Monday, October 11, 2010

Balancing the Scales

I try to be an ethical shopper.  Not just for my own sense of peace but for the greater good.  I know that I am not perfect and I do not hold myself up as an example but I do feel a sense of responsibility. 

But I am finding in the way our retail society is structured, that is very challenging to balance all the scales and to reconcile all of my interests with one another.

Let me give you an example. 

Currently there is a huge nationwide boycott on against Target (and Best Buy) due to their funding of anti-LGTB rights politicians.

I fully support this boycott and have done zero shopping in there since it began.  For the past several months I have spent my money in other places when I've need an item. Not that I'm desperate but I loved Target so it's taken some adjustment to not default to shopping there. I mean, I remember the first time I went into a Target store in college and haven't stepped foot in a KMart or Walmart since then.  So to go somewhere else, I hope, has been impactful, especially if others are doing the same.

But I'm still tempted.

I was in the store on Friday night (I have a Target card and had to make a payment.  This pains me.) and for some reason decided to walk around.  I probably justified it in my mind as "looking for inspiration" that I would source somewhere else, but more likely I missed walking around the store and seeing what new cute things were there.

I bypassed all the clothes but did go into the tights section.  In 10 minutes I had 3 pairs of tights that I "really needed" and they were so cheap and right there.  What harm would come from spending $15 on some tights?  

I made it around the store, peeking at the Halloween stuff, cosmetics and stationary, and then put the tights back.  I left the store without buying anything. I knew it would be easy to get tights some where else and I will be doing that.

Yeah!  Good work and will power, right?  Well... not so fast...

I'm in another quandary and I'm going to use a particular example.  It does seem ridiculous to give give this so much emphasis but bear with me, I'm hoping for a larger discussion here.

I've been looking for and wanting a black patent purse for over a year.  Being somewhat particular about what I had in mind, I haven't bought anything yet.  I wanted a medium sized bag, simple lines, minimal hardware and cute.  Ideally, I wouldn't have to spend a lot.  Oh, yeah, and not be a knockoff as far as I can tell or be made of animal materials.

Got all that?  No wonder I haven't found anything.

Then I saw the black patent satchel by Mulberry for Target.

Yep, it ticked all the boxes, even the materials and price.  I don't want to spend hundreds of dollars at Mulberry, not that I cared about the brand, just the design.   So it's hitting most of my monetary, desire and ethical boxes.  Except one.


Sigh.  So what to do?  As I mentioned before, I'm not aspiring to be perfect but rather to do the best that I can.  I know that no business is going to be perfect, just like I'm not and I'm not looking for absolution.  Of course I can live with out the purse which would solve the dilemma. I haven't decided either way if I would get it or not.  All of these factor are still being weighed in my mind.  I thought this would be an interesting discussion because I'm curious how you make your own choices.  Do you give yourself a green light if an item has more pros than cons?  Or are you more absolute?

Apartment Therapy has a good article on The Ethics of Shopping Cheap which is a whole other layer to shopping criteria.


Lara said...

Honestly, I've quit caring because you can't win either way.

You boycotted Target for one reason but think about where the things from there are made? They're just as bad as Wal-Mart, just a prettier package. Are we going to boycott everything made in a foreign factory? Some factories treat their employees well. Some don't. How can even begin to research everything when it just says "Made in China, Thailand, Indonesia, etc"?

There's so much underground back-scratchery going on in politics, it blows my mind. How can you possibly know of all the corrupt things you could support from just buying an innocent fruit juice that's owned by one company that's owned by Pepsi who's screwing over indigenous cultures and stealing their spring water and leaving them with nothing. It's everywhere, in everything, in some insidious little way.

Maybe I sound heartless.

I think gays will still be okay on this one, really.

Apparently Target has apologized and plans on making changes. Public outcry seems to have worked... or they'll just get sneakier with their political contributions.

Corey said...

If you're boycotting Target, do it. You don't need another purse. It's just a thing. It's not a life or death decision. Stop agonizing over something so trivial.

Poochie said...

Corey - you may have missed that I was using the individual item, in this case a purse from Target, as an example of a shopping/ethics dilemma.

Thank you for your comment.

Lara said...

I've been thinking about my comment and I sound like a bitch. I do care. I try my darnedest to stay informed. It just makes you feel so defeated sometimes, like nothing you do in some small way is even making a dent in the problem. Sometimes, I just have to throw my hands up because I feel like I could research stuff all day long, get depressed as hell and probably be even more confused than before I started. I love your updates on animal cruelty. I thought I was doing something good by buying cage-free eggs from now on and then, of course they have to screw that up. That's when I feel sad and helpless about everything and say to hell with it.

Poochie said...

Lara - trust me, I know what you feel. It can be very overwhelming and depressing. I just try to think that I'm doing the best I can with what I know.

But yeah, sometimes it just sucks.


TotusMel said...

I don't have as many ethical criteria as perhaps you do, though I do try as well. For me with a family and mortgage, the biggest balancing act is with price. I want to buy ethical, organic and healthy, but each time I'm confronted with a product choice I have to decide if the increase cost is worth it. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. I think the point is to actually give it some thought and by doing so and encouraging others to do so, you make that difference a little at a time.

Sister Wolf said...

1. Corey is a bitch.

2. Everything is tainted unless you buy second-hand from a charity thriftshop.

3. It's better to carry out some positive act - even an act of kindness - than go around thinking you've done your bit for society by boycotting some store.

(Just my opinion vis a vis myself)

Rachel said...

A potential alternative option for you:,74.184&sh=0&pge=0&pgesize=200&sort=-1&clr=Black&MID=35719&affid=2135&siteID=IFCTyuu33gI-U3x.UfpCB84wbVrnUaM7Rg

Poochie said...

Rachel - Thank you! That's pretty!