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COVID-19 Pandemic, Online Shopping Create Dilemma For At-Home Spenders

KCBS Radio San Francisco logo KCBS Radio San Francisco 4/24/2020 Kathy Novak
a person standing in front of a shop © Provided by KCBS Radio San Francisco ...listen to the audio...

As one of the lucky people still working remotely, I found myself drawn to social media ads for a stretchy work wardrobe, and it seems I'm not alone.

The rush to do so is certainly helping San Francisco-based online retailer Betabrand.

Betabrand CEO Chris Lindland said sales were down at the start of our new normal, and then things picked up.

"They've since begun to rebound, based somewhat on us repositioning our dress pants (and) yoga pants as work from home pants," Lindland said. "In the same way that you came to the thought that you may need some comfy pants, with good fortune many women are doing the same."

It's also good fortune for his staff who can keep their jobs, including engineers and marketers who are working from home.

The products are made abroad.

But many other retailers are struggling to keep up and staff in distribution centers are risking their lives to get us our stuff.

So, should we only be buying essentials?

Stanford University ethics professor Debra Satz told KCBS Radio that if we can afford it, supporting companies to keep people employed is important. She suggests we look at business practices, shop locally and reward good behavior.

"We do know that worker organizing and some consumer organizing has changed the behavior of some companies," Satz said. "The Instacart workers went on strike. Instacart has extended sick leave for people and changed protective gear practices."

a bus that is parked on the side of a building: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images © Provided by KCBS Radio San Francisco Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

If we're worried about the ethics of shopping, Satz said we should really be thinking about the bigger picture.

"What I would focus on is the collective political aspect of this," Satz said.

Voting with your wallet now, then as we come out of the crisis, at the ballot box.

"Do we want to be a society where there are people who feel compelled to go to work even though it's a huge health risk to them," Satz explained. "Where they don't have proper equipment to protect themselves, where if they're sick they have no sick days so they have to go in putting themselves and everybody else at risk?"

Something to consider as you wait await delivery of that fashionable, comfy loungewear.


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