Today, consumers often strive to adhere to ethical shopping practices. Most people agree it feels good to know you’ve treated others with the same respect and consideration you appreciate receiving in your own business dealings. Yet defining ethical shopping practices spans a spectrum ranging from very clear cut situations to controversial, disputed issues. This complex subject sometimes defies easy answers. Embracing some basic guidelines may help make it easier to discern ethical shopping practices:
1. Don’t Steal
Today, merchants face challenges as a result of customer misbehavior. Many companies have implemented expensive security measures because some patrons engage in unethical (and illegal) behavior with distressing frequency. Crime adds to the expense of conducting business. It ultimately raises the cost of goods and services for everyone, including the vast majority of customers who never shoplift or commit fraud. Reportedly, some retailers lose thousands of dollars daily as a result of customer dishonesty.
2. Don’t Exploit
Many consumers desire not to support the exploitation of others in the global marketplace through their purchases. The Fair Trade Movement strives to raise public awareness about working conditions around the world. This efforts seeks to promote greater economic equity by asking consumers in developed nations to pay more for goods they obtain from third world producers. The extent to which ethical shopping requires adhering to Fair Trade today sparks controversy in some quarters.
3. Don’t Allow Others to Mistreat You (or Third Parties) Either
Yet another aspect of ethical shopping relates to commercial practices which directly or indirectly mistreat anyone. For example, as a consumer, do you ever ignore an incorrect billing statement? If a clerk accidentally charges less for an item than the sales price, and you catch this error, paying the difference protects the merchant from unintended losses. Similarly, if a clerk overcharges at checkout, the mistake essentially cheats the customer. Ethical shopping may require you to speak up about issues which make other people uncomfortable. Disagreements sometimes arise over the extent of a shopper’s duty to take action. These murky issues may relate to labor practices, to marketing campaigns, to product safety, or to a host of related concerns. Do you patronize businesses which remain open during national holidays, requiring employees to miss important family commitments? Do you ever buy products at stores carrying goods produced by low paid prison labor? Should consumers boycott businesses marketing unhealthy products, (such as cigarettes)? Differences of opinion frequently arise concerning ethical shopping practices!
The Golden Rule
Ethical consumers create prosperity for themselves and others. They seek to embrace the Golden Rule in their daily lives. While discerning ethical shopping practices proves challenging sometimes, this effort matters!