Tag Archives: 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.


Shop Your Conscience: The 2011 Buying for Workplace Equality Guide

6 Feb

Spend to Support Your Community

The Human Rights Campaign has just released its 2011 buyers’ guide. This powerful tool rates companies on their treatment of LGBT employees and, by extension, consumers. The HRC has continued to refine its criteria, creating a very complex picture of corporate responsibility toward the LGBT community. It includes protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity, benefits provided, and actions taken that harm equality. The HRC prefaces its guide in this way:

Corporate social responsibility has become an imperative for a successful business. With Buying for Workplace Equality, we hope to harness that power by providing you with the most accurate review of a business’s workplace policies toward LGBT employees.

Take a look before you shop and compare similar companies.

  • Going grocery shopping? Whole Foods has a respectable 85, Trader Joe’s an embarrassing 15
  • Stocking up on other household goods? Costco rings up a 100, Wal-Mart crashes its cart at 40
  • Need home and garden supplies? Home Depot scores 85, Lowe’s a dismal 15
  • Want coffee and a snack? Starbucks is a perfect 100, Krispy Kreme a curdled 15
  • Going running? Nike just does it at 100, Adidas/Reebok limps in at 15

Some companies are a bit more difficult to judge. The recently infamous Target, for example, gets a perfect 100, but loses 15 points for its nefarious political contributions; the net 85 is still a very respectable score. Perhaps a decision based on where your local Target puts its contributions is a good strategy.

Even if LGBT rights aren’t your personal top barometer, this is a useful indicator of the employee friendliness and overall corporate responsibility of the places you shop. Looking at GoodGuide’s Vote With Your Dollars, companies that rate highly on the HRC list also do well in other categories. In an age of increasing corporate greed, it is very helpful to have a good place to turn when looking for the best places to shop, bank, and dine.

Of course, not every company can be found. HRC started with 1800 and has rated 615 so far. They will not provide even an unofficial rating (compiled without the help of the corporation) until they’ve done extensive research. Looking at the companies that are rated, however, I’m pleased to see how well our local companies do. Starbucks, Microsoft, Amazon.com, Costco, and Nike all score 95 or better.

While the HRC isn’t always perfectly responsive to the full LGBT community, they deserve thanks for their hard work and extremely useful information on this topic.

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