When I decided to sell t-shirts in the Where’s My Fucking Money Store, I did what any good capitalist would do. I first checked my bank account to understand exactly how I could pull it off.
I certainly didn’t have the dough to order a few thousand t-shirts. Nor did I have room to store them in my one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco. Finally, I didn’t want to hand address packages and schlep them to the post office every time I sold one. So I went with an “on demand” printer. Certainly the per shirt cost was higher, but “on-demand” eliminated almost all of the risk and hassle.
When I chose the various styles of t-shirts and sweatshirts I didn’t put a lot of thought into where or how they were made. I looked at styles and price points, like a good capitalist.
After I launched WheresMyFuckingMoney.com, I sent an email to Lee Camp, offering to send him a free t-shirt.
If you are not familiar with Lee Camp’s “Moment of Clarity” videos then you’re probably not reading this post either.As Greg Palast says, “Lee Camp has found the hole in America’s brain where reason has been replaced by Wal-Mart.” Lee Camp is certainly not “one of the millions of apathetic, Abercrombie-clad toolbags who don’t have a single unique thought in their entire, empty, echoing skulls, just going around contributing ignorantly, willfully to this mindscape of mediocrity; just spraying puerile pop culture like a skunk spraying its stink.”
Promotion value aside, I wanted to give Lee a t-shirt because I’m a fucking fan.
So I emailed Lee last spring. And he responded that he’d love to get a t-shirt but he added (I’m paraphrasing) that he didn’t want to come off like a douchebag, but that he couldn’t accept a garment that was produced using child labor or made in a country like China.
Obviously, I didn’t want to sell a t-shirt made by five-year-olds. I have a five-year-old niece and despite her nimble, small fingers, she would make a shitty t-shirt!
Lee got me thinking. I checked into the manufacturers of the t-shirts I was selling.
One of them, Gildan, a Canadian company (What’s not to love about the Canucks?), had a big spiel about their commitment to corporate responsibility. Indeed, a large portion of their website devoted to working conditions in their factories. So I accepted the hype for the same reason everybody does, the shirts were cheaper.
But I didn’t send Lee a shirt.
As I continued to read and write about evil, lying corporations, I began to see more clearly that selling t-shirts made in Honduras made me part of the problem, not part of the solution. I honestly don’t know if the folks at Gildan are liars, but that’s not the point. “In Honduras, for example, small teams of U.S. troops are working with local forces to escalate the drug war there. Working out of Forward Operating Base Mocoron and other remote camps, the U.S. military is supporting Honduran operations by way of the methods it honed in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Nick Turse, Washington Puts Its Money On Proxy Wars, TomDispatch.com
The troops aren’t in Honduras just for the drug war, which is bad enough. They’re in Honduras so that I can buy two-dollar t-shirts from nice Canadians.
I decided to sell American made, American printed, union made t-shirts. I hope I can continue to do so, despite the Scott Walkers and the Koch brothers.
I also decided to be as transparent as possible about my profit. For example, at present, a Black Bayside Apparel union made short sleeve t-shirt, XL costs me $6.76.; printing is $8.50; handling at printer (labels, etc.), $1.00; Total: $16.26. I’m selling these shirts for $19.99. My gross profit is $3.63 per shirt. After nasty bank charges including credit card processing and fees, I’m making less than 3 bucks. The larger sixes (XXL, 3XL and 4XL) have increased prices to reflect extra manufacturing cost, but the profit is about the same. Shipping is is calculated by a USPS live rate calculator and it is a reasonable estimate of my costs for shipping. Sales tax is charged for California purchases. Taxes are taxes are taxes.
Lee Camp is right. It’s important to put your consumer power where your mouth is.
If I sell 30 t-shirts a month I can keep up with basic site costs. If I sell a million of them, I could, unlike Bill Maher and other Nattering Nabobs of Progressivism, donate a bunch of dough to Occupy, not dipshit Democrats.