If You Need It at Target, You Don’t Need It

I cribbed that title from a smart comment from the Facebooks regarding one of the endless debates around big box stores in Vermont–this time, obviously, it’s Tar-zhay.

The individual store is irrelevant. It could be Wal-Mart, and the argument for having these stores usually comes down to “but we need products we can afford!”

The problem with that, of course, is that it gives up your right to a reasonable wage or income. Sure, we all need to afford the basics, but shouldn’t that be something to be addressed by how companies try to wiggle out of paying their workers anything respectable? If Wal-Mart or Target is all that a person can afford, then the issue is bigger than relentlessly driving prices of consumer goods down. People are more than just a consumer. We are just digging deeper into resource exploitation and falsely cheap products by supporting these stores. It may seem like many of us don’t have a lot of options, and sadly, in some cases we don’t, but that is no reason to settle for having only one store to shop at for cheap stuff.

The second argument that commonly comes up is “but we need jobs!” No, we need good jobs. The job opportunities at a store like Target or Wal-Mart do more harm than good. The wages are low and the company demands more out of its workers than it will compensate.  Sure, technically it’s a job, but how low are our standards? Are we deciding to just give up on respectable employment for everyone?

There is absolutely nothing special about the products available at these stores. Oh, you need some toothpaste? Drugstore–and plenty of those are big boxes, too. You need something to eat? Grocery store. Ideally, that grocery store is locally owned and operated, because those owners are invested in the community they are a part of.

The big advertisement for Tar-zhay, specifically, ends up being for the cheap designer lines of clothes that show up every so often. But the style never lasts. If cheap, cute clothes are the biggest argument for Target moving in, it’s not a very good argument.