So. Many. Ethics.

I went out with one of my dear friends yesterday and we had a lovely time. We went to lunch at a place called Jason’s Deli. It’s a chain but their salad bar is all organic, their prices are very reasonable, and their baked potatoes are huge. It was lovely. I am not generally one to recommend things other than books, but this place may be my new favorite restaurant. Anyway, we went to a used bookstore where I have a ton of trade in credits and I was so happy to be able to let her loose in a bookstore and tell her to get whatever she wanted. She then took me to a discount store that deals in overstocks from other retailers. Much of the stuff in this place was name brand, perfectly good products, for 1/2 to 1/4 their usual price.

So, my ethics were appeased by being able to make a quite lovely meal of organic salad and a baked potato. My ethics were positively giddy about being able to splurge on books for the two of us at a used bookstore. My ethics raised an eyebrow at the discount store though.

Having recently read and written about the ethics of cheap, I really did pause before buying anything there. Mostly (big surprise) I bought books, but I got a few other things as well: food and a pillow. How does one classify a place like this that deals mostly in overstocks and remainders? There were some cheaply made goods, but most of it was not. Did I compromise my ethics by shopping there? Am I justifying when I say I don’t think I did?

Most of those products would have been returned to the manufacturer to be destroyed had the outlet not bought them. It’s like a thrift store for new goods, the last ditch before the landfill. I bought only those things that I knew to be regular goods, not knockoffs. Ok, maybe I am justifying because the prices were, “too good to pass up”.

I am not judging people who need places like this. I am not even judging people who don’t need places like this and shop there anyway. The prices were fantastic and the products were mostly name brand. For me, this is an ethical gray area though. I don’t know that I’ve contributed to the exploitation of workers by buying things that were bound for destruction. I don’t know that I haven’t because a lot of name brand merchandise was made by people being paid subsistence wages or less in developing countries.

Aw, heck. Life is full of ethical conundrums. We do the best we can. On the frugal side it was a great move. The books were insanely cheap and I know how publishing works (a little), these are remainders and irregulars. A page was torn, a cover slightly chewed up, the book didn’t sell as well as hoped, but otherwise perfect. I got a crock pot cooking book, several books for the kids, and a couple of for Dummies books (which are usually $15 -$30, for $6.99 – $10!). I got pectin for jam making for half price because there were no recipes included in the box (big deal, I can look them up online or in my Blue Book). I find it hard to pass up things like that.

Is cheap always bad? Or is it sometimes ok? We all want a good deal, but the cheaply made things for cheap prices are what we should be avoiding. Goods that are discounted because they are slightly irregular or some such, seem to me to be an actual good deal. I leave it as an exercise for each of you, are ethics compromised by remainers and overstocks being sold quite cheaply?

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