Be aware of the practices

How often you make a purchase decision based on politics? Or rather, are you aware of events and practices surrounding the product you are buying, and thus taking these into consideration when purchasing a product?

For example, back in 2010 H&M (Yes, the clothes retail chain) had a factory fire in Bangladeshi, where 21 workers died and 50 were hurt. The reason for this fire, like many other fire in clothing factories in Bangladeshi, is the poor safety standards. All the clothing companies, including H&M, are well aware of the problems in these factories but simply don’t care, and their auditions usually pass just fine. What do they care if a factory burns down? For them it’s easier and cheaper to set up a new one and workers are aplenty around. But that’s not the worst thing about this factory fire. It’s been reported that the fire exists were blocked and fire extinguishing equipment were inefficient. Then you have H&M essentially using child labour in Uzbekistan for cotton collecting.

As a consumer you can make a political decision to either ignore these points, or take them into consideration when purchasing clothes. Companies care for data and sales above all else, and hitting them with decision of no-purchase hits them the hardest. In reality, one person deciding not to support them means jack shit. There is power in the crowd, and actions of a crowd are heavier and more meaningful than actions of one. That said, one person can inspire a crowd for an action, but it’s still the crowd that validates that one person in the end.

How many were aware of Konami’s treatment of their employees and still bought Metal Gear Solid V? Hardcore fans of the franchise were most likely more than well aware of all the stuff that has been going behind the scenes, and with Kojima leaving many have said that the franchise is dead to them. I am sure there are those who chose not support Konami’s practices and refused to purchase it, but I’m sure the game has made tons of money at this point.

In the middle of the summer reports came through that a Nintendo employee was bullied and harassed one of their deaf employees to the point of her attempting a suicide by consuming sleeping pills in a car. An ambulance was never called to the scene, because Nintendo was afraid of the press they might get. After this, the employee was forced to quit her job, and her boss never got any sort of punishment for the harassments. The reason you may not have heard of this is because Nintendo effectively silenced the media and tried cover things up on the Internet by censorship and paid individuals who knew how to convert discussion elsewhere.

The question is not really if you want to support these practices, but rather how you can make your agenda work the best. With Konami and Nintedo, the agenda could be to stop them treating their employees like shit, and the enforcing method would be not to purchase any of their products. Similarly, refusing to purchase H&M clothes would loudly state that their production practices don’t fly.

On the other hand, if you decide to concentrate only on the product, the background information doesn’t really matter. After all, in a perfect world the product itself is what should matter, as its producer would produce it with the most ethical methods possible. An aware customer would naturally know these already and balance his purchases accordingly.

A customer should not have a need to peek behind the curtains. All the production, all the decision making and everything that happens between inception of the product and when it’s delivered to the shelve should not be the costumer’s concern. However, I can’t argue against open policy all companies should have, as corporations tend to act highly stereotypically when it comes to achieving profits. For example, some hamburger joints may have the cheapest buns, meat and veggies and sell them at a premium price. That’s not exactly fair.

Being too close to a product production may hamper your will to purchase a product as well. When you see how things may be handled haphazardly or in a way that disrespects both the customer and the workers, there is a need to stop for a moment and ponder whether or not you want to support this company. There may be other reasons that trump over that, like localisation of a product. Still, being too close to it may burn and wear you out too fast, especially if you’re the producer yourself. The product itself is never at fault, its an non-sentient and non-living object most of the time. Discussion about cattle is a whole different thing.

Each product has its merit despite its production. Well, at least most products. In case of games, you should be able to balance out the background you know about the companies with the game itself. Often that not, the product itself speaks loud on its quality and whether or not you want to put your money into it. We all have our own standards, even if we are willing to compromise with them on a regular basis.

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