Great prices! What about the workers?


When a company grows, it’s usually a good thing. However, there is the real possibility of too much of a good thing being bad.

I’ve seen people run companies like a Wall Street portfolio. Diversification is key. When you diversify, you’re not investing all of your money in one thing…one thing that could ultimately fail. Creating different sides of the business, and even acquiring subsidiaries, not only ensures that you will strengthen your main business, but you will also have reach into many other businesses as well. You can do this by breaking off parts of the company under different names, and as long as you don’t focus too much on one side of the business, you don’t risk the hackles of anti-trust lawsuits.

Add to this an intense focus on retail growth by worshipping your customer base, and you have the recipe for building an empire.

But to what human cost?

When you live in a consumer culture, investing in customers is a no-brainer. It’s simple when the average individual has been socialized from birth that buying random products that in no way fit any real world need, all in the name of proclaiming a socially constructed status that says, “Hey! Look at me! I’m cool, and important, because I have all of this STUFF.” Well, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that loyal customers will continue to pay to buy their fictional happiness and the fat-cats at the top will continue to get fatter.

How are customers impacted? Well, they have it good for a while. With a focus on low prices, customers can buy even MORE of what they don’t really need. But think of this, as the company grows, becomes better at its various business interests, what will this do to the market in the long run? What a lot of people don’t realize is that the tendency of capitalism is toward monopoly. You may ask, how so? Think of completely free, open market competition – no holds barred. In any competition there are winners and there are losers. Our government has recognized this, and this is why we have anti-monopoly laws. But even when it doesn’t come down to just “one company,” the consumer choice will become fewer and fewer.

So what of the company that has diversified its business? Surely it couldn’t corner the market in every side of its business dealings. However, when one side of the business does well, that spendable income can be used to boost the competitiveness of other businesses. And when all of the businesses focus on having the lowest prices…well, we’ve already talked about the tendency of capitalism and competition. 

All of this culminates in one company being able to corner multiple markets. As a reasonable people, what do we think will happen when said company controls market share and the competition either folds or just cannot keep up anymore? Quite simply, once a business controls the market, they can then control the price of products with little regard to having the lowest price because they have the only price 

Even if prices do not go up because the business wants to maintain consumer loyalty, how can the business continue to remain relevant, particularly if new competitors come on the scene? There are multiple ways that companies cut costs, mainly by controlling overhead. What is one way to control said overhead? Workers. Either by outsourcing the work to cheaper labor or by underpaying the non-union workers that are currently employed. A very easy way to do this is if the workers actually BELIEVE in the cause, so much so that the idea of lower pay or perceived mistreatment does not even enter the collective mind. Corporate enculturation. Enslaving the masses is easy to do when they’re willing to be enslaved, or better yet they don’t even recognize they’re being exploited.

When thinking about big companies that do things such as this, one very simple thing to do is follow the money and ask who benefits. Do consumers benefit? Absolutely. Do the shareholders benefit? Sure. Upper echelons of the corporate structure? Without a doubt. What about the workers? All the way from the front line to upper management (below VP level). If long-time employees struggle to take care of their own families and are urged to be “happy” with minimal increases (if any), is it really worth it? Even more so, what about the conscientious consumer? When thinking customers learn how workers are expected to overwork themselves, put the company before family, manage any illnesses that come about because “customers” come first and be content with this mission when annual take-home income actually decreases…aren’t those the seeds for boycotts? You would think that someone in PR is thinking about these things…and of course directing the company to provide a few more crumbs so that the working masses do not revolt. 

When health care and mental health professionals speak of seeing trends with a particular company in that multiple employees are patients because of stress and anxiety-related illnesses, surely there is something more that needs to be investigated.

As consumers…as employees…as decent individuals, we need to start asking these questions. And for the love of all that is holy, if you find yourself in a situation like this, and there’s no union…start educating yourself quickly. Remember, if it’s bad in “good times,” just think of the outcome when times are rough. It won’t be the company’s elite that has to lower their living standards…it will be the workers.

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