ARE WE HOLDING COMPANIES ACCOUNTABLE OR HOSTAGE?
We’ve all seen it. Perhaps participated in it. We object to the actions of a TV show, the lyrics of a song, the subject of a book, a political position taken by company—or a private citizen who sits on the board of company and we drop that company from our shopping list, cancel our accounts, boycott the business or otherwise compel the company to change their position.
Where we shop, spend, do business; what we watch, read, or choose in the way of music, is our personal choice. Our right to choose is guaranteed. Sometimes enough people act in concert and achieve their objective, and sometimes they don’t.
Remember the kerfuffle raised about a certain book? I’m thinking of two specific books here. One sent a man into hiding, trying to save his life. The other created chaos in tons of outlets and venues. Despite intense objections (and support), both became runaway bestsellers.
Further back in time in the music industry, a hot debate came about over the lyrics in several songs and that ended with parents confiscating the music and destroying it. The band enjoyed stellar sales and a long career. In another incident, a group member made a political statement that got their music jerked off radio stations, their CDs burned by owners, and them ostracized. I personally don’t know if the group ever recovered. Haven’t heard a word about them in years.
When deals were being crafted on the Affordable Care Act, many people were outraged, opposed, cut up their membership cards and mailed them back to the organizations that issued them. ACA passed. It’s imploding now and requires significant changes to survive, but the effort to stop it didn’t work.
When a TV or radio show is opposed, groups line up to threaten the shows host and/or sponsors. Sometimes the companies withdraw their ads, and sometimes the hosts’ voices are silenced. Yet some companies say, “Do what you will,” and stick to their own right to choose.
There is a new twist that is disturbing. If I don’t like your parent’s position, I’m going after your company. Unfortunately, that too has known success with some companies. It’s reasonable to be held accountable for your own actions and choices, but it is not reasonable to be held accoutable for someone else’s.
We’ve been looking at these situations from our own points of view. But let’s put on the companies’ shoes for a second…
The companies are in a tough position. They need to advertise and they want to advertise in specific places because that’s where their potential clients are. The people they want to attract to buy or use their goods or services watch those shows, visit those sites. Reason tells us that it does the company little good to advertise in places their clients never go, and yet they don’t want to alienate their current clients. So stuck in this position, what’s a company to do? How is it to sustain itself, to grow and expand and offer more jobs and remain fiscally sound? It must find a way or its goods, services and jobs disappear. The problem is, how do they do it?
There’s an industry blowing up around these kinds of actions. Organizing boycotts, implementing pressures. Companies are feeling the effects. Whether or not that’s a good thing is for individuals to decide. And they should remember that companies too get to vote on this.
Looking at this challenge, we must wonder just how long making threats against them is going to work. How long before companies ban together and collectively say, “Do what you will.”
Remember the riots over a judicial decision where a drug store was looted and burned down? Remember how long the people who shopped at that store worked to get that store to build there? And after the destruction, the store said it wouldn’t rebuild? Who paid the price for that riot? The people who lived in that neighborhood and shopped at that store—the only drug store within walking distance. Many in that area do not have cars. After pleading from the city and those in the area, the store finally agreed to rebuild. But it cost everyone dearly to gain that agreement. I wonder how many walkers in that area did without medications because they didn’t have a drug store available to them. Those who could least afford the upset paid the highest price.
This isn’t about whether the upset is valid. It’s about the outcome—the impact on those most impacted.
What many aren’t considering is that companies are made up of people, and every person inside the company has that same right to choose as every person outside the company.
When are they going to say, “You know, I totally understand your position on this, Client, and I value you as a client, but being a client doesn’t give you the right to dictate how I run my company. That’s my job. I sweat to build this company and sweat to run it, and I’m responsible for all the people who work in it. You have a choice, but I have one, too. And in this, mine comes with a responsibility. I must do what I believe is right for my company, my employees, and me.”
Some companies will be kind. Some won’t. Some will say, “We don’t cave to threats.” Others will say, “Do what you want. So will we.” Some will just hang up. And some won’t answer the phone or your email or social media contacts.
I’m not saying contacting sponsors is right or wrong. I’ve done it. I’ve mailed cut-up cards back to issuing companies. But seeing the people worried about getting what they needed with that burned down drugstore sticks in my mind. It made me consider the other side of this and to step into their shoes—the companies’ and the people most impacted.
What I am saying is the more this is done, the less effective it will be. That like anything else, with experience comes skills. And I’m wondering how long companies will view these onslaughts of emails and phone calls as threats and when they’ll start looking at them as people trying to hold them hostage and seize their right to choose.
I’m wondering how long before they collectively decide that being threatened isn’t being held accountable, it is being held hostage. And when they do decide that, what their response will be.
Before you blow off that reaction, pause and remember the outrage over baggage fees at the airport? Now they’re common—and some are charged for water, and even to use the restroom. See what I mean?
These things are worth thinking about, and worth thinking through. Our choices carry responsibilities, too. Like having products and/or services not available to us, or available to us but at higher fees. We need to factor the outcomes into our thinking before we act. So we’re not left in a lurch as a result of a situation we created.
The bottom line is that what we do is, of course, up to us as individuals. The point I’m making is only that before we act, we need to be sure we’ve put on the other shoes and weighed the consequences so we end up on the right side of our choices. We need to anticipate the potential consequences of our actions and be fine with paying them.
We also owe it to ourselves to be certain in our own minds that our choices are our choices, and we’ve made them for the right reasons. *
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© 2017, Vicki Hinze. Vicki Hinze is the award-winning bestselling author of nearly thirty novels in a variety of genres including, suspense, mystery, thriller, and romantic or faith-affirming thrillers. Her latest release is The Marked Star. She holds a MFA in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in Philosophy, Theocentric Business and Ethics. Hinze’s website: www.vickihinze.com. Facebook. Books. Twitter. Contact. KNOW IT FIRST! Subscribe to Vicki’s Monthly Newsletter!