Being a Harry Potter fan from the first book, I will be one of those readers who gets a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on the first day it comes out. It's even a line item in my July budget for the full price of $34.99.
So how did Harry get to be an ethical dilemma?
Well, it turns out that the very cheapest place I can buy the book is Wal-Mart. In fact, Wal-Mart, at $17.87, beats out Amazon by 12 cents.
For $24.99, I could support the large but independent bookseller in my town. Or, for full price, I could support the local feminist bookstore that I've loved for years (though, oddly, I seldom actually purchase books there--I tend not to purchase new books at all, preferring my city's excellent local libraries and garage sales).
What to do? What to do?
I know that Wal-Mart exploits its employees. I've watched the lawsuits regarding discrimination against women and African-Americans, with interest. I deplore Wal-Mart's anti-union stance. Yet, in the name of all that's frugal, how do I get around the fact that for many of the every day items I use, Wal-Mart is the cheapest place in town?
At least this time around, the decision is a bit easier. For a 12 cent savings, do I really want to support Wal-Mart? Ok, that's a pretty simple "No."
Amazon? Nothing particularly wrong with them, but shouldn't I be supporting the local folks? My city is home to one of the world's largest independent bookstores--a place I and every one else loves to go and hang out, the first stop for many visitors to our fair city. If everyone shopped Amazon, where would this store be? Don't I owe them something? Besides, I'd still save $10.00 off the full price.
But then there's the feminist bookstore--going into its fourth decade, run collectively, and always on a shoestring. I admire the women who run it, I support their politics, why not cough up the full price for them?
When I shop at Wal-Mart, I do so in spite of what I see as the immorality of its business. It's not like I think it would be immoral to buy from Amazon.
But would it be the RIGHT thing to do?
I'm still working on that one.