Urban Outfitters asks staff to volunteer

With the holiday season nearing, consumers bustle about frantically, stores advertise feverishly and employees get busy. Stores find themselves understaffed and behind schedule during this time of year.

To keep business running smoothly, Urban Outfitters has asked employees to volunteer their time packaging and shipping out orders at their new Fulfillment Center, which opened in June. Urban Outfitters sent out a mass email with the request, including the days and times volunteers would be appreciated- October 17, 18, 24, 25 and 31 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. or 12-6 p.m. They also offered transportation and free lunch to those who volunteered.

This email request has caused the media to go nuts. Is Urban Outfitters’ request an unethical one? The media appears to believe so. Why? The store is not forcing employees or making it mandatory to package and prepare shipments with no pay. They are simply asking for volunteers. How is it any different from a local foundation asking for volunteers to plant trees or work a fundraiser?

A volunteer is an unpaid individual who willingly wants to help someone in need, be it a well-known retail store or a school-wide event used for funding purposes. It may be argued that a school-wide event or a local foundation asking for volunteers to host a fundraiser is doing a good deed and has admirable intentions, while a major corporation doing the same thing is only unjustifiably profiting and lining their pockets.

However, the goal is essentially the same for both: make money and get tasks done without spending money unnecessarily.

Urban Outfitters is not in the wrong for asking for volunteers. If they had made it mandatory or forced it on employees, legal penalization might make sense. In this case, however, legal penalization is unnecessary and even the idea is irrelevant. Why is it cause for legal action?

Understandably, they’re asking paid employees to volunteer their time on top of working regularly. The concept of volunteering has been lost or overlooked. Volunteering is an act that is intended to offer help without expecting reward. Causing an uproar simply because employees who are normally paid for their work are asked to volunteer their time is completely forgetting the magic and the intention behind volunteering altogether.

Again, transportation and lunch have also been offered. Transportation of any type is generally extremely expensive when everything is factored in and free lunch should always be greatly appreciated.  It’s disheartening to see where people put value: money, rewards and recognition. We should be placing value in more meaningful things such as love, compassion and charity.

The fact that we’re suggesting legal penalization because a corporation in need asked employees to volunteer their time to work together, thus building relationships, leads one to believe the values most often observed are those of material lives as opposed to meaningful lives.