, I would be bothered by that small portion of my purchase that would be spent to oppose a cause or belief dear to my heart.

When you have to choose, is it more important to you to support others like you or to get the best value? Your answer might vary based on individual circumstances. Ask yourself whether the benefits of buying from someone with a similar background or beliefs is worth the additional money you might spend by not shopping around. Ask yourself whether the differences between you and the business owners are ones that really matter. Ask yourself whether you feel comfortable indirectly supporting a cause promoted by a particular business. The decision is one worth thinking about. In the end, the opportunity either to support someone like you or to build a relationship with someone different from you may add more value to the deal than the actual product or service you purchase.

Image courtesy of [phil h]

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8 Responses to Should You Buy from People Like You?

  1. Zachary says:

    Christians buying only from other Christians seems to be antithetical to the idea of outreach to the broader community and to those who are not Christians. Christians are called to be missionaries to a lost world, not to isolate themselves from that world.

  2. Will says:

    To me, one of the biggest drawbacks to the “buying from people like you” concept is that when in that cocoon, people’s defenses tend to be lowered, and they give their “peers” the benefit of the doubt.

    Scammers are, of course, privy to this. Regularly, stories break of running scams targeting those communities.

    That’s why I favor getting the best deal over buying from my peers. As long as you don’t go contrary to my belief and values, you stand as good a chance as the next person.

  3. Rachel @ Master My Card says:

    I must say that I tend to look for the best deal regardless of the company background too. I see no reason why people are less likely to be scamming me just because they are similar to me in any way.

  4. Great post — I hadn’t really thought about this before.

    I definitely believe in networking with people that share common interests, but yet something about this just doesn’t sit right with me. I guess the problem is that you then limit yourself in order to give preference to people that you don’t necessarily even know, but who stand out because they share something in common — and maybe not even that much in common. Also, I’m not a big fan of preferential treatment based on things like religion, politics, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. On the other hand, though, I think we all do give certain groups preferential treatment, even if we don’t realize it.

  5. Cortni says:

    I wouldn’t necessarily buy from people who “advertise” that they are part of a specific group because first of all, they could be lying just to get some business from a certain group of people and secondly, just because they are a certain race, religion or even age gender doesn

  6. grendle says:

    I always buy from people like me. If you can’t trust those that are like you, who can you trust? Besides, those like us understand what we want more than others.

  7. Miranda says:

    Here in Utah you see people buying things from or getting “inside tips” all the time, since there is a fallacy that if we’re all LDS together, we’re not going to be cheated.

    While it is nice to be able to buy from someone with similar values and interests, it isn’t always the best thing. And, of course, one always has to be on guard for those who pose as “like you”, but really aren’t.

  8. Russ says:

    I would have difficulty limiting myself to my own peer group on purchases for the same reason that I would not hire a bunch of colleagues or employees that think the way I do. I thrive on the exchange of differing ideas. If I waslooking for someone who thinks like me to make the decision, the contact, the phone call, or whatever, I would do it myself. There is a certain advantage in working with someone with different ideals and beliefs. They look at things a different way and see things of which I could never dream.

    To me, major purchases – such as a house or vehicle – should be made with the assistance of someone with a differing point of view.

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