Friday, June 1, 2012

An Insider's Guide To Ethical Shopping At The Nike Employee Store

Okay, Oregon government officials: Now that you've been formally cleared to go shop at the Nike Employee store in Beaverton, you may be wondering: What should I buy?

A bit of background first: The store is normally open only to employees of Nike, but the company and its workers give away thousands of guest passes each year. The Oregon Government Ethics Commission--responding to an inquiry from a Nike lobbyist--ruled today that public officials, including lawmakers, can accept passes to shop at the store without violating state ethics laws. The passes, it seems, are not exactly a rare commodity. Nike says some 80% of the customers at the Nike employee store aren't actually employees. They get guest passes through friends or family who work there, or through vendors who do business with Nike, or at charity events. Indeed, reviews of the store indicate it's so accessible, there's often a line out the door just to get in. So the Ethics Commission figured that a visit to the Nike employee store wouldn't be a case of granting special privileges to a government official.

But there's at least one government official who's already shopped at the Nike store. State representative Tobias Read, who works until recently worked as a product developer for Nike, says he's spent quite a bit of cash there. Of course, as an employee, he gets had the right to shop there whenever he likes. His advice to first-timers? "I advise people to have a list of items they want. It's easy to get carried away." Read says he often catches himself thinking "I didn't know I wanted this before I came in here." The discounts, Read says, are "substantial" but he stopped short of offering specific examples of product pricing, noting that he doesn't officially speak for Nike. It's not hard to find internet postings by people bragging about how much money they saved by shopping there, however.