Hurricane Michael has come and gone but its destruction is still present. The last six-plus months have been a challenge for many individuals, families and businesses in Jackson County. Shoppers have long been and still are encouraged to shop local by patronizing small businesses as well as larger ones. These businesses all depend on garnering your business in order to stay alive to maintain a sound economy for Jackson County in the hope that it will soon flourish. The slogan “850 Strong” motivated us through the early days of the storm, but it is even more important now that recovery is underway and folks are building for the future.
The Times has had numerous calls from local residents and business owners about what they refer to as “fly by night” businesses. These entities set up on the side of the road, bear no overhead, and are gone just a few days after taking sales away from local businesses. The local brick and mortar businesses pay taxes, pay building permit fees and access fees, but even more importantly, they support our community. They fund FFA projects, support BETA Clubs so they can make state and national conventions, sponsor yearbooks to offset the costs for parents, and constantly support sports programs, including band and cheerleading. These clubs and activities could happen without the many contributions made by businesses in Jackson County. In good times and in bad, local business owners find ways to keep supporting students and their activities.
In recent months, we have had several “Fly by Nighters” come into town, take our citizens’ money and leave to never be heard from again. It makes no difference if it is a washing machine, a tee shirt, jewelry, cars, trucks, or purses that they are selling – whatever the item(s) is, this temporary seller is taking money out of Jackson County in the taxes that would have been collected and contributions that could be made to benefit people in Jackson County. One such business that sold vehicles in Marianna was not a member of the Better Business Bureau; that’s certainly not a crime. However, before you purchase from someone who is NOT brick and mortar, it is sound judgment to see what past customers have said about them. There were 33 complaints found on the BBB website. One former customer said, “I would like the money back from the purchase of this vehicle and an explanation as to why I was not informed of the damage/accident that this car has… I asked if this automobile had been in any accidents and why it was sold with only 11,000 miles on the odometer… I would like to hear what this business (New Wave Auto Sales), has to say. They are also doing business as ALL IN EVENTS”. Of course, the customer who complained has not gotten a response for there is no one here to answer.
Another unhappy customer wrote, “This 2015 Toyota Camry was involved in a serious accident. The front end has damage to the frame and I asked if the car had been in an accident. This car was purchased in Stuart, Florida, December 16, 2018… The damage was pointed out to me from Carmax of Jensen Beach, FL. January 4th, 2019… This car may have hit a wall and then had silver spray paint added over the welding marks where both fenders had been replaced… No notice of this damage or report of an accident was provided by seller… The car : 2015 Toyota Camry, VIN # 4T1BF1FK5FUXXXXXX.” This customer, too, was without any recourse.
The Times also had a lady stop by the office who had purchased a pair of earrings and a ‘designer’ bag in early December from a set up on the side of the road. The earrings sent her to the doctor’s office with an infection. She said she was told the ‘designer’ bag was a knock-off, but she felt could live with that for the price she paid for it. However, the office visit and meds for her ears tallied over $125 (out of pocket). Though these are smaller items, the situation is much the same. The vendor paid no fee, used the roadway, and bilked customers.
A couple of months ago, another vendor was set up at no cost to him, no water hookups, building permits, inspections— nothing. They were selling ‘designer rugs’ yet they contributed nothing to our local schools’ sports teams, FFA chapters, band or cheerleading. They sold rugs for three days, the same or similar rugs offered from brick and mortar businesses here in Marianna. A lady from Sneads called our office and was irate because when she vacuumed her rug the second time it started shredding and coming apart. As bad as I felt for her, I found myself aggravated that the rug could have been purchased from Big Lots, WalMart or other business anywhere within Jackson County. No doubt, the owner/manager would have gladly honored their commitment to the customer.
Support your local businesses— those who support your children, your grandchildren and pay taxes that provide law enforcement, fire and medical assistance and keeps roads in good repair. Talk with those whose businesses or services you may need. As business people, they respect that you want good value for your hard earned money. Contact your city and county commissioners/councilmen and ask them to pass whatever needs to be passed to curtail these temporary vendors taking advantage of locals. Local governments also face many post storm challenges; the fees being lost by not requiring these vendors to pay can be used to help in recovery efforts. It is in the interest of every citizen to help maintain the businesses which support us; support them now so that they can continue to be a vital part of our community at large for many years.