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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
HTML EMBED:
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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.

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