Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dear Consumers

Dear Consumers,

While many people are choosing to boycott Chick-fil-A and object to their proud homophobia, and others are choosing to celebrate Chick-fil-A in their own nasty ways, some of you are making apathetic comments.  You seem to think that we shouldn't care, that it doesn't matter where we eat, that it doesn't matter what a fast food company owner thinks politically.

If I want to buy a new shirt, maybe there are only three stores in town.  Store X sells great-looking shirts and makes it a point to hire only part-time employees so it won't have to extend benefits.  Store Y sells shirts that always fit me really well and dyes its clothing with some pigment found in rocks dug up by abused children in a foreign country.  Store Z sells shirts which aren't as fashionable but treats its employees fairly well.

The money I spend on that shirt helps to keep that store open and fund those business practices.

Other people will see me in that shirt, so I'm providing advertising for its company.

Other people will see my car in the parking lot and will see me in the store, so my very presence demonstrates to others that this is a good place to shop.  If they had qualms about the company's business practices, they can assuage their guilt by noticing that they're not alone there; other people shop there, too, so it must not be all that bad.

You're voting with your wallet.  When you spend money with someone, you're saying, "Hey, I support what you're doing here."  You're supporting the product and the company behind it.

Music fans will make it a point to go out and buy a favorite musician's album as opposed to downloading it illegally because they understand that sales make a difference.  When gamers don't like a new feature of World of Warcraft, they cancel their subscriptions in protest.  When a big national chain comes into town, some people boycott it and deliberately choose to spend their money with small, local stores to keep those local owners in business.

Why does it matter that the people behind Chick-fil-A are homophobic?  For one, corporate culture.  If the people at the top are homophobic, they're likely to be homophobic in their hiring practices, in their corporate policies, and so on.  For another, they actively support homophobic organizations.  They've donated millions of dollars to anti-equality groups.  They're fighting against equal rights for all citizens, and you're cheerfully supporting them because you think their chicken is tasty?

Civil rights < chicken?

Maybe civil rights < pizza for you, too.  Papa John himself donates millions to Republican campaigns and hosted an exclusive fundraiser for Mitt Romney.  Maybe you're a Romney-loving Republican, too.  Or maybe you just like that little tub of sauce you get in the pizza box.

Sometimes the decision of where to spend your money is complex.  One company funds homophobic campaigns, another exploits its workers, and another does shady things abroad.  You start to wonder if you can safely spend your money anywhere.  Maybe you'd love to spend your money with one company, but you can only afford the one with terrible practices.

Just as it's up to you to be a responsible citizen, it's up to you to be a responsible consumer.  Maybe you didn't know that Chick-fil-A was best friends with Focus on the Family, but now that you do, you can make an informed decision.  Maybe you can't afford to shop at an expensive but worker-friendly store, but you can make your opinions known to the terrible store you can afford, and you can continue to vote and agitate for better policies.

I don't care about Papa John's sexuality and I'm not interested in his private life.  I do like knowing that the Chick-fil-A family works so hard to entrench homophobia and fight against equality, because I don't want to support that kind of harmful hate.  It matters to me because human rights matter to me.  I'm not going to giggle over jokes about how no one cares what the Burger King does in bed, because that's not the point and you're well aware of that.  I'm not going to throw up my hands and say, "Eh, all corporations are evil to some extent, what can you do!"  I expect more.

I hope that someday you do, too.

With love,
Frank Lee


  1. Came from Shakesville. Love it.

    1. Gasp! It's bgk! From Shakesville! I'm honored!

  2. [Here via Shakesville.]

    I seriously did not know that about Papa John's. (I know the post is nominally about Chick-fil-poop, but the same general principle applies to me and Papa John's.) Eff. They are seriously the only place around me that delivers prepared food. (PWD here and sometimes just not able to cook or go out to acquire prepped food.)

    Only one thing remains: I will have to teach the dog to make sandwiches.

    1. Thank you for commenting! I hate it when I have to compromise my principles just to meet basic needs. I would love to spend my money only with local, worker-friendly businesses and small farmers, but until my situation changes, I'll have to make some compromises. Let me know if getting your dog to make sandwiches works out for you. Maybe I can teach mine to garden or sew.