Realist, not conformist analysis of the latest financial, business and political news

Shopping is voting

I dream of a world where coffeemongers who refuse to pay their taxes are boycotted by outraged liberals.

Where comedians who tell unfunny and offensive jokes struggle to sell tickets for their gigs.

Where debauched CEOs find their bottom line drifting, and tax-evading chatshow hosts find their viewer numbers suffering.

This is a world where information is king – the consumer gets to know things and they act upon that information by voting with their wallet. What they do NOT do is demand that their indignation alone should be enough to “shut it off” – they instead take responsibility for their own beliefs and make the sacrifice by changing their behaviour.

Tyrannically demanding that a shop be shut completely just because you and your small circle of like-minded friends don’t like it?

Sorry, no.

Publicise the perceived wrongdoing instead, and see if enough people despise the conduct to not shop there – this is a free country dammit, and if coffeemongers want to aggressively avoid tax then they should be able to and just be aware that this might harm their business.

And if you doubt the power of this process and think you cannot succeed against the might of big business just by voting with your wallet, remember how swiftly and mercilessly the free market destroyed poor Gerald Ratner.

In the end, if only you and your friends despise the conduct, we clearly don’t live in the country you wish we did, and that’s all.

You will have failed to convince the rest of us that your feelings about tax avoidance should matter more than our desire to drink weird coffee.

And this is important – the power of the free market is that we are free, and it is a market.

But we’re increasingly not doing this – instead we are crafting a world where a handful of single-issue bores can shut down swathes of our society because it annoys them.

It’s very dangerous to empower such creatures.

The internet means the consumer has more information that ever before thanks – we can research products before we buy them, and use suppliers anywhere in the world. We can even see what our contemporaries have written about these products and services having used them! We have almost total information if we can be bothered, And if we can’t…… well that means we are willing to take more risks rather than spend more time – a calculation for us each to make for ourselves (how many times do I wish I’d spent more time researching an item of clothing!)

Are we willing to walk further for our coffees because we dislike a particular coffeemongers’ tax policies?

Are we willing to pay more for shoes because we don’t like sweatshops (although bear in mind the workers that work there often prefer those jobs to working in the snake-filled fields!)

Are we willing to go without our cornflakes because we don’t like the advertising strategy of the maker?

Or are we so lazy, unprincipled and foppish that we believe that when we see something we dislike, we merely need indicate our dissatisfaction and someone will “take care of it”?

Let’s hope not.

Let us hope that the generations before us who died for their principles cannot see us refusing to even walk a few extra yards for ours.

The only civilised way to treat suppliers who act in ways we don’t like is to boycott them. Put the information out there, boycott them yourself, and allow your fellow citizens to decide whether to follow you.

Do this, and you are a hero.

Make demands instead, and you are a monster.

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Gottfried the Mocked
Gottfried the Mocked
6 years ago

It’s a lovely thought, but most people are ignorant or indifferent, and they just want to flock like sheep to whatever consumer siren-call their immediate group of friends is lumbering towards rather than being an individual. The individual is the potential terrorist/paedo and so we stick to the flock. Baaah!

6 years ago

Alex it would have been good journalism to explain who Gerald Ratner is or was. Don’t expect the reader to share your frame of reference.

6 years ago
Reply to  Southerner

I agree, but at least it was easy and quick to look Gerald Ratner up in wikipedia. What I really hate is when an author uses an acronym (without expansion) which turns out to have a hundred possible meanings.

James in NZ
James in NZ
6 years ago

I boycott one of our cornflake manufacturers as they are also the manufacturer of some hideous brown, tasteless goop that they call “Marmite” (even though it isn’t).

Because they have a trademark on this foul substance this means that they protect their trademark by stopping small businesses selling the proper stuff from the UK.

I think that they have every right to protect their trademark; but I also have every right to not buy anything from them until they allow proper marmite into the country; with its proper branding!

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