So yesterday, I posted a status on my Facebook. It was "Wal-Mart + Labour Day = Really Bad Idea!!" It was unbelievably busy there, yesterday! It was like it was Boxing Day there. Busier, in fact! Unfortunately it was unavoidable because I had a prescription that needed filling and Wal-Mart is the cheapest option. To the uninitiated, Facebook has this feature that will sometimes show you your status (or a friends' status) from exactly a year ago. I put that post up to A) Warn people to stay away from Wal-Mart that day, to save them a headache and B) To serve as a reminder in case I or my partner gets a thought to go to Wal-Mart next year on Labour Day to stay the hell away.
Turns out this status was incredibly controversial. A well meaning friend of mine took issue with the fact that we spend our money at a place like Wal-Mart. Other friends, and myself, defended our decisions to shop there. It wound up being rather heated, so I thought that maybe this is worth a blog post.
I don't think too many people actually like to shop at Wal-Mart. So often, I see friends posting on their Facebook that they have to go shopping at Wal-Mart and ask us to wish them luck. Alternatively, I will see posts where they returned from Wal-Mart and they're asking themselves (on Facebook) just what they were thinking going there. I imagine, if people actually enjoyed shopping at Wal-Mart, the website People of Wal-Mart wouldn't be nearly as popular. You don't see websites like People of Superstore, People of Sears, People of Zellers. Shopping at Wal-Mart carries a certain social stigma.
We all know, that Wal-Mart is more concerned with lining their coffers than they are with supporting fair trade, local businesses, ethical business practices. We all know this. The fact of the matter is: due to the current financial climate, aforementioned questionable/unethical business practices of big box stores, inability to work/find work, etc. many of us are in a position where we need to weigh our need to support our family and make every dollar stretch as far as possible with our need to stand on ethical/moral high ground. When you're living from paycheque to paycheque or worse, you can't afford to have morals. You're not proud of that, you don't say it out loud, but it's the truth.
In an ideal world, we'd be able to afford to shop locally. We'd buy our books from the small bookstores (and those bookstores would be able to stock the books that we wish to buy), we'd buy our clothes from local boutiques (and those boutiques would be able to sell clothes in all sizes), we'd buy our groceries from local grocery stores (and they'd be able to afford to stock the shelves with what we need/want at a competitive price, and we wouldn't have to go to one store to buy produce, another to buy meat, another to buy bread.. so on and so forth. I find it hard to argue the ethics of shopping locally, when you're driving from store to store to store wasting fuel and polluting the earth with the exhaust from your vehicle), and we'd be able to ALSO rail against big box stores' and their refusal of fair trade practices.
Having said that, when the choice is my child's well being or someone else's well being the decision will just about always be my child. Maybe, just maybe, choosing my child will enable him to grow up and go into a profession that provides him with the means and/or opportunity to defend those (possibly even those making wares for Wal-Mart and their ilk) who need defending.
I can live with that, and my child won't want for food, clothing and shelter.
I have attached links that provide those with the means to donate to organizations that focus on putting an end to child labour, articles about child labour, support fair trade practices, and a list of articles that list items made using fair trade practices. It's a short list so far but please, if you know of other links that will help educate consumers or aid in the fight for fair trade and a stop to forced/child labour let me know, and I will add it to the list.
Save the Children - India
Where to buy Fair Trade products