Point of Purchase: Ethical or Unethical?



Out of the readings this week, Point of Purchase, by Sharon Zukin, confronted me with the realities of the shopping experience. Unlike the Pijaca in Yugoslavia, the producer of the product does not directly sell most of the items I have purchased in the past and will continue to purchase due to economic restraints. Instead the clothes, food, and other items I purchase within my affordable price range come from factories overseas and then are shipped and sold in a variety of discount chains, branded boutiques, and Brooklyn bodegas. The shopping experience for those who aren’t economically secure enough to shop accordingly to the ethical issues that hide behind products within these shopping centers are highly dependant on the price tag and not the production that lies behind the product. The majority of the people in the world are unable to afford the luxurious items that are sold directly from the producer and are forced to buy their jeans from budget brands that pay their manufacturers at disgustingly low rates rather than from designer brands who are directly producing their denim each season.

Like Julia, the music teacher from the reading, I know and understand the qualities of designer construction within clothes. I can recognize expensive name brands while walking around the city and in many cases can distinguish the difference between the fake goods and the real ones. I also, like Julia have an understanding of the items I would purchase If I was financially capable of swiping my debit card at the many boutiques that I continuously navigate online and through window-shopping. As a middle class individual, I am forced to search out the bargain. Instead of purchasing my groceries at Whole Foods I shop at Key Food or the bodegas within my neighborhood. Instead of waltzing into the Rick Owens boutique, I thrift through consignment stores, eBay, and stores like H&M to find cheaper items that I can put together to form a desired look. In a dream world, I would know exactly where my groceries were grown and buy designer clothing that is crafted by talented individuals who are paid appropriate wages. In reality, as a middle class college student I will have to continue shopping in Brooklyn rather than Fifth Avenue.

The Neighborhoods and boroughs within NYC completely differentiate the social classes within our society and determine the types of stores and shopping that takes place. As Zukin states,

“The growth of different shopping districts for rich and poor proved to be a fluid barometer of a New Yorker’s social position, as well as of the city’s general prosperity. Where women shopped reflected their wealth and social class, but it also determined who they were. If you shopped north of Fiftieth Street, you were rich; if you shopped south of Fourteenth Street, you worked in a factory.”

While this statement isn’t completely accurate with today’s world, the general class separation does exist. Our financial income and the neighborhood we can afford to live in ultimately reflect the stores we can shop at. Our point of purchase might not be the most ethically conscious but for many people in today’s world we are unable to buy items with those issues in mind. We are forced to purchase the goods we can afford and shop at the stores that offer the best deal.

Kyle Sanders


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