The world’s largest economy since 1871 is the United States. Since the United States constantly stocks stores with the newest trendiest items, and more than enough entertainment, foods, and drugs, it is no surprise that we live in the most fruitful system of consumerism there is. It’s important to understand what type of people are profiting off of that, since the majority of the United States’ richest people are male, racist or sexist, xenophobic, transphobic, homophobic, and have used their wealth to support their troubling ideologies.
A report from changewalmart.org found that the total contributions from Jim Walton, Christy Walton, and the Walton family holding company (Walton Enterprises) to the Walton Family Foundation, which is their family’s charity, amount to $58.49 million, which is less than the estimated value of Rob Walton’s set of vintage cars. Jeffrey Epstein, a financier who held a net worth of 500 million at the time of his death, is a convicted sex offender who used his money to solicit underage children for sex. In addition to this, The United States has an egregious history and current presence of racism no other country seems to have. Racism and the economy often go hand in hand as many of the working class or people of color and higher class are white. Many companies, products, and entertainment services promote fascist, racist, homophobic, classist, xenophobic, islamophobic, or are just hateful against anything that doesn’t align directly with the views and values of that company or brand. A perfect example of this is Chick-fil-A donating to charities with anti-gay stances. By using our wallets, which Americans use every day, we can change the way our society functions by changing who we buy from and what we buy.
There is a stereotype that Americans buy too many things they don’t need, perfectly illustrated in the reality show Hoarders. The first thing to do when voting with your wallet is to create a list of all the things you regularly spend your money on (movies, gym membership, food, clothes, music, etc). After you’ve created your list, go through and for each thing you spend money on, ask yourself why you spend money on it and if you really need to. That should eliminate a couple things. Analysts at Oxford Economics found while studying American spending patterns that sixty percent of Americans were basically drawing on their savings to maintain their lifestyles. The incomes they were receiving weren’t enough to cover their expenses. We buy too much and we don’t get paid enough for what we do, all while the 1% is getting paid more than 99% of the country. It’s a revolving door you’re trapped in. A hole you can’t get out of. Paying off things you bought while buying new things so you have an endless debt. It is possible to get out of this paradox and the more aware of what you are purchasing the better off you’ll be when trying to get out and voting with your wallet. Another great way to limit your spending list is to research companies’ stances on issues close to yourself. If they do not align, find one that does align.
Everything anyone buys is helping a business profit and not every business is supporting healthy ideals and groups. In late 2016 the #DeleteUber and #DumpUber movement came about in response to the company’s ties with the Trump administration and its unsupportive response to a Muslim ban protest strike among New York taxis. Uber lost more than 150,000 consumer clients and also forced Uber CEO Travis Kalanick to step down from his would be position on Donald Trump’s economic advisory council. Boycotting works. The sooner you boycott companies supporting or helping to contribute to egregious and hateful ideals and values, the sooner we can clean up America.
According to research out of Northwestern by professor Brayden King, a small boycott can be enough for a company to change a policy. According to King’s research “For every day of national media coverage, a targeted company’s stock price will drop nearly 1%. After the news of a boycott lands in the top five most-read newspapers in America, 25% of boycotts reap a concession from the targeted company.” Companies will respond when national media sites and other companies are involved.
Consumers tend to feel humble about their purchases. They take what they can find and settle, even if the store is not completely fulfilling their needs or respecting the customers to their fullest capabilities. A great way to break this feeling and spread the knowledge of how you can vote with your wallet is to educate and spread the word of the power each American holds. Companies are made to make money off of the consumer. If the consumer wants more cheese on his burger, he’ll get more cheese. If the customer wants no tomatoes, no tomatoes. It gets a bit different when companies are forced to pick a side, such as taking a stance on Trump or climate change or putting up Black Lives Matter signs. For a company to take a side that means that they are going to lose a certain number of consumers on the opposing side. No matter what, a company has to take a stance because if they do not meet the needs of someone else, they are meeting the needs of another by refusing to change a certain something. The trick to getting a company to choose your side when trying to garner change, is to show you have more consumers willing to boycott then the opposing side. According to a study published in Science Magazine, in order to garner social change at least 25% of humans need to be convinced and involved. “When a community is close to a tipping point to cause large-scale social change, there’s no way they would know this,” says Damon Centola who’s associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the main author of the study. “And if they’re just below a tipping point, their efforts will fail. But, remarkably, just by adding one more person, and getting above the 25% tipping point, their efforts can have rapid success in changing the entire population’s opinion.”
Some might say there aren’t enough stores that support values that align with yours. While this may be true, you change that by voting with your wallet and spreading awareness of how much power consumers have. Since everybody is already on there phones, why not do something proactive on them? Create a hashtag, post about unfair treatment companies enforce among minorities or anything that is not respectful nor professional. In conclusion, everyone can work towards making the world a better place by being aware of which companies support hateful groups and enforce disrespectful policies. A bunch of small purchases or boycotts adds up to be one big thing.