Friday, August 6, 2010

Goodbye Target, Hello Walmart

Here in Red Wing, we have two of the great discount retailers - Target and Walmart - sitting just a few hundred yards apart on opposite sides of Hwy. 61. Local shoppers have a clear choice, with both stores offering ample selection and low prices. There is a general sense that Walmart's prices are generally a bit lower, but at Target you almost never have to stand in long, slow lines to check out, so there are tradeoffs.

Personally, I tend to go to whichever is most convenient. If I'm coming back into town and need to stop for milk or a couple items, I'll take the right turn to Walmart instead of waiting for a left turn into Target. If I'm westbound on Hwy. 61, Target is easier. I've never made much of a distinction between the two.

Until now.

Goodbye, Target. Hello, Walmart.

The decision could have easily gone the other way, but Target drove me away with this week's bit of political theater, and a lack of corporate backbone.

As you may have read, Target made a political donation of $150,000 to a group known as MN Forward. The group is supporting candidates - including GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer - who are dedicated to improving the business climate in Minnesota. As a high-tax, high-regulation state, Minnesota has long been hostile to business and job creation.

So far, so good. But a group of local fascists known as decided they didn't like the contribution, because Emmer has spoken out against same-sex marriage. and other gay rights groups said they might boycott Target, and a few flaming militants - according to the Star-Tribune - even went so far as to go into Target and tear up their charge cards in protest.

Now, consumers certainly have a right to boycott any retailer they so choose. Nobody can be forced to shop anywhere (except, of course, Obamacare is going to force you to shop for health insurance, but that's a story for another time.) But the hypocrisy of and the others is quite evident: They have no problem with teachers and other union members being forced to contribute to a union that makes political donations to causes the members oppose. But when Target exercises its right to become involved in the political process, the lefties throw a hissy fit.

So I should be happy with Target, right? They supported the right cause, and they backed it up with cash.

But then they backed down. CEO Gregg Steinhafel issued an apology to Target employees for making the contribution, saying he was "genuinely sorry" that some had been offended, and restated Target's strong committment to gay causes.

What he should have done - and what would have been best in the long run for Target's shareholders - would have been to say something like: "Anyone who wants to boycott us has the right to do so, but we won't be bullied or intimidated into giving up our First Amendment right to participate in the political process. We're here to provide service to our customers, jobs for our employees and returns for our shareholders, and this contribution is a way we feel we can accomplish our goals. If you don't like the way we do business, feel free to shop elsewhere."

Instead, he caved in to the bullying of the left-wing thought police, who have no respect for the rights of others.

And because of that, I have to take my business across the road to Walmart.

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