Posted by: A. Voter | April 21, 2008

the modern voice of conscience: department stores?

Another little preview, somewhat edited, from a past blog post on Bespoke By Brouhaha! Enjoy, if you can.

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I think I’ve really taken to heart all of the advertising recently in which large multinational corporations are telling us that we should care about the environment and global warming.

These ads (and please tell me they exist outside of Canada – surely we can’t be the only caring country out there!) usually feature cute video footage of little kids playing (and, depending upon the ad, a dog or two) in a large field with the type of green grass that only comes after huge daily watering sessions.

(photo by Bill of Las Vegas, from flickr.com)

Overshadowing the giggles of the kiddies, however, is a sombre voiceover telling us just what bad shape the environment is in, and what we can do to change all of that. You typically don’t even know what the ad is for until the last moment when a logo flashes up onto the screen.

I got so curious after seeing such an ad that a Local Department Store Chain Which Shall Remain Nameless has been running for the 512th time this week that I had to find out what it is they’re selling. All that the ad refers to is a mysterious programme called, let’s say “New Resurrection”. An oxymoron, by the way, don’t you think?

Once at the website I had to search long and hard to find out what I was looking for. A link from the home page called, let’s say, “New Resurrection” looked promising, but clicking it simply led to their online shopping catalogue. All roads lead to shopping, I guess.

(I’m reminded, strangely, of a conversation I had some 15 years ago when the term “organic” was still in its infancy as a marker for luxury products. We were in a Greek restaurant on the Danforth where, ahead of their time, almost every meat was advertised as “organic”. My father didn’t know what the word meant. After I went on for a few minutes explaining about free range chickens and all that, he paused for thought, and then said “Oh, eet means expensive.”

Indeed.

I finally found out what I was looking for under the (get this!) “Social Responsibility” tab on their website. “New Resurrection” is the codeword that the Department Store Which Shall Remain Nameless has assigned to a whole new line of products made from organic cotton and bamboo – mostly luxury linens and towels.

Finding the prices was yet another challenge. Finally I was successful, though – and most of the prices were in the three figures. This is what the website told me about that:

That’s why we can pay our organic cotton farmers a 30% premium above conventional cotton prices. We also commit to buying the cotton before the crop is grown, so farmers have security of income too. Our cotton is produced by a group called Agrocel in Gujarat, India, which works with 20,000 small-scale farmers, using Fair Trade principles to support them in the conversion to organic farming. We think that makes organic cotton all the more worth the extra money.

Well, that’s nice, isn’t it? The farmers get 30 per cent more, the Bay at least 100 per cent more. Does that sound like “Fair Trade” to you?

Then again, they aren’t showing happy go lucky photos of the cotton pickers on their ads, are they? Hmm.

And the Department Store which shall remain nameless continues to charge luxury prices for such everyday household items as…

…the humble vacuum cleaner!

Now, just when did they start making vacuum cleaners that look like racecars? And – $500.00?? For that price I’m not buying one unless they throw something like this in to operate it for me as well:

Oh, and on this very same website where they lecture on (and on, and on, if you care to visit enough links – there seem to be more links on the website about how much they care for the environment than there are telling you the prices of what it is they’re actually selling), they carry useful environmental educational toys for the kiddies such as these:


(Would that be the fuel efficient Hummer, do you think?)

Oh, and check this out:

This is a toy intended for children 18 months through five years of age. I like the subtle messaging about learning to keep that car filled up all the time. And, with the price of gas these day it could wind up being a really good educational toy on how to add (although I don’t know that your average 18 month old could actually count that high).

But my favourite part?

Comes with a hose, pretend nozzle, credit card swipe and special cut-out credit card [emphasis added].

I wonder if the cut-out card is a store card from the Department Store Which Shall Remain Nameless?? Three guesses, and the first two don’t count.

So, the moral of the story seems to be “Do your bit to save the environment, but make sure your kids grow up to love plastic and drive big gas-guzzling SUVs”. An interesting message, no?

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