Cool Apps I Use: Buycott

I am a bit of an app addict. I have always been something of an impulse buyer and the Apple app store is a dangerous place for me if I’m not careful. Luckily, there are a ton of free or cheap apps for my iPhone, so the only thing I have to worry about is whether or not I have enough storage space for the “Plants vs. Zombies” game I play compulsively for a week before I abandon it.

So, one of my apps that I’ve been having fun with lately is called “Buycott.” Well, having fun I guess is a relative term. The makers of this app wanted to put power back in the hands of the consumer by giving them a way to companies support causes that are important to them, while also alerting you to companies that one should avoid based on your preferences (so, like a traditional boycott). According to the “About” section:

A buycott is the opposite of a boycott. It is an active campaign to buy the products or services of a particular company or brand. Buycott is a tool that helps you organize your consumer spending to support causes that you care about.

So after downloading the app, a user can join campaigns like “Avoid Koch Industries,” which alerts you to products at your local grocery store that are made by Georgia-Pacific, a Koch Industry subsidiary. You scan an item’s barcode at the grocery store and it tells you whether that item conflicts with any causes you support. Using myself as an example, I joined campaigns that alert me to companies that support LGBT rights and access to reproductive healthcare while avoiding Monsanto products and corporations that oppose GMO labeling. This lead to a half a day of procrastinating while I scanned pretty much everything in the family pantry. Those Pepperidge Farm cookies Mom brought home: Monsanto (boo). My Blue Diamond almond milk: no conflicts (yay). Ditto the sweet potato chips I’m addicted to (thank God,) but not the Dunkin Donuts coffee the family drinks (not even gonna lie, I’m gonna keep drinking it till it’s gone because COFFEE!).

I love the app because it’s hard trying to keep straight which product belongs to which company and whether or not that corporation lobbies against GMO labeling. Many of these companies have more brands and products than Buycott has on record, but users can input items the app doesn’t recognize or alert the developers of items that say support LGBT rights.

I hate the app because: 1) it makes shopping at the grocery store much harder when you realize how many brands are problematic, and 2) not everyone can afford to shop according to their moral compass. I’m in a decent financial situation now, but there have been times in the past where I’d have looked at the app alerting me that I shouldn’t buy that Campbell’s tomato soup and placed it in my cart anyway because I was poor and a girl’s gotta eat. It’s also a situation I may find myself in in the near future (hello grad school). Technology is grand and it can be used as a tool to focus one’s buying power, but it can also make one feel a bit powerless. Yes, consumers have power, but I sometimes feel that the power belongs in the hands of a privileged few.

What do you think? Are apps like these beneficial or simply only useful for a few who can afford to be discriminating?

By Stephens

Florida girl, would-be world traveler and semi-permanent expat. Her main strategy of life is to throw out the nets and hope something useful comes back, but many times it's just an old shoe. She also really, really hates winter and people who are consistently late.

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