A few months ago I was looking to buy a new battery for my motorcycle. I went to a small local mechanic over a dealership simply because I like to support small businesses and build relationships with their owners. The guy said the battery would be ready in three days, so I went at noon three days later to pick it up. It wasn’t ready. I was told it would be ready at five. I went at five only to discover a note on the door saying they would be back in half an hour. I waited for an hour, to no avail. The next day I went to a dealership, and paid more, for my battery. I went back to the local mechanic to recover my deposit, threatening to write an editorial to the local paper. I ended up writing that article and have convinced others not to patronize the mechanic. It will ultimately be to his detriment.
I’m not an economist, but certain things just make sense. The consumer holds a lot of power. By choosing where to spend money, we’re choosing how businesses behave. I often hear people lament, “They’re just out to make money!” Of course a business wants to make money; that’s the point. Believing that bitching and platitudes will change that betrays a certain naivety.
We should use the greed of businesses to bring about the change we want. Are you fed up with eurocentric conceptions of beauty? Then don’t buy products from designers or beauticians who perpetuate that cycle. Hate the big banks? Make the move to credit unions. Loathe Walmart’s business practices? Do the research and go to retailers who pay livable wages; my brief research has brought up Costco as a respectable alternative. Are you tired of the “slutification” of Halloween? Then don’t wear a revealing costume, and encourage your friends to do the same. Are you as sick of homophobia as I am? Then don’t watch shows, vote for politicians or associate with groups that perpetuate these cycles.
Go beyond that. Write letters to companies, papers and firms expressing your frustration. We don’t need to pass laws about how organizations should be run; we just need to acknowledge who ultimately holds power, and that’s us. If that mechanic treats a few more people the way he treated me, he will lose his business. If a company wants to make money, it will ultimately have to sell a good or service. If we don’t consume because of their unfair practices or shoddy products, then they’ll change their model. Firms are, after all, greedy enough to want our business.