19 December 2007

Are you Fair Trade?

If I thought I was "going green" or organic before because of food allergies forcing me to shop at places like Whole Foods, I feel our time here will take things a step further. Aberdeen is a Fair Trade city and the whole of Scotland, I think, is in the process of becoming a Fair Trade country. (If you aren't familiar with Fair Trade it is giving workers in poor countries, like Africa nations or India, fair wages for their work, rather than ripping them off just so wealthy people can save a buck in purchasing that product.)

So one of my projects at work for the past month has been researching companies who make cotton shopping bags that we can have imprinted with the Uni's logo to give away to prospective students and such when they come for campus visits, etc. We've been using very nice plastic bags, but to be more eco-friendly we are switching to a reusable bag to encourage less plastics in the landfills. This is a big concept here. Nearly every major grocery chain and other shopping chains have bags they sell that are for the purpose of using less plastic bags. It's a great idea. My problem is, I rarely remember to take the bag I do have, and sometimes when I have it I forget to say I don't need a plastic bag!

We had the list of 10 companies narrowed down to 2 or 3 and then someone (why after 3 weeks of research it had to be asked AFTER I was done I am not sure!) asked if the companies we were looking into were using Fair Trade cotton, or Fair Trade practices. I had to do some more "googling" and make more phone calls to ask "Are you Fair Trade?" Of course, they all said yes! Everyone wants you to think they are giving their workers fair wages.

Anyhoo, so today I call up a company and tell him we have chosen their company. I e-mailed the other companies to tell them "thank you for your help, etc, but we've chosen someone else." What was I thinking trying to be kind and appreciative? Within an hour and a half I had two phone calls asking why we chose the other company, acoompanied with two lower bids than they previously gave us, and lower than the first company we chose because they originally had the lowest bid! Salesmanship at its finest. I have decided that they all want to work with a big name like the Uni and because they know this first shipment of 10,000 bags will only be the start of other shipments, meaning lots of money for them in the long-run. I dread going into work tomorrow when I have to send more e-mails or make more calls telling two of these companies they lose out (since we are now reconsidering our first decision based on the lower prices!). I'm glad I don't have to make the decision, I just have to try to explain to someone else why that decision was made.

Despite these temporary trials, it has been a neat project to be working on and I look forward to seeing the final product (and maybe even owning one?). The only real drawback...I felt rather guilty going to the grocery store yesterday after working for 4 hours on the project and then walking out of the store with 6 or so plastic bags! I think I am being brainwashed :)


Ronnica said...

I was on a midnight run for mousse the other night, and I told the guy checking me out (who was the night manager) I didn't need a bag. He told me that I had to take it. There was a huge line behind me, so I didn't feel like arguing. I couldn't believe that a manager said that. I might expect that from a regular cashier, but what happened to "the customer is always right?"

Mark and Rachel said...

Hey Ronnica! Guess he didn't want others to think you were stealing?? I've also been trained in "the customer is always right" mentality from retail jobs so expect it from others. Don't think they are big on that here, though. Maybe the manager came from over here? :) Next time tell him you are trying to save the earth and see what he says...it will at least throw him for a loop!