Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What's a Girl to Do?

It began with an innocent comment on Facebook. Someone sent me a request to sign a petition against Target's support of a right wing political candidate, and I made a joke and said, "No Walmart, no Target, what's a girl supposed to do?"

There were two responses to my statement: I was advised to shop at Costco because they're owned by decent people, and it was also suggested that I patronize my local vendors.Even though both comments make perfectly good sense,I had to shake my head and laugh at the absurdity of it all. Something that began innocently has morphed into an internal debate about what do I do, really?

There has been a boycott of Walmart because of its unfair labor practices, and if there's no Walmart (which I'm not a big fan of anyway), then there's also no Sam's Club shopping since they are both owned by the Walmart family. And so, even though Walmart is cheaper, I honor the boycott and shop elsewhere. My co-worker had a computer notebook, and I asked her where she bought it because I'm in the market for one, and she said Walmart. I told her I didn't shop at Walmart, and explained my reason, and she said she likes to shop at Walmart and save her money. She said the notebook and some other items cost her $400.00 at Walmart, and the same items would have cost about $600.00 at Walmart.

The stores closest to me are Walgreens, Target and Jewel Osco, and I struggle with shopping in the blighted area where I live because the quality and quantity of vendors is lacking. The dollar circulates in the African-American community only once before leaving, and so I shop to keep to keep businesses in my community even when I have to ask for items that are housed under lock and key. I shop in my community when the store hours posted say 7:00 p.m. and the door is locked at 6:52, and I have to show the clerk the time on my phone so that she can open the door. Sometimes I don't shop where I live because the customer service because I know deserve better, but how will my community thrive as it once did if the people who live there shop elsewhere? What is my political stance because I have to take one.

I like Costco, but shopping there requires a membership fee, and it is not in close proximity to my home. So, I have to spend more time and money to shop there. It's only me, so I don't buy in large quantities so I don't know if I get much bang for my buck, but I can shop there if I want.If I want to travel I can go to Whole Foods or Treasure Island, too. I have options should I choose to exercise them, but what about people who have limited or no options--the ones who may not have the extra cash to spend or the transportation to travel outside of the 'hood?

Even on Facebook, I am reminded of the growing chasm between the "haves" and the "have nots" in our society and it's an settling like something I ate that didn't properly digest and is churning around in my stomach. I live in two worlds and they do collide. I don't want to support unfair labor practices, nor do I want to send the message that it's ok to support political candidates,but I also want to see my community thrive, and so I ask again, what's a girl supposed to do?


  1. Stephanie,

    I went to Walmart for the first time last year with a friend. We then went to Vitamin Cottage and Whole Foods to compare some products and to look at other brand options (365, which is Whole Foods house brand competes with all the major chains and is very affordable food). What she learned was that not only could she eat healthier, but that she could actually afford to shop at these health conscious food chains (I might add that although she works, she does get a bit of food stamp assistance, which are accepted at these establishments too). Yes, it might not always be convenient, but somethings are worth the effort. All depends on how important a cause is for you. Blacks avoided riding the bus to work in an effort to stand up for equal rights. This I'm sure came at a great price, but it was an important price to pay. If some of our ancestors avoided standing firm on certain issues because it was inconvenient, life would surely be different for us. My husband and I shop at Costco, yes a lot of the products come in bulk, but we use storage and freezer bags to create smaller portions. However, today Costco packages things in a way that works out for individuals and large families alike. No matter how difficult you may believe it is to take action to stand up to these giants, imagine what can happen if we don't. Allowing right-winged extremist groups to come into power will definitely affect minorities (especially the poor). How inconvenient do you believe that will be? By the way, the few bucks spent on membership at Costco is saved from just one shopping spree, it really is a great savings to shop there.

    Cheryl :-)

  2. You pose an interesting conundrum for today's Black consumer. Definitely provides much-needed food for thought. Thanks for sharing this.