Protesting without payoff

Many have heard of Chick-Fil-A’s anti-LGBT beliefs at the corporate level. The corporation has donated millions of dollars to foundations that are against same-sex marriage.  At another corporation, Amazon, several employees have claimed that they are constantly under intense pressure to meet targets to the point that they feel they must urinate in trash cans or in bottles in lieu of visiting the restroom.

Some people who boycott these companies hope to get enough support to call attention to these practices. However, refusing to support certain chains in an attempt to alter their political, religious or ethical views at the corporate level is not worth the effort. Boycotts, such as those on Chick-Fil-A and Amazon, rarely have an impact on the companies’ practices—instead, they have the potential to harm innocent employees.

This clearly holds true for Amazon, considering its worldwide dominance for shoppers.   Chick-Fil-A is unaffected as wellin part because 67 percent of their locations are in states where the majority of people do not support same-sex marriage.

Those who boycott these companies do not necessarily harm the corporation at large. Instead, they lower the revenues of local stores—not affecting the actual company. This only harms the employees at the bottom who, more often than not, do not share the political views of corporate-level employees. In fact, these employees are the ones affected by their employers’ ideals the most.

Many people boycott certain companies due to their poor treatment of workers. For example, Amazon employees claim to be overworked and Walmart has actively worked to block employees from unionizing. By refusing to shop with these companies, customers may believe that they can change their practices and spur better working conditions. Instead, they are putting them out of jobs—in 2004, Walmart shut down a Canadian store that attempted to unionize, rendering its employees jobless.

Research done by Northwestern University has shown that instead of protesting companies by not shopping or eating there, protesters would have a more significant impact if they spread word of corporations’ practices and beliefs. Reputations are much more fragile than sales revenue, which makes speaking out a more effective way to boycott companies.

However, ruining a company’s reputation is often not enough to cause a change in its practices. Although Chick-Fil-A’s consumer ratings have plummeted since its anti-LGBT views came to light, its sales has increased and business remains strong.

For those who want to distance themselves from companies whose values they disapprove of solely for personal reasons, not shopping there is a good way to do it. However, they should note that their individual sales are hardly a drop in the bucket for large corporations. Trying to put a company out of business should not be anyone’s reason for not shopping there, because it simply is not an attainable goal.

Instead, it would be more realistic for people to focus on spreading awareness. By using social media and word of mouth to bring companies’ morals into the public eye, boycotters can avoid putting employees in the crossfire while taking the first steps toward stopping these practices.