The human cost of one penny less

‘Dateline NBC’ investigates the human costs in the developing world behind the bargain shopping trend of the Americans and the competitive deals of the big discount stores.

The investigation goes to the source of the goods these store offers. In Bangladesh, a female worker, Masuma gets more like 17 cents for sewing as much as 80 stripes on pants in an hour, a perfectly legal wage, and more than many Bangladeshis like her earn. But she can barely live with that wages.

MSNBC arranged to bring her to the US, to a store where these pants are sold. She was shocked to find the selling price ($12.84) of one striped pant, more than she could imagine. She said the price of the pants left her feeling taken advantage of. If she was paid 25 cents an hour instead of 17, a 50 percent raise, she could lead what she considers a decent life.

When a US customer on that store was asked in front of Masuma, whether she would by the pant if it was 25 cents more, she declined. She said that she feels for Masuma, but she is counting her pennies as well. It’s the debate over globalization in its simplest form.

One Bangladeshi garments executive claims:

A few years back, I told Wal-Mart, “Give me one cents more a piece, one cent. I will use that money for these poor people.’ Wal-Mart's reply was, ‘No, give us two cents less.’

So the industry gives in to the competition, shattering millions of workers’ (like Masuma) dreams:

“They make us work so hard, and they cheat us so much and we're human beings. I'm not an animal. I'm a human being. Of course I'm angry. This is really shocking.”

Will they ever be heard? Will we still be counting our pennies?


  • […] Dateline NBC investigates the human costs in the developing world behind the bargain shopping trend of the Americans and the competitive deals of the big discount stores. Read more on this story at Global Voices Online. […]

  • Hermenegildo Galeana

    Unfortunately yes, the American Society is in general very selfish, especially when we talk about big corporations. If the slavery still be legal in some country, this country will be packed of Levi’s , Nike, Gap, North Face, you named factories. Sadly the third world is working near the slavery limit to satisfy the demands of the USA, and not only economics, but political too. The answer to this issue is the next revolution to come; the third world will rebel against its oppressor and a new order will born. I guarantee you that.

  • Darryl W. Fuller

    The common american, which I am, knows full well that the USA is a selfish, avaricious nation. However, most of us are not wealthy nor due we tend toward the selfish greed that has been shown to be part of the bottom line of large corporate america. I live from pay day to pay day, and can hardly cover the expense of living in 21st century america. To change the way corporation enslave the populations of the earth, we must all agree to uphold certain principle regardless of cultural differences. This is the stumbling block were we fail. To have a fair and equal life style over the entire globe, personal wealth must give way to the greater good, thus luxury will not be had by any. Revolutions will bring more strife amoungst the worlds people and greater divisions.Political leaders always pander to the needy and the influential. A life of bettering one self as its purpose and contribution as its goal is the only answer. But look what happened to that dream in the soviet union. Mans nature is lazy! with out reward to the common man for his labor he becomes a sloth, and the work needed just to feed and clothe the world wouldn’t get done. PUT YOUR IDEALISM IN YOUR POCKET, no one has a use for it at present.
    If you want an answer to the worlds issues look to God.

  • Kara Jones

    I am always saddened by stories detailing the use of workers abroad to make a profit here in the US. I don’t understand the lure of money sometimes. It can buy things, but the people who slave to manufacture all the things we take for granted here in the US deserve some respect and deserve to be treated like human beings. Taking advantage of another’s naivety is just plain wrong. However, I will be interested to see what happnes when the workers finally just say “no more”..eventually it will happen, maybe not on a large scale, but enough to disrupt the flow of goods for maybe a short time…

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