Consumer Conscience?
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Consumer Conscience?

Today is Black Friday, the day most Americans take off work to begin their annual holiday shopping sprees and one of the busiest on the retail calendar. In a noteworthy bit of culture-jamming counter-programming, it has also recently been repackaged as Buy Nothing Day, an Adbusters-inspired occasion to refrain from shopping at all. Torontoist is not particularly impressed: most people will simply buy tomorrow what they forego buying today, and the net effect will be zilch. As we learned in an interview with The Rebel Sell author Andrew Potter, Buy Nothing Day doesn’t really address the root of the problem with excess consumption, namely that we are all producers as well as consumers and thus have a hand in creating things that other people buy. If we want to make a real dent in the problem we all need to be willing to not just buy less but also produce, sell, and earn less, too.
So maybe we need to move further up the supply chain in order to make headway? Enter Sell Nothing Day, a venture by two local retailers designed to take Buying Nothing up a notch. They are shutting their doors for the day in support of a more enlightened approach to shopping. Of course, Torontoist learned this via the press release they so kindly sent us, thereby indicating that the participating stores view this temporary withdrawal from the marketplace as an event worth trumpeting—a marketing opportunity. Presumably, this might lead an ethically minded Torontonian to think, “Gee, these stores really care. Maybe I should go check them out.” And, quite possibly, you should. There is a real argument to be made in favour of spending your shopping dollars at independent retailers selling Canadian-made goods. (Torontoist has already gone on record: we actually like these stores.) But let’s not be disingenuous about what’s going on here. If you think that there are better and worse kinds of consumption, then say so and explain why—please don’t operate under the pretence of rejecting consumerism as such.
Photo by avp17 from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.