Shopping Debt

I work right by a mall, and they keep having all these sales, and I keep buying things I don’t need that are probably made by children in Malaysia.

The Wall Street Journal recently had an article about how this year will be the craziest year for price-slashing in American retail history. I believe it.

I went to one store and found a sweater and some underwear I wanted, so I wait in line for 10 minutes to buy it, and then the girl at the counter says, “You know everything in the front of the store is buy-one-get-one-half-off, right?” So, obviously, I had to find something else. And I did. And in the process, I realized I needed another tank top. So I go back up to the counter and the girl goes through my things again and says, “You know these shirts are buy-one-get-one-free.” I grab another shirt. She finishes the transaction and then tells me because I spent over a certain amount (which I will not disclose, let’s just say it was too much), I got a free bag or t-shirt. What the hell? I don’t think I’ve ever gotten so much discounted stuff or free stuff during one shopping trip.

Most people would see this as a good thing, and I can certainly see the upside of it.

But if retailers are slashing prices, where are they cutting corners to make up for the loss of profit? I can tell you without blinking and with complete certainty that it means they’re putting more pressure on their manufacturers in Asia or Latin America or downtown LA even. It means the people who made that insanely soft shirt you want to buy — that you probably won’t be able to wear past December — are the ones who are paying the higher prices.

The problem is, I’m not sure where we draw the line. I am clearly buying into the shopping hype at the expense of others’ well-beings. The only way to stop doing that is to refuse to buy cheap. And most of us can’t afford to do that. Basically, there isn’t enough consumer choice to allow us to make responsible decisions because every company plays into these problems in some way, even the companies that insist they don’t (COUGHAMERICANAPPAREL/IKEA/EVENFAIRTRADESHOPSCOUGH).

I’m just another frustrated consumer.

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