Consumers should evaluate vendors’ politics, actions before making purchases

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Cash or credit?

When buying consumer goods now days, it almost seems like “method of payment” is the only real decision left up to the consumer.

With low prices and convenience at the top of consumer’s priorities – sales, coupons, and “everyday low prices” are increasingly dictating consumer’s purchases.

While the use of sweatshops, poor labor practices, malicious business tactics, political standing and harsh environmental ramifications can influence a choice in product or vendor, if this consciousness lay barrier between consumers and the hottest new product, or the lowest price, these factors easily go ignored.

However, it is time consumers take a stand.

Due to the recent Supreme Court decision in Citizens United vs. FEC that has made it easier for corporations to wield their political influence, consumers’ choice in where they shop and what they buy, more than ever, influence the world around us.

At the end of this past summer, Target, the national “big box” retailer, donated $150,000 to the Republican candidate for governor in Minnesota, who is not only pro-business but also anti-gay.

Liberal communities outraged by the political donation rallied boycotts across the country. Even more moderate institutions protested, including our neighbor Washington University, which canceled a back to school event that was planned at Target, in reference to the political donation.

It is clear that Target is not anti-gay. It is one of few national retailers that provide domestic partnership benefits to same-sex couples and it includes sexual orientation in its non-discrimination policy. Furthermore, both Target and Best Buy, the national electronic store that also donated $100,000 to the same candidate, have apologized about the donations and have stated they do not support all of the viewpoints of the candidate.

Nonetheless, this issue is not about gay rights, these corporations could have donated to any political candidate and there would have been the same effect.

The message that needs to be sent to these corporations, is that they have no business pandering in our democracy. Thanks to these boycotts both Target and Best Buy suffered loss of revenue, investor backlash, and defamation of public image.

That is only because consumers spoke out with their wallets. Now that Target’s and Best Buy’s attempt at getting a business edge back fired as a grave business misstep, any consumer goods manufacture or store will think twice before soliciting its political opinions.

Moral of the story: when shopping, the only direct question a store will ask consumers is “cash or credit,” but in reality by swiping that credit or handing over the cash, consumers are endorsing businesses and products: their business practices, their community involvement and now, their political views.

In the world we live in, where big business is top dog, we are obligated as consumers to educate ourselves and use our buying power.

A few dollars at the grocery store can ensure healthier food and ecological farming tactics buying locally grown food, a few cents on electronics can guarantee electronic are conflict mineral free ensuring minerals are not from war stricken Congo, thus saving live.

However, if consumers ignore these opportunities to buy consciously, companies have no motivation to do the moral and right thing.

So, the next time you are asked “cash or credit,” think twice about whom you are supporting.

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