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Agenda: Restaurant Babylon; Clean Bandit; Richard Dawkins; Fifty Shades of Grey


Middle-class problems: Boycotts

By Nicholas Barber

Boycotting Starbucks was easy. Those high-street-hogging whipped-cream pedlars were never known for their political correctness, so when we heard that they paid less tax than the average pet shop, it was satisfying to have our darkest suspicions confirmed. How bracing it felt to march across the road to an independent café – or at least a chain with fewer branches. Besides, the Caramel Macchiatos were so extortionate that we saved money every time we got our caffeine elsewhere. It was a win-win situation.

But Starbucks was just the beginning. Next, it seemed as if Amazon viewed tax paying as a pursuit suited only to the lower orders, so we had to boycott that, too. And then things started getting tricky. After all, without Amazon, how could we possibly send cheap birthday presents to friends and relatives we don't care about? It's no use Googling a rival service, because even "Don't-Be-Evil" Google is busy snatching bread from the mouths of teachers and nurses.

We tell ourselves that boycotts are heroic sacrifices, rather than futile gestures, and that the CEOs of the world's mega-corporations will beg for our forgiveness at any moment, but it's all getting a bit much. Gone are the days when we could save mankind just by swearing off Outspan oranges? Now, everywhere we turn there's another fat cat who makes Jimmy Carr look like Robin Hood. And that leads us to the question which keeps us awake at night: How are we going to survive if Waitrose ever gets caught avoiding its taxes?