Ethical Selling is for Real Capitalists

Rebecca Bar
3 min readJun 7, 2020


Memes like this get passed around in shopping groups, and they’re funny because they’re so relatable and, unfortunately, all too true.

One of the many benefits of shopping online is that the internet is open 24/7.

Does that mean it’s OK to capitalize on the impulsive decisions your customers make when they’re tired?

It’s not illegal. But consider the possible ramifications to your business from doing so:

1. Higher return rates on impulse purchases. Return rates in a physical store are around 8% today, while their online counterparts average 25–30%.

2. These returns will cost you more money in employees and resources to restock the items.

3. Customers are smart. When they realize they’re buying items from you that don’t get used, they will stop coming.

Pallets of returned merchandise. Img source,

A local bulk supermarket ran an advertising campaign a few years ago that I’ll never forget. They had branded signs hung up all over the city that would tell you how NOT to spend money in their store. It was creative, different, and refreshing. Each tip on how to spend less at their store had a number; Tip #17, tip #21, and so on. They printed these tips on the back of receipts too.

Here are the ones I remember:

  1. “Did you eat breakfast this morning? Don’t come shopping here when you’re hungry.”
  2. “Never shop without a grocery list.”
  3. “Don’t buy in bulk if you live near the grocery store.”

Today, they even sell a child’s board game that teaches you how to save money on your grocery shopping.

And yes, I bought it. 😂

Remember consignment buying? What if we had the option to reserve items in our cart for a certain amount of time (12–24 hours?) while considering our purchase, or even for a week or two while we paid them off? I know many big e-tailers offer payments on your CC.

This might not be a money-maker for the immediate user, but it’s a tactic that can build your brand as one that cares about ethical selling and buying.

Additionally, I’d love to see e-tailers that have enough inventory use AI tech to suggest lower-budget options to designer brand items.

Don’t get me wrong; a little retail therapy never hurts. However, when it’s taken to an extreme and encouraged in too many directions, it becomes a problem.

Screenshot taken from eBay’s homepage; February 2020

That means being careful with Shopify and Woocommerce plugins that push us towards impulse buying. I know the numbers work in the short term. There are billions of people waiting to buy your next one-off product, and you found a system that works, so you don’t care about customer retention. That is one way to do things.

But to the companies looking to grow and that do care about customer retention:

Wouldn’t less returns, more customer loyalty, and a healthier, more ethical brand sound enticing to you?

Nothing worth having comes easy. That said, for better or for worse, it isn’t hard to stand out today by genuinely caring about doing the right thing for your customer.

Signing off,




Rebecca Bar

Business-Minded UX and Product Design Partner | Products & People. Wait. 🙅‍♀️ that, 🔄 it. Thank You.