Friday, August 3, 2012

Boycotts: Why I don’t do them

With all of the fervor over the recent comments by the owner of Chick-fil-a, I’ve been pressured by people on both sides of the issue to either boycott the fast food chain, or come out and support it. I chose neither option. By default one can say I boycott them, but it has nothing to do with the gay vs. Christian issue. I’ve never been to a chick-fil-a, and I don’t plan on ever going to one. I’m not a fan of fast food in general, that, and only that, is the reason why.

I still don’t actively support boycotts, however, nor do I actively oppose them. Here’s the reason why: Boycotts no longer work in America. We have become victims of our own massive population.

Boycotts have a specific purpose, to penalize or punish an enterprise for a cause. They only work in capitalist societies because the entire theory depends on the free exchange of money for goods or services. Or, in this case, the lack of such an exchange.

America is a capitalist society, so why don’t they work here? The reason is simple. Boycotts only work in smaller capitalist societies. The United States of America has over 300 million people living it. Small is not a word that can be applied to our nation.

Let’s look at two examples of why boycotts don’t work in a large capitalist society: 

Chick-fil-a: Millions of people chose to actively boycott the fast food chain because of the expressed personal opinions of the owner of the company. That sounds like a win for the boycotters, right?

Wrong. Millions more people actively opposed the boycott by intentionally eating there. All the chick-fil-a boycott managed to do was give the chain free national advertising and drum up a lot of business for it. This is a boycott FAIL!

Arizona: Remember the Boycott Arizona campaign waged over the state’s illegal immigration law, 1070? Millions of people across the nation swore to boycott the entire state, and some even managed to do so. But, they made the mistake of sending protesters to Arizona to show how serious they were. Busload, after busload, after busload.

One protester I interviewed said she wished she could see the looks on everybody’s faces when her convoy came in, 13 busses strong. She was sure it was one of sheer terror. But, when I tried to ask the owner a local mom-and-pop store what his reaction was I couldn’t. He was too busy selling bottled water, sunglasses, and t-shirts to protesters. He was swamped, just like every other store, hotel, and camp ground in town.

Arizona enjoyed a 17 percent increase in tourism revenue that year. Another boycott FAIL!

Boycotts only work in small communities where you can get the overwhelming majority of regular patrons to support it. You also have to do so without inciting a large opposition. Without both factors in place the boycott will fail. 

Let’s look at an example of that:

National Gas Boycott Day: The point of this annual boycott is to punish the oil companies and make them reduce their prices. When we look at the math it seems to make sense. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on gas every day, just in America. Hundreds of millions of dollars is really good financial blow to any company ... except an oil company.

Oil companies process billions of dollars per day worldwide. Furthermore, most people who boycott the pumps on Monday end up making up for it on Tuesday. So, while there is a dip in sales one day, the income is made up shortly there after. You might have a lot of people supporting the boycott, but the population demand stays in place.

The only way you can effectively boycott an oil company is to refuse to use gasoline, or any petrol related product, permanently. Some people have realized this and are actually doing it. Now they just need to get 250 million of the their closest friends to do it too. See the problem? It’s another boycott FAIL!

These are simply a few examples of why I don’t ‘do boycotts’. They’re a waste of energy and very frequently have the opposite effect of what you’re trying to do.

If you want to boycott a single store in a small community to make it close up shop, you might be able to accomplish that. If a big-box store opens up in your small town, threatening the livelihood of the local mom-and-pop shops, by all means, boycott it. I might even show up to help you pass out fliers. But, nationwide boycotts, statewide boycotts, even some countywide boycotts, are simply counter-productive.

And a major waste of time.