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.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

How many people are flying? Has traveled picked up?

Flying is starting to recover to levels the airline industry hasn’t seen in months. The Transportation Security Administration announced on Oct. 19 that it’s screened more than 1 million passengers on a single day — its highest number since March 17. The TSA also screened more than 6 million passengers last week, its highest weekly volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel is improving, the TSA announcement comes amid warnings that the U.S. is in the third wave of the coronavirus. There are now more than 8 million cases in the country, with more than 219,000 deaths.

How are Americans feeling about their finances?

Nearly half of all Americans would have trouble paying for an unexpected $250 bill and a third of Americans have less income than before the pandemic, according to the latest results of our Marketplace-Edison Poll. Also, 6 in 10 Americans think that race has at least some impact on an individual’s long-term financial situation, but Black respondents are much more likely to think that race has a big impact on a person’s long-term financial situation than white or Hispanic/Latinx respondents.

Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.

What’s going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?

A report out recently from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.

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