Sunday, July 29, 2012

On boycotts, voting with our dollars, and what we're really accomplishing.

As I have have read people's reactions this week to the boycott of Chick Fil A, I've come to the conclusion that some people are so passionate because they have a distorted view of what boycotting a company can actually accomplish. I say "passionate" because I see misapprehensions coming from both sides of the debate. As a long time believer,and practitioner, of voting with one's dollars, I'd like to share my perspective.

I want to start by saying that I wouldn't say I'm boycotting Chick Fil A. If there are any such restaurants in Western Washington, I've never come across one. But even if there were, it would be disingenuous for me to say I was boycotting them, as I NEVER eat at fast food restaurants and have not for years. Yes, I have raised my kids without fast food ( Cue the shock and horror).

I do choose to vote with my dollars, and two companies I have not done any business with in over a decade are Nestle and Wal Mart. You can read about why at Baby Milk Action and WalMart Watch . Obviously, my family's boycott of Nestle and Wal Mart have done nothing to bring down their bottom line. Which brings me to one of the accusations leveled at Chick Fil A boycotters by conservative activists : that they are trying to "run them out of business" because their COO practiced free speech.

Well, yeah, I think a lot of gay rights activists would love that. But it's not realistic. Really, if we as a nation can't agree enough that our workers should earn a living wage and get health benefits to stop shopping at WalMart before they step up to that plate, then citizens are unlikely to drive a company out of business on an issue as divisive as gay marriage.

That isn't to say gay rights advocates should throw in the towel and go for that chicken sandwich. Boycotting a company you disagree with, for any strong reason, is still worth it because it's about how WE, as individuals, feel about where our money goes.We probably had to earn that money, and it makes so sense for us to trade our labour for a message or practice we find offensive. That goes for liberals, conservatives, and those who defy category.

It's also true, as I have seen some conservative activists note, that bringing attention to the issue may cause some people to shop there MORE. It's been said that there's "no bad publicity" and I suspect Chick Fil A will gain new customer's based on Dan Cathey's anti-gay stance.  On the other side of the issue, the only issue of Archie Comics to sell out and go into second printing was The Marriage of Kevin Keller .  Whether this issue boosts, lowers, or does nothing to affect Chick Fil A's bottom line, the people will have spoken, and in the only language American business understands.


At 2:43 PM, Blogger Lone Star Ma said...

I agree we should not use our dollars to support things we don't want supported but I have more hope for boycotts than as an expression of my personal beliefs. I also doubt they will often put a mega-corporation out of business, but hope that they can put pressure on companies to change their ways. I have to hope - it is about all we can do. The Girl has some wonderful ideas about an "ethics tax" to help with some of the most unethical corporations...I hope to get her to write about it soon.


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