In this modern age of lobbyists and the cattle-consumer mentality, we often find ourselves struggling to voice our concerns over how our world is managed. There are few tools with which we can wage war against corporate culture; we can vote, we can protest, and we can boycott. We often spend a great deal of time debating candidates, and when push comes to shove, some of us have hit the streets in protest of our various man-made ailments. But the simplest weapon in our consumer arsenal -- while not necessarily the cheapest -- is the boycott. Voting is powerful, but we're limited in how often we can deploy that right, and as anyone who follows politics can tell you, you don't always get what you vote for. Protesting is effective, but requires organization and planning, and even then it only works until someone closes their window.
But boycotting requires little to no effort; you simply refuse to pay money to certain companies, until they clean up their act, or cease to exist. By refusing a company patronage, you can sleep a little easier in knowing that none of your hard-earned money is going toward the end of supporting the wrongs that they're seeping into our world. Boycotting can sometimes be easier said than done, though. You might be forced to pay more, drive further, consume less, or abandon a product altogether in order to stage your act of rebellion. In some instances, boycotting simply isn't practical, but we do it anyway. In some very rare cases, we're forced into patronage by the perfect storm of necessity met with an utter lack of options. But if going out of your way or sacrificing creature comforts in exchange for feeling better about how you spend your money is worth the added effort to you, then boycotting is the sort of weapon you can use every single day, and each time the tactic is deployed, you can feel good about what you're doing.
Everyone has their own list of devils. You may not agree with boycotting each and every company (or State) listed below, as you might not consider what they do (or have done) to be all that bad. You might even support the organization for the acts they carried out, however unlikely that might be. But these are ten companies that I personally boycott, and I believe the world would be a drastically better place if everyone else followed suit. And so, listed in no particular order, here are ten companies that I feel we should all be boycotting.
Big Oil: Oil spills, price gouging, shady business practices, cover-ups, environmental destruction, and some of the most powerful lobbying in the world make big oil well worth boycotting. Oil companies are quite brazen in their tactics. They'll hike prices, claiming oil shortages are straining their supplies, and then post record net profits that walk hand-in-hand with those price hikes. Sadly, we live in a world where life without oil isn't practical to the point where it's detrimental to our way of life. But if you can't afford to boycott oil in general, you can at least boycott the three biggest oil companies (Exxon/ Mobil, BP, and Chevron), because what effects them will trickle down to the lesser companies as well.
Wal-Mart: The list of infractions against morality and ethics that Wal-Mart has perpetrated over the years is staggering. When they move one of their super-stores into a town, they drive small business owners into the poor house by offering goods at prices that those businesses simply can't compete with. They put tremendous levels of strain and duress on local infrastructure, syphoning off power, water, and gas to the point where some municipalities suffer brown-outs and other shortages. They rake in enough net profits to pay their employees well and offer benefits, but they don't, because in the corporate world, profits should never be interfered with in lieu of the betterment of employees or customers. And all of this says nothing of their endorsements of slave labor practices and poor working conditions in countries where they acquire goods, their discriminatory practices against minorities, females, and the disabled, or their efforts in the field of politics to influence tariff limitations, to limit port security, and to receive subsidies from the government. All told, Wal-Mart is one of my favorite companies to boycott.
AIG: As one of the companies standing at the forefront of our current economic catastrophe, AIG has done quite a bit to rattle Americans. They deploy shady business practices for years, they end up on the horizon of economic ruin, and after receiving a bail-out at the taxpayer's expense, they turn around and continue those same practices that got them in hot water the first time around. As an epic slap to the face, they turn around and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars at the St. Regis Retreat, as if to say "thanks for paying for my vacation." A week later, they turn around and ask for more money! AIG treats customers and employees poorly, their business practices reflect zero morality or tact, and they've abused our economy one too many times for the American people to continue our patronage of their firm.
Bank of America: Another company responsible for the recession, Bank of America has a lengthy list of boycott-worthy issues. Poor lending practices, insultingly terrible treatment of customers, and having practically invented the modern practice of selling debts to collection agencies are just some of the countless reasons why Bank of America deserves to be boycotted.
Comcast: Nefarious for censorship practices, bandwidth caps, political maneuvering and propaganda efforts, insulting practices involving minorities, horrendously poor customer service and consumer respect, and a plethora of other awful behaviors, Comcast is the only cable and internet provider to make this list, having duked it out with Time Warner for a spot on the despicable list.
DOW Chemical: The Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal back in 1984 is only the tip of a very large iceberg. DOW Chemical tests on animals, destroys the environment, and muscles their way through the political world on the backs of their massive army of lobbyists to ensure that their immoral practices aren't also illegal.
Starbucks: Millions of Americans are quick to claim that they can't make it through their day without a cup of joe in the morning. But do they need to buy that cup from Starbucks? If you've ever wondered why Starbucks are often built in such tight proximity to one-another, it's because they want to muscle out independently-owned coffee shops, reinforce their name recognition, and maximize their profit impact in that neighborhood/ area. They refuse to participate with or endorse fair trade coffee, they take advantage of farmers in under-developed regions of the world, and they refuse to donate coffee to our troops fighting overseas, insisting instead that their employees and customers donate coffee. And if you own a business that sells coffee, be wary of a Starbucks moving into the same mall as your establishment: they're notorious for working out deals with property management/ owners to alter the terms of leases, in such a way that your business can't serve coffee during the tenure of Starbucks' leasing a unit within the same complex. Coffee is easily acquired at countless establishments in most towns and cities. You can live without paying too much for coffee sold by moral delinquents.
Big Pharma: The Pharmaceutical industry is easily one of the most despicable in today's world. They avoid curing diseases because there's more money in treating ailments than ridding the world of them. There is strong evidence that they're guilty of the practice of pharmaceutical "pyramiding," where a medication creates carefully-engineered side effects that require another medication to treat. They apply little to no effort toward charity, which is a serious problem when you consider how important medicine is. And all of this is the icing on the cake; they're involved in all of the typical evil-corporation nonsense, like lobbying, chemical acquisition from seedy sources, etc. How do we boycott the people who make our medications? That's simple: research your medications before you (or your insurance provider) pays for them. Not all medications are actually necessary. If your doctor tries pushing you toward a drug that you're unsure of, seek a second opinion. Learn about the side effects of a drug before accepting a prescription. And if the drug is available in generic form from a different company, accept the substitute.
Arizona: Okay, Arizona is a State, not a company. But that doesn't mean they're any less worthy of being boycotted. Arizona's draconian immigration law, their embarrassingly-idiotic birther bill, a law against teaching ethnic studies, and a ban on stem cell research are only barely amongst the lengthy list of reasons why the State of Arizona doesn't deserve your patronage. How do you boycott an entire state? That's easy: You don't vacation or otherwise visit there, and you refuse to purchase products/ buy from companies that call Arizona their birthplace, unless those companies publicly refute the stupidity propagated by the state. Here's a list of companies from Arizona, a list which includes Avnet, Best Western hotels, Cold Stone Creamery, the Dial soap corporation, Fender guitars, Go Daddy internet/ domain services, Greyhound Bus, PF Chang's restaurants, Pet Smart stores, and U-Haul, just to name a few.
General Motors: A few weeks ago, I was walking through the parking lot at Oakdale Mall in Binghamton, when I saw something remarkably hilarious... a Chevrolet Tahoe with its back-side covered in anti-Obama bumper stickers. One of these stickers commented that no company is too big to fail. Another stated that we should have allowed GM to fail. These comments posted on the back of a vehicle built and sold by GM almost brought a tear to my eye. That level of hypocrisy blaring from one source is almost too much to handle. But hey, if you're a part of the Tea Party, and you think GM should have failed, then stop buying their products. Me? I boycott GM for a number of other reasons: labor practices, the poor quality of their products, and the sheer lack of their ability to produce a vehicle that's actually appealing to me are the reasons why I boycott them. But if you believe that the bail-outs were wrong, but you continue to drive a GM vehicle, you need to go stand in the corner and think about that for a bit.
There are nearly two dozen other companies well worth boycotting, but I'll save those for later. For now, I'll leave you with this: if a company engages in practices that are well below your moral standards, then you should feel obligated to boycott them. Refuse them patronage, and tell your friends and family to do the same. Given time, more and more people will stop buying products and services from these organizations, and when they realize that it would be in the best interests of their profit margins to change their act, we'll finally see some decency on the corporate horizon.