I try very hard to be a conscientious shopper and I believe in the idea of “voting with your dollars”. Many times the act of consumers raising their voices, and withholding their money, has caused change in corporate policy.
However, I’m growing a bit weary as it becomes increasingly clear that there are very few, if any, good choices. I’m tired of feeling guilty when all I’m trying to do is feed and clothe my family. When are we going to stop laying the blame at the feet of the working class and demand that corporate giants be held responsible for their crappy policies?
Yes, consumers have responsibilities but we are often limited by economic and regional factors. I don’t want to buy clothes that may be made in dangerous sweat shops but I also recognize that even dangerous, low paying jobs can be important to families living in third world countries. Or am I just deluding myself with that line of thinking as well? How can I be a conscientious consumer when the lines are so blurry?
Second hand seems like a viable option so I turn to thrift shops. Except that the Salvation Army has some very questionable anti-gay practices and Goodwill is paying workers with disabilities pennies per hour.
So, maybe I should just avoid the label “Made in China”. Except the U.S. economy is dependent on our trade with China because it’s a profitable, albeit complex, relationship for us, not just for them.
Buying local and avoiding big box stores is also a rallying battle cry of the responsible consumer.
Except that large businesses, especially those with responsible labor practices, help pay for all of those things too. I know plenty of parents working for big box companies who depend on that money for their food, dance lessons and mortgage.
People like to believe that these issues are black and white, that if we all simply stop buying from the places with questionable policies then we’ll create a better world. These people have a stronger belief in unchecked capitalism than I do. I still believe it’s important to vote with my dollars but I also believe it’s far more important to actually vote. I’ll be letting my elected representatives know that it’s high time we hold corporations accountable for these policies instead of, once again, piling the responsibility on the backs of the working class.