A few of you may be aware that for the last two years my wife and I have been operating a little pack&ship store. It’s been convenient in a lot of ways. Among other things, I live in the country and can’t get high-speed Internet without spending Big Buck$. Here in town, the cable company provides it at a fairly reasonable rate, and I needed it anyway for sending shipping data to the companies.

The original concept was that it would pay for itself, plus or minus a bit, and provide Bobbe with a way to get out and meet people, and me with a storefront and Internet access for various purposes. Then, first, Bobbe got sick; she’s now almost blind and gets around shakily with a walker, so she can’t do much at the store. That nails my feet to the ground, and as my former primary expertise requires travel to make any money, it cut severely into my income.

Then came the “economic slowdown” <harrrk! spit!> and a push for Internet marketing.

Look, I don’t pretend to be an excellent manager, and the store’s location is and has been bad — well away from the economic center of the town, where few people become aware of it. But the result has been that for the last two months the store has grossed a little under half what it needed to keep the rent paid and the lights on, and I can’t keep it up.

What’s been especially galling is the opportunists. (Yes, I know, this is the bitch of every retail merchant about the Internet. Whinge whine snivel.) People get on the net and go to the shipping companies, or set up their own accounts, and discover Woot! That guy’s overcharging out the ass! I can save a lot of money by doing it directly! So they set it up — and discover that OOPS! the shipping companies charge for one-time pickups (around $10 to $15, depending on the company). Oh, well, no problem — I can just drop it off at that guy’s store! For the last two months, such “dropoffs” have been over half, sometimes as much as three-quarters, of my daily package volume. My contract requires that I accept them for pickup, and three months later I get $1 for each one. Whoopee do.

So the store will close Oct. 5, the day the Internet connection goes away, or before that if somebody else cuts the water off first. I think we can squeeze by on horse boarding and Bobbe’s Social Security, at least until the inflation hits and wipes everybody out, but damn this would be a good time to see some tipjar hits. If there’s anybody who’d like to buy a nice Mettler Toledo scale, an HP 3390 multifunction copier with no document feeder ($20 from HP), a cheap Casio cash register, or a Hypercom credit card terminal so old it uses NCR paper for copies, and is close enough (west of Fort Worth) to come pick them up, that would be good, too. I’ve also got an old Canon copier/fax, a couple of obsolete car GPS units, and some other stuff, if you should want it.

The EBayers and local businesses who’ve been leeching off me will now have a twenty-mile drive to leech off somebody else, which will give them plenty of leisure to congratulate themselves on their savings.