Ins and Outs- Sex Shop Edition!


So far on Ins and Outs I have discussed how to choose a cock ring, how to choose a penis pump, and how to choose a condom. Today I’d like to get a little macro and discuss

How to Choose a Sex Shop

At first glance this may seem like an incredibly self-serving topic of exploration, but it was spurred by a sex shop in another city, on the other side of the country, promise!

Yesterday I returned from a visit home, which is to say from the great Back East that so many of us new Vancouverites seem to be simultaneously fleeing and longing for. Every time I am home, one of my first orders of business is to check in at my old haunt and place of work, The Condom Shack. If you’ve spent any time in Toronto, chances are you know the place: purple, adorable, welcoming, tiny. Of Toronto’s several independent sex shops, the Condom Shack is by far the most fun; people of all ages are welcome to come mix and match bulk flavoured condoms and lube, play on the stripper pole, and giggle at the pocket pussies, and boy, do they ever. Walking down Queen Street I was pre-warmed by my memories of the place, and was extremely confused when I stumbled over the sandwich board of one of the biggest and most impersonal “sex shop” big box chains in Ontario (I’ll leave them unnamed, there are several that are very similar), not one city block from my beloved shack!

Major retailers stepping on the toes of the little guy isn’t a new or rare phenomenon, (that’s how they became monster corporations in the first place), but sometimes it takes a personal affront to really see what’s going on. So I’d like to talk, on behalf of all us little guys, about why choosing Local and Independent is actually a really good idea (don’t worry, I’ll talk about sexy stuff too).

Ok, so not to be too Economics 101-y, but money talks, and in the case of buying locally, it extols. Shopping at small, locally owned businesses keeps money in the community, which winds up benefitting not only said shop, but every business that shop’s owners and employees patronize (and if they then shop local….you see?). This leads to bustling shopping streets full of unique businesses owned by the very people who live and shop in the community, which, in its growth, can support new businesses. Everyone wins and the community grows and prospers.

Critics will cite cost as motivation for shopping at chains and big box stores, who, with the advantage of economy of scale, can afford to offer lower prices than local businesses. But consider what those lower prices actually mean. Someone is getting screwed in order to offer LOW LOW PRICES NOW, and it isn’t the CEOs of major retail chains. At the far end of the production scale, it is often the workers who manufacture cheap, mass-produced products who are providing those price cuts to consumers in the form of low wages and unsafe working conditions. However, this is fairly ‘out of sight, out of mind’ to most shoppers, whose own wallet and wages are at the forefront of their mind while deciding what to buy.

Another way chains and major retailers slash prices is by under paying their staff, which means higher turnover and less commitment (who’s going to learn the ingredients of all the lubes for $10.25 an hour?). When shopping at big internet retailers, often there is nothing more than a 1-800 number for customers to turn to for advice. This makes it much easier for consumers to waste money on products they wind up not liking, or that are totally wrong for their particular needs. For a small, independent business, the customers’ complete satisfaction is the one and only thing that keeps them alive. Therefore they put great effort into educating their staff, paying them well in order to retain them long-term, and standing behind the information they impart to their clients. I actually tested this theory while in Toronto, picking up a box of Kimono Ultrathins and saying nonchalantly, “I can use coconut oil with these right?” Yes was their answer. Yes is very much the wrong answer. Product knowledge is indispensable, especially when dealing with questions of sexual health. Every product on amazon claims to be the VERY BEST FOR ABSOLUTELY EVERY NEED ESPECIALLY WHATEVER YOUR THING IS, and that just isn’t true. With educated, long-term employees, you get not only their own personal knowledge, you also get to enter the ongoing dialogue of feedback and experience that can take place in a business small enough to offer real, personal attention.

One more thing, in case you aren’t already convinced (or reinforced!), that I find really neat about small, locally owned businesses, is their ability to carry an eclectic assortment of products, supporting small and local manufacturers and crafts people who have been overlooked by major companies for whatever reason (usually profit related.) How cool is it to be able to carry our very own John Ince's books? Or a Vancouver Island based herbalist's amazing tingling nipple gel? Or a Vancouver chocolatier's delicious dark chocolate penis? Or Vancouver-based Hathor's all natural botanical lube? Or how about two amazing Canadian leather companies? You're not gonna get that kind of cool stuff at big box store. And it doesn't take loads of earth destroying feul to ship it across the world.

Alright people, that's my rant. Keep it in mind when buying all your sexy stuff. See ya next time!