Deals... I love them, you love them, everybody loves them. Even retailers seem overjoyed to slash prices. I got an email this morning from a big box store announcing they were starting Black Friday bargains super early, like it was this crazy idea dreamed up last night over cocktails.
You know who loves these deals most? The companies that make cheap stuff.
"Designer labels 60% off!" and yet somehow they're still making a killing. Camelia Kuhnen, behavioral economist at the University of North Carolina, says promotions like this are targeting our brain's reward center. They create a "happy-frenzied state" enticing us to make impulsive purchases that deliver immediate satisfaction.
More Than You Bargained For
Here's the thing, though. Many of those companies are doing serious harm. Wasting limited resources, exploiting people, poisoning places. I'm not talking about high quality products offered occasionally on sale (love that), but the junky stuff made to always be on super discount.
Periodically we are reminded to shop fair trade, look for bunny icons, or decipher any number of odd little symbols. It's hard to keep it all in mind, especially during the holiday rush. Plus most of us are too busy and distracted to act on our good intentions.
Yet somewhere deep down I know something isn't right. An impossibly low price is exactly that. Impossible. A worker somewhere is paying the cost of my savings, and I don't like that feeling.
Shop for Impact
So here is my pledge. I'm not giving up on all deals - no way. But right here and now I am going to select a few items on my list to shop for differently, to purchase with impact in mind.
Turns out there are a lot to choose from. All I have to do is momentarily turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the onslaught of hyperactive advertising about to hit our in-boxes.
Many companies, nonprofits and individuals are helping make the world a better place through beautiful, ethically made products. Stop by your local fair trade store, or simply search "gifts that give back" for an abundance of lists, from Oprah Winfrey and Mashable to Real Simple and Save the Children.
No one can weigh the impact of all our purchases all the time. We've got a million things to do, people to care for, and gift lists that grow longer every year. Plus some eco-ethical products are seriously expensive.
But this year, maybe one or two items we purchase can be made in a more sustainable way. Perhaps the perfect gift also happens to lift a family out of poverty. Imagine that kind of "happy-frenzied state"- created not by manic marketing, but a few simple choices we can all make.
Give it a try and let me know what you find. I'm going to do the same.
This post first appeared on LinkedIn.