Monday, January 11, 2016

The ugly unethical consumer

The sign said that if I bought one I could buy another of that same for free.  Two for the price of one.

I stood there looking at the colorful packets, for what seemed like an eternity.  I then walked away.

After picking up a few things, I passed by the the same display.  It was too damn tempting.  It has been years since I ate them.  Even now, I can feel the saliva gathering in my mouth as I think about that taste.

I picked up a packet.

And then I did something that killed it all.  I looked at the nutrition label.

I put the packet down.  I checked out.

I reached home and ate a banana instead!

Being a mindful consumer is no fun.

I have blogged in plenty about this mindfulness.  Whether it is about my personal health, or about killing spiders at home, or about recycling or about flying ... the list is endless.  It is tiring, I admit, to always consciously choose something that is "better" than something else that is "worse."  Apparently this is not a typical consumer behavior:
No one wants to knowingly buy products made with child labor or that harm the environment.
But a new study shows that we also don’t want to work too hard to find out whether our favorite products were made ethically. And we really don’t like those good people who make the effort to seek out ethically made goods when we choose not to.
The friend passed along the news item about the research to me.  I wonder if I am supposed to read between the lines there and be less mindful and just live a little! ;)
Researchers have found that a) we’re lazy when it comes to investigating the ethics of our purchases, and b) we resent those who do take the time to research the social and environmental impacts of, say, a six-dollar T-shirt made in Bangladesh, and then opt for a more ethical alternative.
I suppose "ethical consumer" is as much an oxymoron as is "military intelligence" or "social science" ;)

We prefer to be ignorant.  Willfully, intentionally, ignorant.  We work hard to avoid knowing how the sausage is made.

The research findings are shocking statements one after another:
In fact, we denigrate consumers who act more ethically than we do, seeing them as less fashionable and more boring.
Worst of all, seeing others act ethically when we don’t undermines our commitment to pro-social values.
“You choose not to find out if a product is made ethically. Then you harshly judge people who do consider ethical values when buying products. Then that makes you less ethical in the future.”
Seriously? :(

What if the packages had information similar to the nutrition information on the Fritos bag that I put back?
Companies that use ethical practices in producing their products can help by making that information very prominent, right on the packages if possible. People are not going to go to your website to find out your company’s good deeds.
Yeah, right, like that will happen--after all, "business ethics" is an oxymoron!

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