Read before you shop

I realize Black Friday has come and gone, but if you want to know where not to shop this year, check out this article from the Washington Post.

The gods of greed and consumerism don’t play fair.

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4 Responses to Read before you shop

  1. Gabe says:

    Not to jump all over this but…

    I understand that the conditions of these people is certainly not ideal, but how would running Walmart (or any large company) out of business help them? There seems to be no shortage of workers at places like this, which indicates that even working under poor conditions is better in their minds than the alternative. So if Walmart (or whoever buys their product) is gone, how are they helped? They no longer have any work.

    And if Walmart is making so crazy much money off of these people, why doesn’t any competitor to Walmart offer them more money and take their products at a better price, giving them better work conditions, and run Walmart out of business?

    I admit I don’t have the answers to those questions, I’m just raising them. I question if this opinion piece isn’t a bit skewed, as some of their evidences seem a little thin from my perspective.

    As for those workers in the good old USA who don’t get paid enough, don’t they have the freedom to seek better employment? Why should it be our business to force Walmart to pay its employees more money? Why shouldn’t it be incumbent upon the “mistreated” worker (in a land of freedom and opportunity that is) to seek better conditions, wages, etc?

    Of one thing I am certain. Greed is found everywhere, but in the current climate the only ones called on it are those who have the most money.

    • joshnisley says:

      Thanks for interacting with the issue. For whatever it’s worth here’s a point by point response (I’ll try to be brief).

      Your first point (or question) acknowledges the poor conditions but suggests that it’s better than no work at all. Probably true, but this is precisely the problem. Businesses which can afford better conditions, but don’t because of the poverty of its employees are taking advantage of a bad situation. At some point this becomes exploitation.

      I’m afraid I don’t know enough about the corporate world to answer your second question. However, as the article mentioned, other companies have found ways to keep prices low and make profits without skimping on safety.

      I agree–American workers have more options than many foreign workers. But we still have poor people among us, and successful companies should pay fair wages instead of contributing to the cycle of perpetual poverty.

      The foundational issue here is ethics in the marketplace. Responsibility comes with power. We expect responsibility from those with political power; we should expect it from those with market power. The Bible has much to say about the relationship between the rich and the poor.

      Which brings me to my decision to buy a minimal amount of goods from Wal-Mart. My purchasing power as a market participant, small as it may be, contains an ethical dimension. I know enough about the business practices of Wal-Mart (foreign and domestic) to know that I would rather buy from someone else. I’m not participating in protests, nor am I organizing boycotts of Wal-Mart. I’m not trying to run Wal-Mart out of business. I just hope loss of business eventually translates into a reformation of business practices.

      “Greed is found everywhere…” I couldn’t agree more which is why I reject the philosophy of lowest-price-at-whatever-cost. Even most secular programs aimed at reducing economic disparity are driven by greed.

      This wasn’t brief. Opinions come cheap these days. I hope mine is more than just opinion. Thanks again for interacting.

      • Gabe says:

        Perhaps if I were as convinced as you seem to be that Walmart is in fact playing Robin Hood in reverse I would agree with your final conclusion. I simply can’t get over the fact that this article is an opinion piece, and the author seems determined to assume that Walmart is guilty of the worst business practices. There is no third party proof given as evidence for the authors conclusion. Beyond that, the fact that Walmart has not been cited is given as proof of just how bad they are!

        I grant that Walmart, as well as other large companies probably does get away with, and do exploit people to some extent at least, due to their overwhelming market power. I’m not naive enough to think that they are as clean and pure as the wind driven snow! However, it seems that this article doesn’t give a very balanced perspective.

        I’m not trying to be argumentative, nor trying to excuse exploitation. Frankly, I’d much rather shop at my hometown hardware over Walmart or other stores every time. And so I do. I really don’t care about Walmart at all, I just think they get blamed for the same things other companies do, since they (being at the top) are the easiest target.

  2. rosanna says:

    being willing to pay a fair price at small local stores supports businesses that give their employees a living wage.

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