Our third essay will ask you to research the business practices, much like you are an investigative journalist writing an expose, of the company, business, service, or product you choose, and make a recommendation to your readers, consumers, about whether or not we should continue to support that business, product, company or service.
This will involve many steps and your best research skills. Please note that this is not a “product review.” You should not be writing excessively about whether you like or don’t like the product. That will be a small component of this essay. The bulk of your essay should be information that you have uncovered from reliable sources about how the corporation, business, product, or service conducts business. What environmental footprint is left behind from the packaging or manufacturing? What legislation or political contributions are being made with revenue from our shopping? Did they sponsor the abortion ban? Did they contribute to Trump’s election campaign? How are the employees treated? What are their working conditions like? Are they safe and healthy? Do they offer fair benefits to the workers? Are their hiring practices discriminatory? Do they use child labor anywhere in the supply chain? Are they exploiting their workers anywhere in the supply chain? How do they contribute to the economy by employing people? Do they put small local businesses out of business? Do they pay any taxes? How have they supported their workers in times of crisis, like during the coronavirus outbreak and quarantine? Is there sick pay? Child care? Are they being laid off? Are they shouldering the financial burden? Are they practicing “disaster capitalism” and profiting from diseases or disasters? Do they have a reputable charity? Do they practice philanthropy? What is their history like? Did they collaborate with Nazis, contribute to genocide, found their business with money from the slave trade, support the immigrant refugee camps, mass incarceration, or mass deportation?
There’s a lot to find out here, it gets pretty complicated, and this can be a fun assignment. Well, maybe not “fun” exactly, but enlightening. You may discover that a company is ethical and responsible, and so you’ll write an essay that encourages consumers to support this ethical company. Or, you may discover that we are unknowingly supporting hideous practices because every time we buy a product, its like saying, “Keep on doing what you’re doing, Corporation. Here’s my money.” It can be shocking, in some cases. But the goal here is to educate your readers so that they can be informed consumers.
I took my son to see Avengers: Endgame last summer, and as many of you know, I’ve often speculated about who is funding Trumps’ re-election campaign. I mean, seriously. As it turned out, I was. Because Marvel is owned by Disney, and both contributed heavily to Trumps’ re-election. That means some of my money spent on movie tickets ended up somewhere I wish it hadn’t. If I were a Trump supporter, of course, this would be fine. But I’m not, and I wish I’d just gotten a bootleg copy of Avengers from the parking lot of the liquor store. At least then I’d be supporting a young entrepreneur instead of Trump. But I didn’t know that at the time.
Also, as the recent coronavirus news has shown, corporations control a lot of the information we see and hear and read. Our government prioritizes business and profits over people far too often, and advertising dollars from corporations help censor information in publications and broadcasts that won’t report on business practices from their own advertisers. This makes finding the truth a bit difficult. In fact, you will also observe that “messaging” about certain issues is often consistent across multiple news outlets. When certain phrases are repeated frequently, that’s an indication that there was a single source for the message. I have heard the terms “social distancing” and “out of an abundance of caution” repeated in virtually every report on the coronavirus. Hopefully, that means that we are receiving a consistent message from a reliable source, like the Center for Disease Control or the International Health Organization. Sometimes, however, those same channels contain propaganda that can be misleading or can be brainwashing us into believing something. It helps to be good critical thinkers to sort out the propaganda from the reliable information, especially as we are bombarded with messages from advertisers and propagandists. You’ll need to be careful about the information that you uncover and cite here, especially because the mainstream typical reliable sources may receive advertising money (or be owned by) the company that you are researching, so the info may be hard to find there. You may end up having to go online and search through less reliable sources to find what you need. Be relentless.
By the way, on a practical note, there are a couple approaches you might take with this assignment. You could start with the company. Look around…see what’s popular or what people are spending their money on these days…and choose to research that. That works. Alternately, you might start with an issue, if you care about animal rights and oppose animal testing, perhaps look up what companies still practice testing on animals, and choose one to investigate. That way, you’ll know there’s something out there to find and report!
P.S. Research KFC at your own risk. Seriously disgusting.
In our capitalist society, we are bombarded with advertising and opportunities to purchase products, goods, and services seemingly non-stop with limitless choices, but being a consumer and being a responsible consumer are two different things. Consider the implications of the choices that we make as consumers in a free market economy; by buying a product, we are, in a very real sense, approving of the business decisions made by that company, unknowingly or unwillingly supporting very unethical or damaging business practices. However, although corporate power may seem insurmountable, informed and educated consumers can knowingly and deliberately make decisions that support ethical, humane, and sustainable practices by exercising the power of the consumer. This assignment asks you to explore the implications of our specific decisions as consumers by researching one product, company, service, or corporation, and recommending to your readers whether or not you think we should support it.
In an essay intended for an audience made up primarily of people who live in your region of the country, examine the effects of a decision to support a particular corporation, buy a specific item (or shop at a particular store) that is commonly available to local consumers. For example, in the film Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, Robert Greenwald explores the impact of purchases at Wal-Mart. The Corporation identifies the devastating effects that corporations have on the world. In your essay, you might consider other common items: entertainment equipment such as televisions, certain kinds of clothing, gasoline, services such as wireless telephone service, or transportation such as airlines or a particular brand of automobile or type of food. You should, however, choose a specific business or company, like Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, General Motors, Monsanto, Bayer, Pfizer, or Chiquita in order to focus on a specific example. The subject of your investigation is up to you, but please try to be original and avoid the topics that are relatively familiar (or the examples from class), such as Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Nestle, Nike, cigarettes, and Starbucks.
Once you have selected the corporation that you want to focus on, closely examine the reasons that you–or any consumer–might choose to buy that item. Look at the specific choices available for that item–for example, the different kinds of cars that you could choose from if you were going to buy a car. Look at the advertisements and websites for the product or service as well. Additionally, research the possible effects that purchasing that item might have on the local economy, the global economy, politics, the environment, your health, the well-being of your neighbors and community, the workforce, and any other relevant effects. Where does our money go? Do they contribute to or support any sort of legislation that we should be aware of? Consider interviewing people who have made such a purchase and review articles you locate on the effects of your chosen purchase.
After you have explored these issues, write an essay (5 or more pages, double-spaced, in 12 point professional font such as Times New Roman) in which you make an argument about whether or not, as responsible consumers, we should spend our money on a particular product, company, or service.
Key Features:
1. An introduction that gets the reader’s attention and states your thesis. Provide an overview of your entire essay. here. Whether or not you decide to use an “essay map” in a thesis that lists your subtopics, be sure to include a claim, or unifying element, that explains your overall argument. Unless you have a good reason to place it somewhere else, this should be the last sentence of your introduction and should state specifically what your recommendations to local consumers regarding your product, service, or company are.
2. A definition of key terms: carefully explain the necessity or importance of the product that you are writing about to give your readers a clear idea of your topic (but be careful not to let this section take over your essay–limit it to one paragraph). If you are writing about a product such as oil, provide background information that explains the need for oil in the U.S., or the available alternatives to importing foreign oil.
3. Appropriate organization and paragraphing, including use of clear topic sentences that introduce your subpoints and connect them clearly to your thesis. The paragraphs should be in a logical order and use transitions to show links between ideas.
4. At least three (3) library sources, such as articles from EBSCO or Proquest.
5. At least three (3) reliable online sources; try searching using (
6. Explanations that are supported with specific evidence (your evidence may come from your personal experience, field research, class readings, and library and Internet research).
7. The use of clear, well-reasoned, logical arguments as discussed in How to Write Anything.
8. A conclusion that provides closure to the essay and considers the implications of the argument.
9. MLA Style (heading, margins, title, line spacing, page numbering, parenthetical note(s), and Works Cited page.
10.Observance of the conventions of standard written English.
Here is a sample outline:
I. Introduction
Introduce product and company; briefly mention your subtopics; provide necessary background information; define any important terms (if necessary, these can be separate paragraphs); state thesis.
II. Explain how company or product is perceived by consumers
Use researched articles, interviews, personal experience, and/or testimonials (from consumer websites or blogs, for example) to support your points.
III. Describe how the company represents itself in its promotional materials (ads, website, etc.)
Use an analysis of ads, the website, and/or other print materials.
IV. Present your research on the business practices of the company (multiple paragraphs)
Using cause / effect reasoning–and avoiding faulty cause fallacies—describe the impact or repercussions of buying a particular product (i.e. the investment in a product supports sweatshops, creates profits for a company with unethical business practices, leads to environmental damage, etc.; or, ethically, the company simply misrepresents itself through its advertising or other promotional materials. Use researched articles, interviews, personal experience, and/or testimonials (from consumer websites or blogs, for example) to support your points. Remember to use the Toulmin logic model to clearly explain how the evidence you present supports the points you are using it to support.
V. Present your reasons to buy or not to buy the product
Use an appropriate method of reasoning (inductive, deductive, Rogerian, traditional) to explain to your readers why you feel a product is worth buying or not due to the company’s business practices. Support your argument with concrete evidence (quotes, observations, personal experience, reasons).
VI. Address and refute opposing arguments and/or objections to your argument
Objectively explain the opposing point of view (to your own), and then explain why you choose not to support that position (i.e. it’s illogical, untrue, not the best solution to the problem, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages).
VII. Conclusion
Offer alternatives for consumers to the product that you have reviewed negatively; suggest what your readers might do (like boycott a particular brand of clothing) in order to avoid supporting environmentally dangerous products; or make recommendations to the company on behalf of your readers.