Like all of you, I have been inundated with posts on the Grand Overseer discussing the corporate policies of Chick-fil-a. More friends are vocal about joining the boycott than those who oppose it. I support equal rights for marriage, so my knee jerk reaction was to vote with my dollar and stop eating at Chick-fil-a, too.
This would certainly not be the first time I have made a economic decision based on ethics. I boycotted ExxonMobil after the oil spill from the Exxon Valdez, not because of the accident due to negligence and bad systemic policies, but because Exxon fought for years through court appeals to avoid paying punitive damages. Eventually they only paid about 10% of what was originally awarded in punitive damages, which amounted to less than 2% of the economic damages actually caused. I thought it was a dick move then and I still think so now. I mean, I understand they were trying to keep the company from tanking (pun intended), but their fight to avoid cost was nasty and malicious.* If I can avoid it, Exxon still does not get my dollars.
I boycotted Cracker Barrel in the 1990s when its corporate policy and store practice was discriminatory against minorities, women and homosexuals. [I guess if you’re going to discriminate, you should go full tilt. Geez.] I only recently started going back because they have corrected their company policies and tried to change their workplace culture for the better. And because they have really good chicken and dumplings…and hits-the-spot sweet tea.
Many of my consumer decisions are based on ethics. I try to buy local. I try to buy organic and free range. I try to support local business. I try to support local musicians. So it seemed a natural outcome that I stop buying Chick-fil-a because I support gay marriage. But…after my knee jerked — and it jerked high — I pushed it down. And thought about who I’d be boycotting.
I’ve written about my last year and how much of it was a time of suck. For many many months, I was on a tight budget. I mean tight. The kind of budget where you run out of money at the end of the month and don’t eat that last week but by the grace of good friends. I ate at my local Chick-fil-a at least once a month then. Not just because it was conveniently close, but because they have really good chicken tenders…and fantastic sweet tea. My dollar stretched at my local Chick-fil-a and I could easily make two meals out of one serving, and often did. I went there often enough they knew me, not by name (but probably by my hair). One night I drove through, like I usually did, and ordered my regular meal. When I got to the window, my card was denied. *GASP* I had miscalculated by a few dollars and was out of money for the month. The look of surprise and embarrassment on my face must been priceless. To his credit, the young man at the window did not sneer or say anything derogatory to me. On the contrary, what said was, “I have your meal, ma’am. You can pay us the next time you come for dinner.” I was very grateful for his generosity, but also very proud and so did not accept it. I went to bed hungry for food that night, but sated with human kindness.
Do I really want to boycott a company that values its customers like this? That valued me like this? Sure, it could have been an isolated incident. That kid recognized me and took a chance. But I don’t think so. You see, my second cousin and her husband own that store.** I don’t know them very well and rarely see them (and we don’t always remember each other’s names). While they are conservative Christians, they are also really good people and they would’ve been proud of that young man for offering me deferred payment. Do I want to hurt their business? Do I want to take money from the young man who was so kind to me?
At the same time, I don’t want to support a corporation that supports organizations that support and advocate for a narrow, strictly heterosexual definition of marriage — even if in a small way. Grr. I’m torn! *sigh*
Here’s what I’ve decided to do. I’ve decided to forego Chick-fil-a on a regular basis (which used to be my MO). But if I’m ever near my old stomping grounds and that Chick-fil-a, I’m going to go in and ask the manager about that store’s stance on gay marriage. I don’t want to indict the franchise based solely on the corporate position. That store does good business and losing mine won’t hurt them, so I don’t think the manager will be false to keep my patronage. I know it’s not a perfect scenario, but it’s the only one I can think of that is punitive towards the company overall and considerate of that franchise in particular.
What are your thoughts, Realm? Am I chickening out (pun intended) of this boycott?
* One of my professors in graduate school studied the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. He befriended a lot of the locals and heard horrible stories about espionage and threats and defamation of character on the part of Exxon and their lawyers.
** The employees at that Chick-fil-a did not know I was related to the owner. I’m absolutely positive of that.
+ Featured image: Chick-fil-a locations in the United States. Blue states have at least one franchise.