This morning I had to run an errand up on 86th St. and Lexington Avenue. On the way, I stopped to get a mini bagel at a place on 86th and 1st. After waiting on the line for over 10 minutes, it was finally my turn to order. “Mini-bagel with cream cheese,” I said to the clerk.
“A mini bagel with cream cheese is the same price as a regular one.”
Wait, what? This may seem silly, but bear with me since I’m going to get to the bigger point in a minute.
In typical New Yorker fashion, I shouted back over the counter, “That doesn’t make any sense! Why would a bagel half the size cost me the same price?”
He responded, “That’s our policy, would you like a regular bagel instead?”
I retorted, “No, I don’t want a regular one. I’m trying to watch my carbs, but I am also not paying the same price for a mini bagel as a regular bagel costs.”
He replied, “Well, that’s the price.”
So, I walked out. There are 5 more bagel stores in a 5 block radius that sell mini bagels for less than the price of a regular one, and for a long time, I’ve been a fan of putting my money where my mouth is. In this case, in a literal sense.
Getting to the bigger picture. For the past few years, I’ve made it my goal not to shop at places where I disagree with the corporate policy. Generally speaking, I make an effort to shop at small mom and pop businesses as much as possible. Now, this isn’t always feasible — even in NYC where there is an abundance of locally owned small business — so I admit on occasion I do venture into corporate America land. Really, what makes it so difficult not to feed the beast is that almost every product sold these days in the US is produced by one of ten big corporations: Kraft, Coca-Cola, Pepsico, General Mills, Kellogg, Mars, Unilever, Johnson and Johnson, P&G, and Nestle.
However, with that being said, I find that the best way for me personally to show that I disagree with the actions a corporation takes, is to simply not shop there and not buy their products. If I am truly against something a corporation does, then why should I give them my hard earned money?
I haven’t been to a Wal-Mart in approximately 7 years, maybe more, but its been so long I can’t even remember exactly how long its been. I’d rather pay a little more elsewhere than give my money to a corporation that screws its employees in every way and at every opportunity they get. For example, according to the Daily Kos, “Walmart earns over $15 billion per year in pure profit.”
“Wal-Mart’s poverty wages force employees to rely on $2.66 billion in government help every year, or about $420,000 per store. In state after state, Wal-Mart employees are the top recipients of Medicaid. As many as 80 percent of workers in Wal-Mart stores use food stamps.Walmart’s employees receive $2.66 billion in government help every year, or about $420,000 per store.”
I haven’t had a Papa John’s pizza in several years either. Mind you, real NYC pizzeria pizza is much better (and if you are ever vacationing in NYC you would be a fool not to eat it), but ever since the CEO of Papa John’s, John Schnatter, announced that he would make his employees part time to avoid paying for their health insurance — and raise his prices — the deal was sealed. Never again.
Same goes for Whole Foods. While I like their stance on GMO labeling, ever since their CEO equated Obamacare to fascism, I haven’t shopped there either. I have the option (although I realize not everyone does) of going to Fairway, the Union Sq. Green Market, Trader Joes, or many other stores instead.
See, I just cannot stand giving my money to employers that underpay and underappreciate their employees. Wal-Mart, Papa John’s, McDonald’s, Whole Foods, et al. I’m looking at you.
Furthermore, anyone who thinks that there “isn’t a better way” because all companies have a goal of turning a profit and a fiduciary duty to their shareholders to do so, need not look any further than the business models of Costco, Starbucks, Google, et al. Yes, they are big corporate entities, but not all of them are completely evil. These companies make a tad bit less (and still bring in a fortune) but they do not do it on the backs of their employees. So yes, it can be done. There is a better way.
Also, it should be noted that a happy, decently paid, somewhat appreciated employee will work harder — thereby helping to increase both productivity and overall profits.
Instead, corporations like the ones I named above would rather spend billions to go around the regulations, then to just comply with them. Their business models are designed to maximize profits at all costs, even if it means screwing the very people that make them rich. More importantly, when these employers cut corners on decent wages, the taxpayers end up having to pick up the slack with food stamps, Medicaid, and other public benefits. It’s not right, it’s not fair to the taxpayers, and truthfully, unless we change Congress they’re not going to fix it.
So, what can we do? Well, there’s an obvious solution. If we really want corporate welfare to end, it needs to be done by enacting stricter minimum wage laws and ending subsidies and corporate tax deductions that are only available to large corporations. The only way for this to happen is for Congress to act, and the only chance of that happening is if we change Congress. So for starters, we need to get out there in 2014 and vote for candidates who are willing to stand up to big business and do what is right for the American people. However, since the 2014 election is still over a year away, for right now we need to put our money where our mouth is — and stop giving it to the corporations we despise.