Save. Spend. Splurge.

You’d care if it affected you directly

There are lots of people out there of all ages who can’t understand or get on board with the idea of trying very hard to avoid buying items made in sweatshops especially in poor Third World countries.

Their reasoning?


Yes, they do… but does it give us the right to take advantage of them?

This is certainly a tricky issue to deal with as their country should be the ones trying to generate business in other ways so they can live without being forced into what is essentially slavery.

It’s kind of like saying we shouldn’t feel guilty in the slightest if we hear of a young runaway from an abusive home who has had to turn to the streets to turn tricks to get enough money to eat, should also be taken advantage of because “she needs the money anyway, right?

If you start taking innocent concepts like clothes out of the equation and start really asking yourself what it is you’re saying when you blurt out things like “we’re helping them indirectly”, it may not seem so harmless after all.

Now people will throw out that China for instance has turned into a economic superpower due to its ability to provide cheap labour, so much so that China is becoming more expensive than other countries like Bangladesh or Vietnam to produce clothes.

Maybe now you can pat yourself on the back for having helped the Chinese grow, but at what cost did your help come at?

Why can’t we as consumers, ask and demand for fair wages? I am not saying everyone should be paid $20/hour, but there should be a minimum.


Then do you really need what you’re buying?

If you don’t have the money to pay for what you want, taking into account how and where the item is made, do you REALLY need another black pair of pants in that case? Or a piece of disposable fashion that will become completely irrelevant Β in the next month either from fashion tastes changing or that it just falls apart from shoddy workmanship?


It’s because we’re human that we can compartmentalize those people into “nameless, faceless, ___insert country name here___”, and not think twice about it. We’re outraged when things like the factory in Bangladesh from horrid working conditions burns down and kills workers, but after a week it becomes old news because it isn’t relevant and directly affecting US.

If it was your little sister, brother, cousin, friend or someone you knew who was chained to those machines, you’d be outraged.

So why aren’t you outraged now?

I am not claiming to be perfect, nor to have any black and white answers to any of the above, but I just think as consumers it’s time we stop giving bullsh*t excuses about why we buy what we buy, without thinking about what consequences our purchases have on others and the world.

We should make an effort, no matter how small to think twice before buying yet another item we don’t need.


  • Jason

    Just a quick comment – I was talking with a co-worker from China about the concept of sweatshops and he gave me some new insights.

    Basically, he was saying that in many rural and poor parts, the people actually WANT sweatshops to come in, knowing pretty much what’s in store for them there. Before the sweatshop, no-one had anything to do or any way to make money, so sometimes they feel like it’s a step up. They will also actively keep labor violations unreported because some cash coming in is way better than what they had before.

    I’m not saying I’m *for* sweatshops, but things are seldom black-and-white.

    • saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      Yes I think I actually wrote a bit about this before when I went on that rant about China, because I have a personal stake in such countries where they are dying for jobs and would do anything for just a bit of money. Still I feel like it isn’t right to take advantage of them, but their country should also be setting the rules..

      There are many factors at play here, and the perfect solution does not exist.

  • Lila

    Why do you think Apple products last longer? They seem to have the same lifespan to me. I would like to hear your reasons.

    I have used both, and I would do away with my PC except I like to play games that require a lot of power like Fallout 3, Skyrim and Gears of War. These are difficult to play on Macs.

    I’ve also been able to expand my PC and upgrade the sound card and the graphics card for these games. My bf used to hate Apple until he tried OS X.

    He’s not one of those people that thinks everything they do is perfect, but so far he’s enjoying OS X…it’s funny how things can change. πŸ˜‰

    I totally got off topic, didn’t I? lol

    • saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      I think my Apple products last longer because they’re better made. The PCs I have bought over the years, with the way I use them (heavily) have only lasted 2-3 years before the battery starts to die and I need the cord, or something else goes wonky.

      It’s a combination of things:
      1. The Operating System on a Mac is closed and you can’t tamper with it, unlike with Windows
      2. The quality of materials used are of a higher quality than with PCs (even the nicer looking PCs die within 2 years)
      3. Macs are also better built to withstand strenuous tasks like video editing, image editing, and other functions that require a lot of brainpower and stamina, unlike with PCs which are meant for Excel and Word.
      4. Macs make their money on their hardware, not the software. PCs make money on the software being sold, and updating the OS all the time.

      You didn’t get off topic πŸ™‚ But you should certainly look at Apple products for your next purchase, as devastatingly expensive as they are.

  • Troy

    I’m not sure NOT buying from third world countries will help those poor people. A lot of times they can’t find jobs elsewhere, and a job in a sweatshop is better than no job on the streets.

  • Tania

    Many a shopping haul videos or blog post by a 20 something will contain a sentence like “this stylemint T was cute but overpriced at $30, I can get the same thing for $10 at F21”. Then, they’ll proceed to unload shopping bag after shopping bag of one month’s purchases including 10 or even 20 “fast fashion” buys. Well, my response is always that stylemint shirt was made in the US and IMHO is of better quality and fit than what you can buy at F21. Of course, when you’re 20, a size zero with 9% body fat you may not notice the fit component as well as I do. Why is the fit better? Because when clothes are not made cheaply and are manufactured closer to home, the designers have more control over the end product. Also, did you have to buy 10 shirts in one month?! No doubt their closet(s) are already overflowing. At no time in my life do I also remember so many young people having entire rooms as closets. At my age, yes, maybe but not 18, 19 and 20 year olds or even high school students. Hundreds of shoes, boxes of makeup and tons of fast fashion. I should be one to talk but at least I’m aware I’ve got issues and I actually don’t do very much fast fashion except I do have a thing for the GAP for certain types of items (the only shorts that consistently fit me & my flubby butt well) and yes I do have tons of tech and camera gear so I’m not 100% either.

    The point someone made about a fair wage – I don’t think of it in terms of $/hour but quality of life. That includes a living wage and also working conditions. Money is one thing, an important thing but I think some of the huge atrocities we are seeing are the working conditions too, right?

    China also didn’t become the economic superpower they are just on the backs of cheap labor but also on the control of the exchange rate. The whole thing does piss me off quite frankly.

  • cj

    Mochimac!!! I am especially fond of the question of whether we ought to be making a purchase if we cannot afford to make it ethically. I have not and will not purchase an article of clothing, not even a sock in 2013. How’s that? Perhaps in 2014 I will purchase a t-shirt or two. People need far less than they think they do. If we bought less altogether, that would certainly be more ethical.

  • SarahN

    Yeah but… How do we work out what IS fair? Just cause in our countried (Australia and Canada), it’s fair if it’s $20+, we can’t say that it’s comparable to China (your fave!). How do you benchmark what the ‘fair’ is – honestly, it’s a difficult problem. The whole capitalistic system is – whilst it’s most gain for minimum input, countries will always undercut, even by a little, to get business. Not just countries, business to business, supplier to supplier. I DO NOT think it’s a good thing at all, but the larger single motivator people have is money (and there seeming lack of it), and can’t help BUT buy at the dollar store, as they don’t have enough to feed the larger family otherwise (let’s not start on why she might not work nor her teenage daughters!). I suppose it’s is incredibly difficult and part of a far larger economic system

  • Liquid

    That’s one of the reasons why I’ve never bought any Apple products. Just doesn’t seem fair how the company can be so profitable while their contract workers are being so mistreated leading some to commit suicide. I agree that there should be a minimum expectation for wages. The question is how much? Which is hard to answer definitively because the cost of living varies in different districts and countries. $2/hour CAD is already more than the median wage in Hanoi, Vietnam, but won’t be enough for a factory worker in Shanghai, China. Maybe there should be multiple standards? Nevertheless I think at least we can have a consistent standard for working conditions πŸ™‚ Thanks for spreading this awareness. The dilemma I’m facing myself as an investor is should I also not be buying the stocks of these large multi-national companies? Most people I know either through a mutual fund or index investing own shares of companies conducting business in sweat shops.

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