I don’t really have a Part 2 in the works. I’m just sure that I’m going to spend an enormous amount of time on this issue for many more years to come. Today, I’m looking at this strange new wave of boycotts and where it might be heading.
Politically-motivated boycotts certainly aren’t anything new and neither side of the political aisle is especially any more likely to use the tactic than the other. I think consumers ought be concerned about the social and economic desirability of those from who they purchase goods and services. I always favor locally-owned products and establishments, even when they aren’t cheaper because I like to see my dollars stay in my city. I’m also responsive to bad press that companies may receive for screwy employment practices, illegal dealings, and environmental mishaps and I can be influenced to avoid doing business with those organizations until they fix it.
Years ago I closed my Bank of America account when they started accepting Matricula Consular Cards as valid ID from their (likely) illegal immigrant customers, for example. I also uninstalled Firefox for good back when the company forced out Brendan Eich for an act of thought-crime that had absolutely nothing to do with his leadership of Mozilla. If I cared anything about football, I’d probably be shutting off the NFL and avoiding their sponsors over the Black Lives Matter nonsense they’ve been indulging; but I keep remembering that I don’t really care if the NFL wants to self-destruct over this or any other issue. Stand up, kneel, sit down, go shoot yourself, and watch me turn to stone in my indifference, really. You could possibly also call me ditching Facebook a month ago a sort of boycott.
For me to join in on a boycott of any business, the following typically applies:
- The business is doing something illegal, unethical, immoral, or decisively un-American in its policies or business practices.
- It must be a product, service, or establishment that I have purchased, use, or certainly would have used and I am deliberately not going to do so again until the source of my grievance is resolved.
- I have notified the business and explained my concerns and what they have to do to get me back as a customer.
Bear in mind that I’m a complete nobody. No business is going to go broke just because I don’t buy its junk. I just do it because I think it’s the right thing to do. See, when I choose not to patronize a business, it’s typically a personal decision based on a specific act or policy of that business rather than something I feel compelled to do simply because the business has some ancillary connection to some other person or group that I don’t like.
Something is different with the current trend of political boycotts though. Businesses are being forced to enter the fray by partisan consumers bearing a Sith-like “you are with me or you are my enemy” even if they’re just choosing to say or do nothing at all about Trump.
I don’t like that. This is extreme to me and many other people on both sides. Because of this, you can expect it to backfire occasionally, as it did when feminists attempted to boycott Wegman’s for the unforgivable crime of selling the Trump label of wine.
First, can we agree that a retailer ought to be able to carry a known brand without it meaning that they endorse everything the guy who owns it has ever said and done? This isn’t exactly the same thing as Chik-Fil-A actively opposing same-sex marriage some years ago. It’s more like some group boycotting a restaurant chain simply because one of their locations gets their poultry from a farm that a member of the Westboro Baptist Church owns. In this made-up example, the restaurant chain isn’t endorsing anything that a supplier or vendor does or believes, but must be punished just the same. I’m not comfortable with going that far.
Businesses, their officers, and employees shouldn’t have to be concerned with speaking out publicly on political issues and worsening the fracture in our people’s opinions. To Wegman’s credit, they let the market speak rather than the noisy indignant and they clearly benefited from holding fast. Once pro-Trump consumers got word of the proposed boycott, they bought up all of the wine they could get their hands on, virtually guaranteeing that it will be sold at their stores for a long time to come.
Wegman’s explained their reasoning.
“For various reasons, we are sometimes asked to stop selling a product. Our response is always the same, no matter the product: How a product performs is our single measure for what stays on our shelves and what goes.”
Amen. This is exactly right and I think she’s even given good advice to the boycotters by suggesting that if they want the store to stop carrying Trump’s wine, they should just not buy it and not make a big fuss over it. Honestly, I wouldn’t buy it just because I assume it sucks but I have my own favorite cheap labels already and don’t branch out much for home consumption.
Coercing Wegman’s–or any business–to all but advocate for your political views rather than doing so to alter bad behavior is wrong and it’s almost totalitarian, and I don’t care who does it. I wonder if in a few years, we’ll see innocent people threatened and harassed because they’re wearing a shirt made by a company whose CEO declined to make a statement about Trump’s latest Tweet on national television or if someone wearing a Democratic Party candidate’s shirt will be jeered out of a store by other customers because it’s not one of “their” establishments. This is the behavior of street gangs who attack those wearing the wrong sports brand label on the wrong block, not consumers. Not our neighbors. Not any sane person.
Bottom line: Please be principled in how you spend your money. You work hard for it and it’s good to know when you’re doing no harm with your purchases. Do not be a thug or join in on hate campaigns whose purpose is only to bring neutral businesses and the people who work for them into the political sphere on one side or another. We don’t need any more of this.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to enjoy an apolitical beverage of my choice on what remains of this holiday weekend.