Geiger me with a spoon
May 30, 2005 7:46 PM   Subscribe

Click-click-clickity-click-click-ckclclkckclckclck!!! Previously mentioned on MeFi nearly two years ago, the Corporate Fallout Detector made its public debut at the transmediale.05 festval in Berlin. Utilizing stored information from UPC barcode databases and corporate responsibility/pollution level websites, this "device" would allow consumers to know instantaneously the "socially irresponsible radiation level" of any product. Right now, it only seems to work on Smelly European Companies (but interestingly, American Apparel products, although not yet readable by the CFD, scored off the charts when using the nearby Corporate Model Hotness Detector. (via)
posted by ericbop (18 comments total)

Speaking of irresponsibilty, what kind of parents give their kid the porn moniker Stryder, and why is he not half-naked like the rest of them?
posted by AlexReynolds at 7:57 PM on May 30, 2005

my wife uses responsible shopper all the time. our only frustration is that their database is not complete/thorough enough. I'd love to get my hands on one of these (not the hotness detectors, silly, the cfd!) so that we don't have to wait until we're able to get online to research the products we find at the store. I also like The Green Guide.
posted by ericbop at 8:03 PM on May 30, 2005

I thought that Adbusters was "working" on a PDA-like device that could scan UPCs and compare them to a database of corps...ultimately giving you a green or red light...
posted by schyler523 at 8:22 PM on May 30, 2005

You linked to an underwear model site?!
posted by mischief at 8:34 PM on May 30, 2005

I love how MIT art projects actually work. Usually a "tech-artist" will put together a cool-looking, cool-sounding device that's effectively just a stage prop.

(This is awesome. Exactly what's needed. But the underwear link is a bit strange. If Ericbop is an AE shill, he's at least an incredibly competent one. *Removes tinfoil hat*)
posted by Tlogmer at 9:14 PM on May 30, 2005

the last link (clearly - if satirically - labeled "hotness detector") is to a page from the American Apparel website. They are a proper and upstanding American clothing manufacturer who just happen to use attractive models in their somewhat racy ads.

From the American Apparel site:
"American Apparel is a vertically integrated manufacturer, distributor and retailer of T-shirts and related products.... Our downtown Los Angeles factory, [is]...the largest sewn-products facility in the United States,... The challenge for companies like American Apparel is to establish new ways of doing business that are efficient and profitable without exploiting workers."

see? nothing naughty here. the link connects to the theme of social responsiblity, if in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek (and barely prurient) manner. . btw, what is AE?
posted by ericbop at 9:20 PM on May 30, 2005

Tlogmer and ericbop - American Apperal was possibly confused with American Eagle(AE). Initials are similar, company ethics probably aren't even close.
posted by gunthersghost at 9:53 PM on May 30, 2005

American Apparel are far from "a proper and upstanding American clothing manufacturer who just happen to use attractive models". They're the brainchild of a trust fund baby with a penchant for exploiting women AND the very ideal of socially conscious consumption for fun and profit. This link is a must read. Please do not perpetuate the myth that American Apparel is a morally tenable alternative to sweatshop-produced clothing.
posted by Embryo at 10:53 PM on May 30, 2005

"According to a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board and settled by the company, American Apparel engaged in tactics of intimidation to bust an attempt at unionization, including interrogating workers about their support for a union, soliciting workers to withdraw their union authorization cards and threatening to close the facility if a union was formed. The company also allegedly printed armbands to be worn at work which read, "no union," and forced employees to attend an anti-union rally"
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 11:18 PM on May 30, 2005

Who said anything about 'naughty'? I am just surprised that that was the best underwear model site you could find. is far better. ;-P
posted by mischief at 7:16 AM on May 31, 2005

I have yet to see a current update on the american apparel unionization issue -- the last thing I saw (which is unfortunately undated) is here.

I'd question the "exploiting women" comment from Embryo since I haven't seen any direct evidence other than some "edgy" comments from Dov Charney and that article he linked. It sounds like the guy definitely has some weird proclivities, but I'm not sure that translates into his entire company being corrupt. He's kind of a smutty figurehead, but I don't know if that's detracting enough to overlook the rest of the company.

I'd be more worried that he's mentioned dropping the "sweatshop free" from the company's advertising -- apparently it's not as much of a sale point as the recent advertising has been. And as for the advertising being exploitative, I'm undecided. It's like half-baked Terry Richardson knockoff photography combined with hip models.
posted by mikeh at 8:28 AM on May 31, 2005

This is why I love Metafilter. Thanks to embryo for opening my eyes to the darker side of AA. In following up on this story, I also found a few other sites which will help me be as responsible a consumer as I can:

Justice Clothing and No Sweat Apparel. Also, here is AA's obviously biased response to this lawsuit. Live and learn!
posted by ericbop at 9:40 AM on May 31, 2005

Word, thanks for those links, Eric.

Mark, see, that's the thing. This guy isn't just a figurehead, he's the visionary and CEO as well as apparently the guy who decided to market his clothes using the same young womyn in precarious life positions that he also tells that to work for him they have to expect to see his cock. It comes across as systematic exploitation and between the ads and his attitude I am not ready to overlook these more specific allegations of harassment and general creepiness. Did you read the comments on that link I posted?

And devilsdance, thanks for the Union info too. That is also so, so crucial. This is just another exploitative corporation in sheep's clothing... pun intended.
posted by Embryo at 10:59 AM on May 31, 2005

Hmm, well. AA's CEO is a perv, but I don't think having sex with women means you're 'exploiting' them.

Unions are not the best things in the world, by the way. They can be just as corrupt and immoral as corps.
posted by delmoi at 12:32 PM on May 31, 2005

I'm not going to support any sort of systematic exploitation, especially if it can be shown legally, but what's the "best option" here? Assuming I am planning on buying new clothing (as opposed to thrift or consignment store hunting) and don't especially care for the styles of other unionized, sweatshop-free efforts, should I just go to the mall? I find it hard to believe that going to nearly any chain store is going to be more supportive of labor rights than buying from American Apparel is. Not that I believe they're that supportive, especially with the de-emphasizing of the "sweatshop-free" angle which was really a misnomer to begin with.

I think that the best option is to encourage enterprises with some flaws like American Apparel (or create new enterprises of your own) and encourage them to address their weaknesses in order to make a product you can support. Think that there is sexual discrimination? Support an employee who files a lawsuit. Think they need unions? Try to talk to employees to encourage a unionization effort. I'm not sold on the negatives of either currently, because there is no one on the record who has established this as an exploitative environment, nor has anyone shown me that these people would be better off with a union. There are pros and cons to unions -- the unions would undoubtedly love to have AA employees paying their fees, while other employers might hate it because AA would raise the standard for what garment workers may expect.

I may want to believe that accusations of systemic exploitation are false because I've enjoyed the brand's products, but I question the rationality of declaring that level of corruption from a couple of anonymous accounts and an interview that, for all we know, may have been staged.

Social responsibility of a company is a difficult subject because what is true in the short term may not be true later. Companies like Nike and the Gap made some strides after harsh criticism in the "No Logo" era only to backslide. Does that mean it was "clean" to buy certain products from those companies, for that period? How are these indexes going to be updated? Labor relations are a sliding scale, and as demand goes up, companies often take on additional contractors of questionable ethics.

I have friends who make clothes, I've purchased "sweatshop-free" or union-approved clothing, and I've bought from thrift stores. In the end, I often still buy what I want from local or mall stores. Does that make me a bad person? At what level should I take action?
posted by mikeh at 2:30 PM on May 31, 2005

Does anyone know if it will be possible to buy a corporate fallout detector Just Like That? (Or if plans will be online to make one?) I have a collection of geiger counters, and this thing would be a nice addition! The informercial is presumaly satire... any idea what to do if you really actually do want to buy one?
posted by -harlequin- at 9:43 PM on June 1, 2005

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