Tuesday, February 04, 2014

The Consumer Reports of Boycotts

One of the outcomes of the Superbowl was a controversy about an Israeli company called SodaStream.   SodaStream sells a device which injects CO2 into water and with syrups they sell so that you can produce home made soda.   I am not much of a soda drinker so I have never used the product - but it seems like a good idea.    

Oxfam produced a silly ad suggesting that this company, which offers employment to Palestinians, is exploiting the workers.  That is  nonsense.   In an area of the world where poverty is high - this little company is offering good jobs.   Despite the overblown rhetoric of Palestinian spokesmen - that is the reality.  The company's spokesperson quit her role with Oxfam.  In recent months the Palestinians have used terms like "apartheid" to describe Israeli policies in what they believe to be Palestinian territory.   That is so off the mark it is laughable - but some in the world have begun to believe the claim.

But the real story comes from a fringe group  I found  called Global Exchange - whose mantra is that they are   "an international human rights organization dedicated to promoting social, economic and environmental justice around the world"  (Please note I have not put in their URL as I usually would because I find their campaign despicable.)

On their website they sneer - The simplest alternative to buying a SodaStream machine is to drink plain water or other non-carbonated beverages - no one actually needs to drink bubbly water. And even if you like to do so on occasion, remember that you’ll have to consume quite a bit before you’ll realize any economic or environmental benefits from owning your own machine, compared to simply buying bottles at the grocery store. (Yes, plastic bottles are wasteful, but plenty of plastic, plus metal and other resources used for manufacturing and shipping, goes into each home machine, too.)  Can you imagine the internal fights with these nutballs.   "If we can't get people to not buy products from this company that is operating in what we believe to be Palestinian territory then should we actually ask them to use (shudder!!!!) plastic bottles?"   Which orthodoxy prevailed is a matter of some interest - evidently environmental and nanny state principles get thrown out when you have a chance to rail against a for profit company.

But then the site goes on to offer consumer recommendations on competitors to the SodaStream.    Their first alternative has the following advice "XXX (the first company recommended)  isn’t selling its own syrups or powder to flavor your soda, but its customer service department says a full line will be available soon. In the meantime, both Cuisinart customer service and at least some Bed Bath & Beyond retail staffers are recommending SodaStream’s flavorings, but you don’t have to you follow their advice - you can just add fruit juice, brew your own flavorings (start with these recipes), or try the flavor packs offered by two other recent entrants in the make-your-own-soda market."  (Note on the original site the words "these recipes" were hot linked to nothing - evidently the nanny state faction in this group prevailed and prevented GE from being a full fledged consumer advocate.)

It seems odd that a group which claims to support human rights and "economic" justice would spend so much time trying to assail a small company that is offering good jobs in a place where people really need them.  But then again when you live by orthodoxy, even the cross conflicted notions of this group, what you say and what you actually do may be quite different.

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