COVID-19

Is it ethical to shop the sales right now?

Kristin Schwab Mar 30, 2020
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Feeling tempted to shop online during self-quarantine? Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Is it ethical to shop the sales right now?

Kristin Schwab Mar 30, 2020
Feeling tempted to shop online during self-quarantine? Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images
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Twenty five percent off Converse sneakers! Two for one yoga pants! Free shipping!

Like a lot of us, Jo Belinksi in Illinois has been watching the sales pour into her inbox. But she’s not buying much.

“It just doesn’t seem appropriate,” she said. She feels silly buying stuff she doesn’t need, and she doesn’t want to put warehouse and delivery workers at risk.

But she did break down once and bought lipstick from Sephora — it was half off, with free shipping. “Is that a, you know, practical purchase?” she said. “No!”

Retailers are trying to keep customers shopping, and consumer spending is important for the economy. But for some, buying discretionary items — anything that’s not food and supplies — feels kind of weird and maybe even a little wrong.

Sucharita Kodali, a retail analyst at Forrester, said stores are discounting stuff they might not normally put on sale, like a nice shirt for Zoom meetings and sweatpants to pair it with.

“If you’ve had your eye on something and it’s on sale, you’re actually helping a retailer manage its cash flow in the meantime,” she said. “I don’t think that’s at all a bad thing.”

But what about the bad feelings that come with a purchase: surprise, disgust and embarrassment that you’re so excited about a sale?

“People can feel a sense of disorientation where we’re wondering, is what we care about out of line with what’s really important?” said Zoe Johnson King, who teaches ethics at New York University. She said it’s normal to question the tiny things you can control when the world feels chaotic.

Her ultimate advice: Give yourself a break during this stressful time. If a fancy new coffee maker helps you start your day and a scented candle helps you relax when it’s over, consider those joys essential items for your mental health.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Which businesses are allowed to reopen right now? And which businesses are actually doing so?

As a patchwork of states start to reopen, businesses that fall into a gray area are wondering when they can reopen. In many places, salons are still shuttered. Bars are mostly closed, too, although restaurants may be allowed to ramp up, depending on the state. “It’s kind of all over the place,” said Elizabeth Milito of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Will you be able to go on vacation this summer?

There’s no chance that this summer will be a normal season for vacations either in the U.S. or internationally. But that doesn’t mean a trip will be impossible. People will just have to be smart about it. That could mean vacations closer to home, especially with gas prices so low. Air travel will be possible this summer, even if it is a very different experience than usual.

When does the expanded COVID-19 unemployment insurance run out?

The CARES Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in March, authorized extra unemployment payments, increasing the amount of money, and broadening who qualifies. The increased unemployment benefits have an expiration date — an extra $600 per week the act authorized ends on July 31.

You can find answers to more questions here.

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