Friday, May 17, 2013

Spend more, buy less

I want you to imagine having those cute Gap jeans in a bag in your hand, or that incredibly affordable adorable thing from Target, or whatever cheap thing you found at Walmart, and right in front of you the horrible sweatshop these lovely cheap things came from collapses and 1100 people die. In front of you. You can hear the building crashing down, you can hear the screams, and then you can hear the absence of screams. If this didn't happen on the other side of the world, if you had to acknowledge what you are supporting, would you go home and put on your new stuff?

There is the most basic of safety agreements which has been endorsed by the EU and some US retailers. I have to give credit to Abercrombie, and Calvin Klein, whether I shop there or not. But Target, Walmart and Gap are refusing. I also want to point out that this is only dealing with the most basic of safety measures - emergency exits, fire prevention and sprinklers, buildings that are structurally sound. Not the horrible sweatshop conditions, the poor compensation, nothing but just working in a space which won't directly kill you. Gap at this point has said they will sign if it isn't legally binding, which is of course meaningless. Walmart wants to do "self-inspections". The facility in Bangladesh did self-inspections. The most recent was the day before the building collapsed and 1100 human beings died. So that obviously works well.

So I'm asking you, whether you shop at these stores or not, to email them by going to their sites, clicking on "contact us", selecting the corporate hq option and explaining that you won't shop at a store that isn't willing to commit to the most basic of safety conditions for the human beings who produce their goods. And then, if you do shop in any of these places, stop.

Beyond that, just consider how impossible it is to live on minimum wage here, and how unpleasant the working conditions are. Now multiply that by about a thousand, with no overtime pay, no limit to the number of hours you can be forced to work, and no way to live on the amount of money you're being paid. No, not even in a poor economy. Consider whether you really need all that wonderfully inexpensive, cool stuff. Imagine looking into the eyes of person after person who is providing this trendy junk for you under horrible conditions and consider shopping less, buying local, dropping the concept of being "fashionable" in favor of functional things you'll keep forever and knowing how your products are produced. Consider joining one of the micro bank organizations that fund entrepreneurs internationally and create fair trade businesses (I like kiva, but there are others).  Shop at stores that support fair trade. Spend more, buy less. But more than anything, keep the human cost in your mind.