Sunday, September 18, 2005

Defining "Moral"

This item was in the New York Daily News' "Daily Dish" section -- unattributed.

Retailers take a swipe at Katrina card use

Some stores across the country are refusing Red Cross-provided hurricane-relief debit cards because they do not approve of the goods being bought.

Responses have poured in since this column reported last week that the cards had been used to buy $800 handbags at the Louis Vuitton store in Atlanta.

Retailer Vicki Haniford said she has begun refusing the cards at her store in Illinois. "[Last] Saturday, I had 14 transactions go through from about six different people totaling a little over $1,000," she E-mailed. "They purchased jewelry and a TV with a DVD player. I called the Red Cross and they said unfortunately these people made bad choices when purchasing, but there was nothing they could do.

"This is totally and morally wrong," she says. "Many hard-working Americans donated money to the disaster victims so they could have food and clothing, not buy outrageous items."

Another reader told me: "My daughter works at an entertainment store in a suburban Atlanta mall. [Last Sunday], an apparent hurricane refugee came in the store and purchased a personal PlayStation and two games for a total of about $360, using a Red Cross debit card.

"They couldn't refuse the sale, but subsequently store policy changed. Everyone in the store was incensed, except the guy using the card, of course."

A Louis Vuitton spokeswoman did not respond to a question about whether their chain would continue to accept the distinctive white debit cards.

A Red Cross rep told me the card could be used to buy anything except alcohol, tobacco or firearms. "Once they're out of our hands, there's nothing we can do," she said.

Now, I have some questions:

1. When the cards were issued, why were they so unrestricted? The intent, I suppose, was for people to use them to buy essential items like food and clothing. Most of society does not see a Playstation as an essential item for survival. On the other hand, a child's view of survival is different from the rest of society's view. And a harried mother or father will often seek to divert restless children in order to deal with the rest of the situation.

2. Whose definition of "morally wrong" are we using? Seriously, different people have different priorities when it comes to "moral" anything. Vegans, for example, will see the buying of meat as being morally wrong, and will campaign against it -- even when all evidence points to the fact that growing children need animal protein in order to grow properly. Veganism is an adult choice, and should not be forced on children. And yes, that is my moral opinion, based on what I know. So, whose definition of "moral" are we going to use when we point fingers?

3. Let's go back to that first sentence: Some stores across the country are refusing Red Cross-provided hurricane-relief debit cards because they do not approve of the goods being bought. Who has the right to approve or disapprove anyone else's purchases?

I gotta admit, whenever I see someone grocery shopping and they're loading their cart with sugar-saturated cereals, I want to scream, "Do you know what you're doing to your body and your children's bodies?" That's not my choice to make, however. So I bite my tongue and buy my eggs and sausage, hoping I don't run into a vegan/cholesterol freak who will lecture me on my own choices.

4. Has anyone considered that some of these purchases are being made with stolen and/or forged cards? That maybe Katrina's victims are being responsible (according to whoever gets to define "responsible")? And that they're just getting a bad rap because they're easy to pick on right now, having no way to fight back? Hmmmmm...

2 Comments:

Blogger Dez said...

3. Let's go back to that first sentence: Some stores across the country are refusing Red Cross-provided hurricane-relief debit cards because they do not approve of the goods being bought. Who has the right to approve or disapprove anyone else's purchases?

Stores have the right to refuse service to anyone, regardless of the reason. We may not agree with their reasons, but it is their store.

I agree with you that the holders of the cards have the right to buy whatever they want with them, but the stores have the right to refuse to sell their goods.

Thanks!
Dez

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 3:27:00 PM  
Blogger Chimera said...

You're correct, of course, that stores have the right to withdraw an item from offer (took basic business law in high school -- a lo-o-o-ong time ago). I'm not saying that they don't have the right.

What I am saying is: who has the right to approve or disapprove of what you buy? Withdraw it from offer, by all means, but don't moralize about it!

Friday, September 23, 2005 1:00:00 PM  

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