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Vote with your dollar.

That’s what people say when confronted with the social impact of consumerism. Everything from widespread health problems to appalling working conditions can be solved simply by choosing not to buy something. The onus is not on the corporations for behaving so unethically, but you for buying from them, regardless of how much of their behaviour is known or reported or how prevalent it is in the industry itself.

Look, I know people want to feel empowered. They want to feel like they can actually make a difference. This is the appeal of such a slogan: it’s simple, yet sounds effective. But really, why would they pay any attention to that one person that didn’t bother buying their product for every 100 (likely far more) that did? They don’t even hear why you didn’t buy it, so what difference is there between you and that person that simply wasn’t interested? Of course, proponents will cite strength in numbers to cut through profit margins. Well, good luck with communicating and convincing that many people. And again, they’re not going to know why unless you tell them, so it would be easier to go with protesting than relying on the dollar “vote” if you’re serious about making a difference.

On a related note, there’s this trend of corporations to look charitable by getting you to buy their products in order for them to donate money to charity. Why one couldn’t just cut out the middle-man and give to the charity directly, or even make more of an impact by volunteering for a cause is a question that you hopefully won’t ask.

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