Social Consumerism or Capitalism?


March 18, 2014 by smallarmyjeff

This weekend, while on a walk with my family, we stopped at a coffee shop for a quick snack.  My wife and kids went in, while I stayed outside with the dog.  Five minutes later, my daughter came out with a “pupcake.”  She told me that this tiny cupcake (literally smaller than a munchkin with a little peanut butter on top) was $1.25, and that $0.50 went to the local animal shelter.  She was very proud of her purchase – and I was proud of her, too.  But, I had a different perspective of the coffee shop.

Today, there is a lot of talk about “social consumerism.”  In fact, my colleague, Monica, has used the phrase at least a dozen times in conversation with me since she returned from South by Southwest last week.  But, at what point is social consumerism really capitalism in disguise?

Is it really “giving” if you are just using it as an opportunity to “take”?  In the case of the coffee shop, these pupcakes probably cost less than $0.10 to make.  No one is going into the shop just to get a pupcake.  They’re making plenty of profit on the coffee, sandwiches and other baked goods they sell.  But, instead of giving 100% of the money from the pupcakes to the shelter (or at least 100% of the profit), they keep $0.75 for themselves.  Is that really giving back?

Since starting a cancer-related non-profit, I’ve come to learn that doing good actually helps you do well.  It was never my intent, but I’ve discovered that when you do good…

1.  You meet people you would have otherwise never met
You open yourself up to a new circle of people.  And, you never know who you may meet in the process.

2.  You form deeper relationships with people
The strongest relationships are built upon shared beliefs.  And strong relationships are the foundation of most any business.

3.  It builds a stronger culture in the workplace
Working together on a meaningful cause can be very empowering, satisfying and enjoyable – which leads to a much more collegial and pleasant environment.

4.  Everyone feels better about themselves
And, when you feel good about yourself, it shows in your work.

5.  You reap unexpected rewards
Whether it be a note from someone who you helped, or an article in the local newspaper, the rewards of giving back are endless.

With all of the above benefits, doing good will surely have a positive impact on your business.   But you have to do it for the right reasons.  The moment you do it for the wrong reasons, the opposite can happen.

Time to try a new coffee shop.

What do you think?  Please share your thoughts and perspectives here.

Have a great day!


12 thoughts on “Social Consumerism or Capitalism?

  1. says:

    So true!

    Drew Freedman, Principal The Boston Bodyworker, LLC

    575 Boylston Street, 2E Boston, MA 02116 (617) 778-7344 @bostonbodyworkr @dfreedman

  2. Phil Johnson says:

    Jeff, Nice thoughtful piece. Always enjoy getting your posts.

  3. Excellent post, Jeff. As the “social consumerism” movement grows, the line between giving and taking will be further blurred.

  4. Kathy Ruggiero says:

    Thought provoking post. And I agree with your sentiment that sometimes the motivation for supporting causes or soliciting donations is suspect. Love that your daughter was proud of her purchase though! Pretty cool for someone so young.

  5. Ellen Lerner says:

    As always Jeff, your insight is spot on. And very well articulated I might add. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Don Packer says:

    This form of “feel good disguised giving” has existed for years. I’ve never liked it. I’m happy to cover the costs (as you mentioned) but to “profit” from this? I’ve done many benefits as a musician where the cost of my gas to get there and the food I ate were never factored into anything but my further good will. Good will. Willing good. It’s really what it’s all about. Why should it be any different.

    I never really liked their coffee anyway.

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