The True Cost of "Cheap"

"Do the best you can until you know better.  Then, when you know better, do better."  

--Maya Angelou

              One of the first comments typically brought up in a conversation about ethically-sourced items is “they are always much more expensive than the ones at [fill in your favorite bargain store here].”  And it’s true, paying fair wages, choosing higher-quality materials and sourcing labor to resource-poor areas  makes these items cost more.  It’s important to know what “bonuses” you might be getting with your cheaper purchase.
               As an example, consider the “buy one get one free”  tank tops that can be purchased for a whopping $5 at lots of bargain brand stores.  Take away the store’s cut, the cost for marketing and merchandising, shipping, and factory costs…and it’s a good bet that the person making those tank tops wasn’t paid a fair wage, if they were paid a wage at all.  It’s also a safe bet that the worker would have to work longer hours and more days per week just to support her family.  She might have unsafe working conditions, or be treated with no dignity at her job.  But we don’t see that listed on the label with the price.
                How can ethically-sourced products compete next to their bargain brand counterparts?  The answer is simple:  they are not competing.  Ethically-sourced companies are not competing to “race to the bottom” with the bargain leaders--that is a race where, ultimately, everyone loses.  Rather, ethically-sourced brands realize that when people are equipped with knowledge about their purchase and equipped with ethical alternatives, they will make better choices.
                To truly change the world and lift people out of oppression and poverty, we must be willing to make changes within ourselves.  Buy less, and buy better.  Realize the true “bargain” is one where the purchase has a greater purpose.
                This video is two years old, but unfortunately not much has changed, and it is an important look at the true cost of cheap fashion.  Know better, do better, shop better.



Holly Godfrey
Holly Godfrey

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