Saturday, 24 November 2012

How to give more with less.

Some retailers claim that we do good in the world when we shop with them. Generally this is a lie- but not always.

The notion that we are doing good by spending on ourselves is beguiling and for this reason I am reluctant to believe it.

Prett a Manger is a UK based upmarket sandwich chain (now part owned by McDonalds). They are rather pricey but worth the extra if you have the money. The food is also pretty good for you overall and they treat their staff well.

It is worth eating there because all of the surplus food is given to the homeless. In addition they make a donation of five pence to their own charitable foundation for every sandwich bought and it is possible to trigger a further donation of five pence by checking in via Foursquare. The company pays UK tax unlike Starbucks for instance.

Waterstones is a bricks and mortar bookshop that pays UK tax, unlike Amazon. They provide employment for dreamy English Lit graduates who otherwise have a hard time of it. The price difference between online sales and a bookshop is less than you may think provided you sign up for their two separate loyalty schemes.

Shopping in a bookshop is far more enjoyable than going online. If you believe the day game gurus it is possible to find love among the paperbacks, although I suspect this is easier in New York than London.

It is also possible to effect social change by buying books. Simply buying the books you enjoy causes bookshops to order more of the same.

Many Waterstones branches have Costa branches within them. Maybe this is because Costa sees itself as the readers coffee shop. It sponsors the Costa Book Prize. This (unlike the Orange prize) is open to men as well as women. In addition the company has a charitable trust that it funds with significant contributions of its own money (about £750,000 a year) to promote literacy in poorer countries.

Costa pays tax in the UK, unlike Starbucks, while also having a more authentic product and a better loyalty scheme.

I intend to reward myself for 'being good' and repaying personal debt by going to places such as these. Ten percent seems about right.

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