When I first started using my shopping dollars to express my opinions on corporate practices, things seemed pretty clear-cut. Back in the last century, I learned which tuna brands were dolphin-friendly and refused to buy products from Hormel, which was working to break the unions. After seeing Wal-Mart sprawling across historic lands and sucking the life from small towns, I decided to never shop there (and haven't, except for buying a map in the only place available in Boutte, La.).
I knew all along that I wasn't really making a difference; Hormel and Wal-Mart don't seem to miss my dollars. But it helped my sense of integrity to know I wasn't supporting companies with no regard for the environment or which discriminated against women, gay people or their own employees.
Hobby Lobby, the arts and crafts store that recently won the "right" to not cover contraceptives for its employees, is easy for me: No, I'll get my glue and glitter elsewhere.
But what should I do about Amazon, the 300-pound gorilla of publishing, yet so convenient and accessible? I love to shop locally, yet sometimes the only way to avoid wasting gas trying to find something is to order it online.
Wal-Mart, too, is looking better lately. My nephew, who has been working at one while continuing his education, gets health coverage (his sister, working for a local business, doesn't). And there's talk about a Wal-Mart opening here in a section of Richmond where residents truly need a handy, inexpensive retail and grocery option ... while all other chains continue to mass in the overserved and unneedy West End and Chesterfield County.
As I said, it's getting complicated. And maybe it was always complicated, but I just didn't see it. I don't believe corporations are people and should be afforded rights that allow them to discriminate or endanger customers, but, like people, they are a mix of good and bad. A little education (uh, contraception prevents abortions!) and nudging toward to the good, rather than a total shunning, might be the way to go.