Creating Change… have we missed something?

Industry Observer

I have been wondering for a while now why people get all upset with companies that are bad corporate citizens in their employment practices, layoffs, environmental policies, community impact, etc., yet Americans continue to support companies whose policies harm us and our country by buying from them and using their products/services.  

Often, it appears that it’s a question of convenience and a misplaced sense that the government, laws, or other people should be taking the steps to make sure that corporate citizens should conduct themselves appropriately.  I have seen it again and again in recent years.  For example, on ActiveRain there has been an abundance of documented cases of specific Banks and Mortgage Companies mistreating consumers… consumers who are our clients, but how many of us have made changes to where we do out banking or whom we refer our buyers to for mortgages?  Imagine if all the ActiveRain bloggers, a group of 200,000 real estate professionals, targeted the worst offenders one at a time?  Do you think that all the mortgage companies would take notice if we moved our personal and business accounts and stopped referring business?

It’s the same with retailers and consumer products.  I have seen people complain about discriminatory practices or corporate giving on the part of retailers, yet I will see those people with the offending store’s bag in their hand and when I ask they tell me “Yeah, but I like their stuff better than their competitor's stuff.” or they will say “Yeah, but their prices are lower and I don’t want to pay 25 cents more for my kitty litter.”

Let me tell you folks… sometimes creating change means that we have to pay 25 cents more for kitty litter, if the change is truly important to us and you want a retailer to change their human resources policies for their employees.  It might mean not using your favorite brand of something until the company that makes it changes their policies about environmental responsibility.  It might mean not flying an airline that you are collecting frequent flier miles on until they eliminate a lot of junk fees for things baggage until they change their positions on corporate donations to political or social causes.

It may be easier to continue doing what we have always done, buying what we have always bought or doing business with whom we have always done business, and hope that the government or actions of others who are similarly minded will bring about the changes we desire, but easy and effective are often not words that intersect.

Perhaps it’s time that we wake up and realize that if we all come together, our wallets can be as powerful as our votes in creating change.

Comments (40)

Tim Maitski
Atlanta Communities Real Estate Brokerage - Atlanta, GA
Truth, Excellence and a Good Deal

It comes down to the individual making their individual choices. If you want to change the banking system, move your money to credit unions or local banks.  Don't use credit cards.  It might seem free to you but that is any extra 2-4% of every transaction going to the big banks.  Ask any retailer how much it costs them when someone uses a credit card.  You pay by higher prices.

You have to practice what you preach. Watch this video clip from the Jon Stewart Daily Show.  It shows a union that is striking Wal Mart for better benefits and wages.  Instead of picketing themselves, they hire contract workers to picker for them.  Do you think that offer these workers who they hired the same benefits that they are striking for?  This is hilarious and fits with your post very well.




Oct 03, 2010 02:40 AM
Susan Laxson CRS
Palm Properties - La Quinta, CA
Local Knowledge & Global Network

Steve, great post and I may be naive, but still believe that we can make a difference by voicing our objections, changing our loyalties when they are not reciprocated, and being advocates for what we think are the right things to do.   ~ Susan

Oct 03, 2010 02:57 AM
Greg Nino
RE/MAX Compass, formerly RE/MAX WHP - Houston, TX
Houston, Texas

go ahead... make that change..... I always knew you were a MJ fan! ;)

Oct 03, 2010 03:35 AM
Kathy Kenney
Keller Williams, Princeton, NJ - Robbinsville, NJ
Realtor - Princeton & Central NJ Homes for Sale

I totally agree.  I can tell you that I no longer refer my mortgage business to BoA, and convinced my loan officer to move to another lender because I could not/would not refer business to BoA any longer.  That was not his only reason for leaving, but it helped.  It's difficult not to buy from certain countries, they seem to have the strong hold on us, but if we ALL boycotted, I'm sure it could happen!

Oct 03, 2010 04:20 AM
Nina Rogoff
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Medfield, MA
Sells Real Estate!

I agree completely, Steve. We have not harnessed the power of the internet that way yet. Whether it's on AR, or across the US, or around the world...I do believe eventually that is what the internet will give us. The power of a voice that we don't really have with our elected representatives. As far as businesses go, I no longer shop at several businesses that have either treated me in a way that let me know they don't value my business, or have policies that I don't like. They may not have noticed that I am missing but at least I am true to myself. Someone mentioned Sam Walton...if he knew how bad WalMart had become in so many ways he'd be miserable. Great post!

Oct 03, 2010 04:43 AM
J. Philip Faranda
J. Philip Faranda (J. Philip R.E. LLC) Westchester County NY - Briarcliff Manor, NY

It's called voting with your wallet. We are considering switching our banking business to a smaller community bank for many of the reasons we read about every day in the paper. There is too big to fail, but there is also too big to give human service. 

Oct 03, 2010 04:51 AM
Larry Lawfer
YourStories Realty Group powered by Castles Unlimited® - Newton, MA
"I listen for a living." It's all about you.

Pocketbook activism is a powerful force.  It has been so for a very long time.  The lettuce boycotts from the 70's lead my Ceasar Chavez to get migrant workers more pay for their work. When Anita Bryant, the then spokesidiot of the Florida Orange Growers came out against gay people.  I wish we could do something about the banks, but instead of boycotting I would much rather encourage local banks to get back in business so that when there are issues you can go down to your bank, sit down and talk to a human who lives in the community. That would make me very happy.

Oct 03, 2010 05:26 AM
John Zappia
Maine Custom Realty - Portland, ME
Maine Custom Realty

I think #7 hit it on the head with the Sam W quote...I stopped working with B of A last year because of the way they are handling their business...I use another large bank I've been with for several years and they employ thousands here in Maine...people will buy where they get the best deal and the consumer does control the ball...Wal-Mart does what they do and the customers love it...they aren't going anywhere any time soon...the customers make sure of's a global economy and it's going to cause pain here until it flushes out in the next 20 years or more (the roaring '20's again?) way around it.

Oct 03, 2010 05:40 AM
Bob Willis
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties - Orange, CA
Orange County & L.A. County Real Estate Agent

The best thing we could do to improve our economy is to buy American.  If it doesn't say "Made in USA" on the label, then don't buy it.  Think about it the next time you buy a new car.

Oct 03, 2010 06:17 AM
Barbara Birinyi
Quitman, TX
TX Real Estate Broker - Horse Property Specialist

Post #7 - Sam Walton was a wise man.

Oct 03, 2010 08:10 AM
Bill Gillhespy
16 Sunview Blvd - Fort Myers Beach, FL
Fort Myers Beach Realtor, Fort Myers Beach Agent - Homes & Condos

Hi Steve,  Interesting post and comment thread !  Might be an interesting experiment to collect some candidates here on AR for a letter writing ( or other protest ) campaign just to gauge the amount of participation and/or response !

Oct 03, 2010 08:22 AM
Lisa Bosques
Burien, WA

I feel like I  have to put on battle gear and a gas mask just to go out shopping.  I have one account at (gasp!) Chase Bank because it's the only one that's conveniently located.  Every time I go in there for a transaction I get ushered to a desk where the clerk(salesperson) proceeds to "review my accounts"; and then tries to upsell me for the next 5-10 minutes while I'm waiting for a deposit slip.  DEAR GOD how I hate that.  Especially after a long day.  I had to put it to them in not so many words that I am not here for them to constantly ply their ridiculous services on me.  Needless to say, now they know to leave me alone.

We have let corporations take over not only our money but our TIME.  When was the last time you walked into a Pier 1 Imports, Macy's, what have you, and not been accosted by a salesperson that MUST follow their strict rules and go through all 6 selling steps with you before you can start your browsing/shopping? And then when you get to the register you have to put up with further sales pressure to apply for a credit (oops, I mean rewards) card and hand over your phone number, e-mail and DNA samples when all you want to do is get your stuff and move on to the next store?

How did we let all of this happen?  Great post, btw. Got me going as you can probably tell.

Oct 03, 2010 08:25 AM
Bob McCranie
Broker Associate / Team Lead - Texas Pride Realty Group - Carrollton, TX
Your best advocate when buying or selling your hom

I agree completely. And I've run into that attitude too.  I haven't shopped at a Wal-Mart in years and Target isn't much better.  It's coming up on the hoildays and I always have to hunt through Walgreens to find Christmas cards made in America.  More and more are being made in China.  Corporations have no patriotism and no national pride.  I just can't believe it's cheaper to make products on the other side of the world, put them on a oil-burning freighter, and then get them to America.  The math just doesn't add up until you consider they're using slave labor and their government gives them incentives and puts tarrifs on our products.  Free trade does not exist.  Until politicans represent people instead of corporations this won't change.

Oct 03, 2010 09:53 AM
Donna Harris
Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - - Austin, TX
Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator

I hope none of my clients uses B of A for their mortgage because they are never on time and you're just a number to them when you call Jacksonville, no one local... but that's completely different than having my checking account there. It's a right hand and a left hand, and even if the two hands don't talk, they are considered completely different entities, so I continue my banking with B of A.

Oct 03, 2010 10:36 AM
Margaret Goss
Baird & Warner Real Estate - Winnetka, IL
Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate


I have always been an animal rights supporter - my passion this past year has been illegal Japanese whaling.  I desperately need a new car and when people suggest anything Japanese and I tell them why I won't buy a Japanese car - they look at me like I'm nuts. 

If you're passionate enough about something, you should walk the walk.

Oct 03, 2010 11:05 AM
Fred Griffin Tallahassee Real Estate
Fred Griffin Real Estate - Tallahassee, FL
Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker

The Factories, The Industries,  Manufacturing, Mining, and other Producers and Creators in America are going, going, almost gone.

Some Reasons:

Taxes, Fees, Permitting Costs.  Higher and higher they go.

Frivolous Lawsuits and Class Action Lawsuits, resulting in bankruptcy, increased Insurance Costs, and Fear to launch new products.

Stifling Government Bureaucratic Rules and Regulations.   

Greed at all Levels.  From the CEOs taking hundreds of millions, to the Unions demanding more pay for less work. 

NAFTA and GATT, and how about "Most Favored Nation Status" for China?   







Oct 03, 2010 11:57 AM
Nona Swann
Swann & Associates Real Estate - Indialantic, FL
Serving the needs of the Sellers in Brevard County



It is time to take our country back. I agree buy American and it is very easy to stand on principal and move our banking to a better bank.

I have already stopped referring my Buyers to the ones I feel will not treat them right if they have any problems down the road.

We can creat the right type of change by standin on principles. That is what makes the country so great.

Oct 03, 2010 01:48 PM
Mindy Sylvester
MVP Realty - Naples, FL
Naples Fl Real Estate

I wish I could agree, but I don't. No matter how we use our wallets, we're creating profits for the top multinational corporations. In fact, just by using and transferring money, we're creating profits for the top multinational banks...and it all "trickles down" from there. The situation is way too far gone for individual consumers to have any effect. The problem is never single corporations, or discrete groups of "bad people" who can easily be targeted and boycotted. The problem is systemic.

Oct 04, 2010 02:36 AM
Judi Henry
Main Street Realty & Loan - Lakeside, CA
Lakeside, CA 619-820-7277


I personally try and shop local before heading to a mall, buy American before anyone else and if treated poorly don't go back to a business. I hope it makes a difference to the folks I do support with my dollars.

Oct 04, 2010 07:17 AM
Linda Hinson
S & L Properties - Calabash, NC

It does all boil down to patriotism...we don't NEED half that imported junk.  My grandmother taught us to save and buy one quality piece over a quantity of poorly made products.  I have passed that down to my children but most adults never THINK why an item is so cheap like the problematic drywall, steel, plastics and seafood that is imported from other countries.

Oct 06, 2010 05:04 AM