Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hidden Costs

So I've alluded to this in a previous post but the primary reason I'm participating in the 30 for 30 challenge is my desire to increase my awareness of consumer related issues. We are all consumers; it can't be avoided and I feel that the biggest power we all hold in our lives is our money, regardless of how much you have. Every time you buy something you are casting a vote, telling the industry that you like this item and they will in turn keep doing what they're doing.

However, with great power, comes great responsibility (yeah, I went there) and I want to be aware of where my money is going and what it is supporting. What are the hidden costs of my purchase? After learning of Walmart's unethical business practices, I swore off Walmart three years ago. Sure, I've been in a Walmart since (tagging along with people) but I have probably spent no more than $50 at Walmart in those three years. ($50? Don't judge. Walmart happened to be the only store open {surprise surprise} on NYE 2011 when I desperately needed food for unexpected {the best kind :-S} guests) Here is a summary of why, as stated by Green America, Walmart is the epitome of unethical big business:

"Wal-Mart, which has become both the face of big box retailers and of corporate irresponsibility, has been found guilty of violating federal and state wage laws by forcing employees to work unpaid overtime and child labor laws in the United States; Wal-Mart does not provide health insurance for its workers, forcing many to seek government assistance and costing taxpayers millions of dollars; Wal-Mart also closed a Canadian store whose workers were on the verge of becoming the first ever to win a union contract from the company. " Source

Do I really want to help support that? More recently, I've sworn off Forever21. I have also begun to research my favorite brands to ascertain whether I should continue supporting them (and looking cute in their stuff). While I love a good deal and retailers such as Walmart and Forever21 can certainly deliver, the overall cost of the product goes far beyond what comes out of my pocket. How are the workers producing these products being treated? Are they being paid fairly? Do they have benefits? If companies can't answer these questions favorably or don't want to answer them, then they should not get my money.

You can visit the Green America website where they have graded major retailers based on their ethics. As I said, this is a work in progress for me and I'm learning something new every day. I will say that phasing out unethical companies is difficult when I feel like there aren't enough ethical retailers to replace them with. I do think that as consumers start demanding fair treatment for retail workers (especially overseas) then more options will present themselves.

 What about you guys? Will the unethical behavior of companies stop you from giving them your business?


1 comment:

  1. Well, I like to be brief and to the point so here is my answer, "Oh yes!"