Economy

Here's Who Gets Rich From Valentine's Day...

February 14th 2015

By:
Ashley Nicole Black

I hate Valentine's Day.

And don't think its because I'm bitter about being single. I'm incredibly happy to have the opportunity to watch everyone around me celebrate their love for an entire week in February. Seeing the other girls' desks covered in gifts while I walk down the hall to warm up my Lean Cuisine makes me super happy. I love love.

I have a really good reason for hating Valentines day: consumerism. In 2014, Americans spent an average of $133.91 on VD gifts. Valentine's Day is 10 percent about love and 90 percent about buying the appropriate products to prove your love. And those products suck.

Flowers

Flowers are the worst. Valentine's Day is the number one flower-buying holiday, with 37.8 percent of Americans spending $2.1 billion on flowers. Even though cut flowers are basically rotting corpses, most of the ones we buy in the U.S. are shipped from other countries, mostly Columbia. Imported flowers are cheaper because flower pickers in Columbia work for slave wages of $250 a month, getting stress injuries from constantly bending and making repetitive motions — and some of those laborers are children.

The chemicals they put on the flowers to keep them pretty as they travel to bae's desk are also so gross, that they have been found to cause birth defects for the infants of the women who pick them. Because of these labor practices, the flowers from countries like Columbia cost less that U.S-grown flowers despite the shipping costs. Which means local flower growers have a harder time selling their product.

Also, I'm super allergic to them. Which is fine, because NO BOYS EVER BUY ME ANY.

Diamonds

Diamond mining is a dangerous business. Laborers (again, many of them children) work in dangerous conditions: pits often collapse and the water used in the process is a breeding ground for malaria. For this work they are paid as little as $1-$2 a day. Some workers are even forced into this labor, with profits from diamond mining often used to fund devastating civil wars. And it's terrible for the environment, killing plant species and leaving the land unlivable.

A lot of diamonds are bought for Valentine's Day because it's one associated with engagements thanks to the marketing genius of De Beers. Engagements have only been associated with diamonds since the 1940s when the diamond company started a campaign to convince people to propose using diamond rings. When their market research revealed that men pay more for rings when women aren't involved in the purchasing, they started a introducing the idea of surprise proposals. (So blame them for all those flashmob YouTube proposals.) Did you know that eleven percent of engagements in the U.S. happen on Valentine's Day? Zero percent of them have happened to me.

Chocolate

Ack.

About half of Americans will purchase chocolate for Valentine's Day. (The other half will purchase chocolate at 90 percent off from Walgreens the next day.) And while we have aisles and aisles of cheap chocolates to choose from, some of the workers who harvest the cocoa have never even tasted the final product. Metropolis TV filmed this video of cocoa farmers tasting chocolate for the first time — it's worth a watch:

And no surprise here, but cocoa farmers also don't make much money, taking in less than $2 a day. Profit margins are so thin that they often resort to using child slave labor. Children work with the same chainsaws, machetes, knives, and dangerous chemicals as adult laborers. Meanwhile a world away, children the same age are taping chocolates to bright pink sheets of paper, giggling over which classmates and friends should get their gift.

Anyone noticing a trend?

The products we use to celebrate Valentine's Day are exploitative. But we don't have to buy them.

The good news is that 85 percent of Americans consider sex to be an important part of Valentine's Day. And condom sales go up by 30 percent around the day. So this year, let's all just skip the gifts and have some good old-fashioned (safe) sex.

Enjoy it. I'll be home watching Scandal and trying to figure out where Fitz and Olivia went wrong.