July 5, 2014


Culture warriors face two additional problems:

They tend to want to boycott places they never shopped at in the first place.
The company’s actual core demographic takes umbrage about the boycott and stages a much more effective counterboycott.

I can’t tell you how many times I have had some version of the following conversation:

Angry person on the Internet: Wal-Mart’s treatment of its workers is shameful. I am not going to give that company any of my business!

Me: How much did you spend at Wal-Mart before you realized its treatment of workers was shameful?

The modal answer to this query is sudden disappearance from the conversation. I’m not sure anyone has confessed to spending as much as $1,000 a year at the stores. Of those who claim to shop there, most seem to do so almost entirely on vacation in rural areas.

If this describes you, you are not Wal-Mart’s core demographic, and its executives don’t care whether you boycott the business; the loss in sales is less than they experience from miscalculating what sort of sunscreen to buy. They care very much about what their core demographic thinks, but those people are, by and large, not interested in these boycotts; they’re interested in paying 12 cents a can less for tomatoes.