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Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Deal on Discount

I'm going to admit something because as my boss always says, "Confession is good for the soul." I'm not sure if I agree with that because I tend to always feel like shit when I admit to my crap, especially to my boss. Anyway, I'm going to admit this because Ted thinks it will do me good and usually, (and again, admitting this is not glamorous) Ted is 8 out of 10 times, right. But when he is, I remind him that he's still the college kid. Hah. Who has the BA in this marriage, that's right homie, me. Who will walk outta here with a degree that matters?....moving right along...

I'm admitting this: Discount Shopping has been my scapegoat:

1. I dig a discount. 2. I hardly ever buy something that isn't on sale 3.I cut coupons. (Yes, I'm in my twenties and right with the llittle old ladies, I cut the coupons.) 4. I loveeeee TJ Max, Marshalls, Home Goods, and Ross. Maybe those aren't horrible things to admit. But I've allowed myself to believe that because stuff is on sale or I'm using a coupon to get the sale, 'The Man' isn't making profit off of me and therefore, "I'm not really supporting slavery, right? If it's from a discount store, it's kinda like secondhand and so I don't need to worry about it being fair, because the money isn't going directly to the label." WRONG.

Here's how TJ Maxx, etc work:
They are considered "off-price" buyers: (from the Washington Post, 2008)
That's because T.J. Maxx is an off-price buyer, which means they benefit from ordering mistakes made by mainstream retailers and over-production of items by the clothing makers. Off-price companies buy that excess merchandise. So if a vendor has enough fabric to produce 600,000 blouses but a department store only ordered 500,000, off-price buyers will purchase the extra 100,000 blouses. It doesn't necessarily mean that T.J. Maxx's inventory is from last season. They promise that at least 85 percent of it is in season.

It's not the excess from JC Penneys or from Macys. It's the excess straight from the production lines, straight from the factories. THIS SUCKS. The reason they can keep the prices so low is only because of two things:
1. They don't advertise particular labels.
2. They buy the rest of stock after the name brand buyers have their go.

SO. this sounds awesome, especially if you want to shop cheaply. But if your focus is buying fairly, shopping from TJ Maxx, Ross, Marshalls, etc is exactly like buying from major department stores. It's absolutely no different. Your dollars are going directly to 'The Man' behind the labels and the 60 factories they buy from. And more often than not, pennies are going to the people who work in the factories. In fact, when you buy from these discount stores, even less! of your money is going to the factory workers. As I've mentioned before the American myth is that the cheaper the better. Again, we are so accustomed to paying so much less than things actually cost to produce,  give someone a decent wage  and ship across the world. Just like with the Hershey Chocolate bar or the 17 cents per pound bananas, exploitation is happening. The costs of shipping the bananas, the cocoa, the clothing across the world is way more than 17 cents per pound, or a dollar per bar, or $15 for jeans.  I'll be the first to agree that capitalism has it's benefits. Entrepreneurship fuels this nation and I love that folks can make a profit off of something they create. As I've stated before, where we've gone wrong is not in using our opportunities in this nation to become wealthy, but the injustice lies in how we use the wealth. Sure, the guy who started Calvin Klein or Levis should probably make more than the guy in the factory who puts them together. BUT, the guy in the factory should we be able to work 40 hours and feed his family. This is not happening in most clothing factories.
According to some research from NPR, the total cost to produce a basic pair of jeans that we would pay between $20-$40 (depending on the label, but the same pair) costs $7.78 in Lesotho to produce, $7.52 in Haiti, $7.89 in Nicaragua and $7.84 in China. Labor costs are about $2.00 of the total. The fabric costs are more than the labor costs. Check out the chart above and the link for the full article: Cost of a pair of jeans

Bottom Line: Discount stores cut the corners on fair wages for the production in the exact same way that department store buyers do. I'm not 'sticking it to the man' when I buy discount. I hate this and feel both extremely frustrated with the system, knowing that I will from time to time have to buy something from a TJ Maxx and again, feel even more empowered to hook us up with other options. And eventually, open a business myself with more options. (The beginnings of the business plan are in the works!)
For some laughs, check out this article: Confessions of Dress for Less employee