Friday, November 26, 2004

Target: The Day After

In honor of the frenzy that is the After-Thanksgiving sale, I figured it was time to talk about Target.

In speaking with my friend Beverly the other day, I realized that those who don't read Boston newspapers or a lot of blogs don't even know that Target kicked the Salvation Army off their doorsteps nationwide. This is especially sad because up to 70% of the Salvation Army's income arrives during this time of year from the kettles outside of stores around the country.

I'm quite disappointed in Target for this choice. I told Beverly that people were sending emails and she said "Well, has anyone thought of just going to the Managers inside the stores?"
She went on to explain that the manager might get tired of having to explain to would-be customers why there are no bell-ringers outside the door and might speak to someone higher up about it. It's an interesting idea. Another benefit of this plan is that it would make clear how many people come into the store who are not buying anything specifically because of the Salvation Army Shunning.

Want to read more about it?
Well, there are now two websites you can check out:
DontShopTarget - where you can sign a petition or join a discussion and make an online Salvation Army Donation
BoycottTarget - a blog of sorts with news, links and information for making donations

For more familiar commentary, Hugh Hewitt has been all over this story. He's been posting emails that people have been sending to Target which have been very interesting.
He wrote two columns on it:
1. "A Christmas Carol for Target" from
My favorite paragraph from that:
Wal-Mart has no problem maintaining the Salvation Army as an exception to its general rule of non-solicitation, perhaps because the Salvation Army's mission is so closely tied to the root of the celebration about to begin: The offering of kindness by strangers to a family in need. Perhaps as well the tradition of gift giving on which America's retail sector has grown large and prosperous having its origins in the celebration of Christ's birthday may also have something to do with Wal-Mart's decision, and with the angry reaction of former Target shoppers.

2. "Targeting Target for some tough questions" from

This WorldNet column starts with this:
Last week, Target got some press coverage it didn't want – articles in a variety of newspapers and on "Fox News" about the retailer's decision to exile the Salvation Army and its kettles from the front of its more that 1,100 stores nationwide. Target's decision will cost the homeless – the least and the lost – about $9 million this year alone. If Target doesn't reverse its policy, that loss will compound every year into the future.

and continues through a discussion of an interesting theory concerning a newly launched plan for Target to donate to St. Jude's research hospital through the selling of gift cards. I found this paragraph particularly interesting:
Did St. Jude insist on the exiling of Salvation Army as a condition of Target's participation in the big roll out of this glitzy new campaign? Is St. Jude considered a "safe charity," secular with a sectarian name, and fun to be associated with given the glamour of the Hollywood affiliates?

Research into pediatric cancer is indeed a noble cause, but did St. Jude muscle out – intentionally or unintentionally – the dowdy old, very Christian Salvation Army with its unglamorous business of feeding drunks and clothing homeless?

The Salvation Army is indeed Christian, it is also very unglamorous. I know a couple who work for the Salvation Army in New York. It is a pretty demanding job and they earn an incredibly modest salary. In previous times of my unemployment, they expressed to me a need for a Youth Director, but confessed that while it would be an amazing service to the community, they would be unable to pay me for the job.

If there is an outright choice of Target to choose St. Jude's over the Salvation Army, it is odd and unfortunate. This is bad press for Target and I pray that they will change their position on this soon.

If you would still like more information or you want to read more about what Hugh thinks about Target (as well as what almost-ex-customers have emailed) you can read some other posts of his here[thoughts and recent emails], here[the relation of the Target controversy to the roots of Christmas based on this Belmont Club Post] and here[battling Lileks on Target as well as links to other blogs who are discussing the issue].

Finally, Christianity Today even had a small sidebar piece about this in its December issue:
Target Corp. says it will no longer allow Salvation Army volunteers outside its stores during the Christmas season. The chain, with 1,100 stores nationwide, said it chose to enforce its existing nonsolicitation policy because increasing numbers of nonprofits have sought the same access to shoppers.

Is this really the reputation Target wants to have on the day after Thanksgiving? For the entire Christmas season??