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The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

Profiting from national disasters is unethical

The ferocious winds of Superstorm Sandy destroyed cities in New York and New Jersey, claiming electricity, homes and even lives. While relief funds and disaster aid have helped communities begin to rebuild, some individuals and companies have unethically profited from the storm.

A few days ago, I spoke to a family friend, Kate Paglio, a resident of Hoboken, N.J., one of the cities with the most extensive damage. Paglio has seen several organizations come to the rescue.

โ€œI know that the National Guard came in on, I believe, Wednesday or Thursday to evacuate residents.ย  Two of our friends were taken away in a National Guard truck,โ€ said Paglio.

With so many people eager to donate, it is important to differentiate between organizations that are really trying to help those affected and those that are just trying to make money.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the National Center for Disaster Fraud have been warning Americans to be wary of disaster fraud. It is common during storms and disasters for solicitors to go door-to-door, send emails and make phone calls pretending to collect money for the cause.

Itโ€™s important for people to remember that they should not donate to organizations theyโ€™ve never heard of.

Organizations like the American Red Cross are well known and assist in times of need. Organizations like 24-Hour and ServePro have also been essential in delivering aid to storm-ridden communities on the East Coast, like Hoboken.

Some companies, however, appear to be unethically profiting from the disaster. American Apparel sent out an email to those affected by the storm. The email read, โ€œIn case youโ€™re bored during the storm, 20 percent off of everything for the next thirty six hours.โ€

The response to this ad campaign has understandably been overwhelmingly negative. Itโ€™s possible that their ad campaign was meant to be humorous, or even ironic. But to many, especially those who have lost their homes or loved ones, the advertisement was anything but funny.

CLU sophomore Sean Simpson, is originally from New York. Simpson thinks this advertisement is irresponsible.

โ€œI think it is disgraceful that a company that prides itself on being all-American is trying to make a profit after a disaster that has taken more than 100 lives,โ€ said Simpson.

Ryan Holiday, the director of marketing for American Apparel told me that they were unaware of the negative response that generated from the ad campaign.

โ€œWe honestly had no idea that the motivation would be so misconstrued. The intention was to carry our business forward with a promotion, in fact, thousands of our customers took advantage of it very quickly,โ€ said Holiday in an email. โ€œIt was only after the blogosphere reaction that we saw we had offended some people.โ€

According to Holiday, because American Apparel is an American-run company, it is expensive to maintain and they couldnโ€™t afford to lose business.

I think the companyโ€™s advertising could have been better used. American Apparel could have based the campaign on those who have lost clothing or personal items during Sandy. They could have also donated a portion of sales to the American Red Cross.

Profiting from devastation is immoral. The very fact that we have a center devoted to detecting disaster fraud is appalling.

From fraudulent attempts to receive โ€œreliefโ€ money from donors, to an American clothing company profiting from the storm, ethics just donโ€™t seem to exist.


Madison Jones
Staff Writer
Published Nov. 14, 2012

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