Tag Archives: holiday shopping

Boycott Black Friday

21 Nov

In the wake of an impressively progressive election season, let’s carry the concept of human rights into the massive holiday shopping season. The constant advertising and promotion for us to shop on Black Friday is enough to make me spit up! Making all those deals happen involves horrific and abusive employment practices.

Workers are being exploited like never before.  Walmarts around the country will be open 24 hours and are holding holiday sales on Thanksgiving itself for the first time.  The situation is so bad that Walmart employees are mounting unprecedented protests and the retail giant is pulling out every dirty trick to try to stop them.  Have you no decency Walmart?

Please consider some simple facts before you surge into the shopping madness this weekend.

  • For you to shop at 2 o’clock, someone has to be there at 1:00 to set up the store; or stay after closing the night before so all the special advertising material isn’t shown before the sale begins.
  • The stores and malls that offer shockingly “great” deals for earlybirds have to be staffed by people, people who should have lives of their own.
  • Most of those retail staff are underpaid; many try to support families on wages below poverty without benefits.
  • Before you shout “But they’ll earn great commissions!” please realize that most retailers drastically reduce commission levels (if they offer them at all) starting on the day after Thanksgiving because it’s “too easy” to earn the extra money being run off your feet by extra hoards of shoppers fighting over the last Tickle Me Bieber–I think I just made myself spit up a little with that one.
  • Many of those workers rely on public transportation, which doesn’t operate during the hours it takes to get to the workplace to staff these special sales. So even if they get commissions or overtime (or just extra work hours), those minimal wages get eaten up with cab fare or parking fees paid while they deprive the rest of the family of the one vehicle they own.
  • You don’t need a bargain so badly that it’s worth going to the store at 4a.m., and an extra 5% off the latest Wii isn’t worth your sleep or your time with your family. Really.

So please join me in saying “NO” to abusive sales practices. If you have any other local choices, stay away from Walmart. While you’re at it, avoid JCPenney, which promised to skip Black Friday back in February but has reneged on that oath.

Times are hard, so shop smart and save where you can. But please remember the thousands of people it takes to get that bargain ready for you, and treat them with human kindness this holiday season.

We the Corporations, In Order to Form a More Perfect Profit…

23 Jan

That doesn’t sound quite right.

Eleven score and fifteen years ago, our forbearers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in greed, and dedicated to the proposition that most should toil for the bottom line while few profit mightily.

Still off, isn’t it?

Ask not what your company can do for you, but what you can do for your company!

Okay, I suspect you get the picture. Are we a nation of citizens or a nation of companies? The two ought not be mutually exclusive, but which has primacy? When laws are made and cases decided, where does the privilege lie? One look at the shrinking middle class, the power of the lobby, and corporate greed even in the face of shameful behavior nearly toppling the economy gives us the sad answer.

The highest court in the land ruled not just that companies were effectively people, but that they had even more powerful rights to anonymously influence our elections. People run for office without any understanding of minimum wage, proudly pushing unfunded tax cuts while dodging their own taxes.

You have meddled with the Primal Forces of Nature!

When one of the few truly liberal journalists in the country suddenly announced that he was terminating his show, people widely assumed it was because of the new corporate masters. Our media certainly are not left-wing, but, other than FOX, few are aggressively right-wing. They are a strange mix of sinister timidity because they are driven by corporate desire for profits. We are truly living out Mr. Jensen’s dream.*

The bread-and-circuses media and the crumbling educational system leave us stultified and ill-prepared, little better than yahoos, distracted by shiny baubles while living miserable, petty lives.

So what can one person do in the face of these pressures? Hit them in the bottom line. Don’t spend money at places who use that money against your best interests. Pay attention to where you shop and what it means in the bigger scheme of things. Just as the accumulation of votes, one citizen at a time, elects our leaders, the reduction of profits, one refused purchase at a time, puts pressure on the corporations.

It takes time and effort to learn what corporations are up to. It takes some fortitude and a little sacrifice to give up a favorite store. It also takes compromise, since like people, corporations are seldom all good or all bad. Besides the usual suspects like Wal-Mart, find out which corporations spend against civil rights and don’t give them your money. (Are you listening Chik-Fil-A, Target, McDonald’s, Gold’s Gym?) Look at the regular business practices of the companies you patronize and shop accordingly. Does a retailer abuse employees just to run big sales around the holidays? Go somewhere else!

It’s easy to feel resigned, that one person’s efforts are meaningless. But the actions of a single person, living with integrity, accumulate. We can only be powerful together if we choose to be powerful individually.

*  Just for fun, I searched Google for “olbermann mad as hell” just for the past 24 hours and found over 44,000 hits. Coincidence? I think not.

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