By in Technology

Taking the Ethical Ambiguity Out of Shopping Online

Can you remember a time before you could shop online? I sure do, but it feels like a vague and distant past. We used to ask each other if we'd ever shop online, but these days it's almost a given.

Even people who have opted for a simpler lifestyle on a homestead take advantage of the opportunity to shop online for items they may not be able to find in their local stores. And yes, most of those folks are quite happy to benefit from the savings that go along with buying online!

Ethics of Shopping Online

Much as I prefer to shop locally, we're not made of money. If I can't afford the price my local merchant is charging, of course I will hop online to see if I can find a better one!

Do I feel bad about not buying from my local business? Sometimes. But then I remind myself that the dollars I save by ordering an expensive item like a computer online will inevitably go back into my community.

Whether it goes to a community fundraiser, to the thrift shop that funds programming for special needs populations and our seniors, or whether it gets spent on locally grown food at the farmers market, the dollars saved do benefit my own community.

Savings Meet Fundraising in Some Online Shops

Some web sites really take the ethical ambiguity out of shopping online by adding a social benefit to the lure of saving money. On these sites, some part of the money spent will go towards a worthy cause. You may have the option to donate your loyalty program points. Or the business may be donating part of the proceeds from sales on specially designated items to a charity they support. And of course, some online shops are even run by charities themselves!

Some sites get really creative about social responsibility, and in fact the whole concept of certain sites revolves around that aspect of giving back to the community. For The Schools is an example of one site site. Yes, it's an online shopping gateway that offers some pretty attractive savings.

But the entire premise of this site is that when you shop, they donate money to a school, amateur sports team, or club fundraiser that you choose. You can even help your local groups get set up to receive donations through the site. So you can still save money through their cash back stores and savings coupons. But in saving by shopping online, you're doing good for your local community too!

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MegL wrote on December 12, 2014, 1:40 PM

I noticed a few months back that there were no longer any toy stores in my local city - not just the recession - but I suspect because the Big River is just about everywhere!

chatombreux wrote on December 12, 2014, 3:56 PM

I never considered 'ethical ambiguity' as a concept of shopping before, even though I knew there were sites where shopping could be done that would benefit one group or another. I didn't know, though, that there was a "clearinghouse" kind of site as you describe with links to many different types of shopping sites. That's new to me.

LoudMan wrote on December 12, 2014, 5:26 PM

I'll support my local merchants where I can but, sometimes things change. E.g., Do I feel bad fr not supporting the local wagon-wheel repairman? Nope. I don't have a wagon. Some things can't be obtained locally. Some things can't be found online.

bestwriter wrote on December 12, 2014, 7:31 PM

For me online shopping is a blessing. I am new to it - just a year and a half. When I received my first order through the courier I was excited and that was the beginning. Today I am constantly getting my stuff online -stuff that I do not get here, stuff that is better in quality. If I am not satisfied with the product I can return it and eBay takes care that I get my refund or a fresh item without arguments.
And as for sites having thoughts on charity, well I do it already through my Trust.


celticeagle wrote on December 12, 2014, 8:46 PM

The stores here are all moving way out and I don't travel out of the city. I'm glad most of my shopping can be done at Walmart.

scheng1 wrote on December 12, 2014, 10:25 PM

Fortunately in Singapore, we have a wide variety of items at a rate comparable or even better than online rates.

BarbRad wrote on December 13, 2014, 12:32 AM

The harm to your community comes as local stores can no longer afford to stay in business and local people lose their jobs. As those stores go out of business they won't be there when you need a spare part to fix something today or if you need a last-minute gift. Local landlords will also lose income as their properties become vacant. I'm not as fond of stores donating to charity through my purchases as you seem to be. Why should I let someone else use my money to donate for me and pick up the tax credit when I'm perfectly able to make that donation myself exactly where I want it to go? If stores want to donate part of their earnings, fine. They will anyway if that is their desire. Somehow when they use it as a marketing ploy, it doesn't seem very sincere to me. It's one thing for a business to have a drop-off barrel for Loaves and Fishes or Toys for Tots or other such causes that make personal giving easier by providing pick-up points. It's quite another for them to give your gifts in their own name.

MamaOzzy3881 wrote on December 13, 2014, 12:57 AM

Great post!

motrojam wrote on December 13, 2014, 9:54 PM

Although I haven't shopped online, I would like to but there are bad stories. I have only booked tickets and reservations.

acrogodess914 wrote on December 16, 2014, 1:47 PM

I have never heard of the for the schools program. Sounds like a wonderful concept