Tonawanda News — A
small but compelling story last week, pre-massacre, got me thinking about the contents of my wallet and what I do with it.
There exists a national fried chicken company called Chick-Fil-A, headquartered in Atlanta. Privately held, family-owned, with1,615 locations in 39 states, the nearest to Tonawanda being Erie, Pa. I’ve never patronized it, but they seem to be doing something right when it comes to fried chicken.
The management emphasizes its family environment, in the board room and in the restaurants, and its Christian leanings, to the point that the franchises are closed on Sunday mornings. I don’t know how to run a fried chicken empire, but so far, I’m fine with Chick-Fil-A’s way of doing things.
Last week company president Dan Cathy came out strongly against same-sex marriage, saying in part to The Baptist Press, “We are very much supportive of the family, the Biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”
Cathy went on, but you get the idea. Thus far I’m still OK with his approach to doing things.
On the other hand I feel no interest whatsoever in patronizing Mr. Cathy’s enterprise because I disagree with his point of view (note: I’m straight, married and completely OK with same-sex marriage) and it leads me to ponder freedom of speech as it is expressed through my wallet.
Does an American business owe me nothing more than a good product or service at a fair price, or does it go deeper than that? I can name things I enjoy buying and consuming that are manufactured by companies who take their profit and invest them in causes with which I disagree. Should I do anything about it?
Do you like beer? So do I. One famous brewery is noted for a terrific product and a corporate culture that historically favors far right-wing political candidates and movements (hint: it emphasizes the Rocky Mountains a lot in its advertising), and readers, that’s not the side I’m on. They can keep brewing their excellent beer, keep supporting whoever and whatever they want, but my beer money goes elsewhere.
Is this the correct way to go about things?
Chick-Fil-A’s leadership has its opinions about same-sex marriage, but there are no bouncers at the doors of its restaurants, sizing up who walks in and whether they are legally and Biblically married. I strongly doubt if the gay, the unmarried, the non-first wives discern a difference in how they are treated at a Chick-Fil-A.
Still, their money, their choice. This is the sort of stuff that bothers me.
It can ultimately bother me to the point that no company suits my model of proper dispersal of its profit after it gets done doing business with me. I have not yet found a petroleum company that meets my ideal as a perfect model for commerce, for example, yet I still buy gasoline. Furthermore, if my spending and giving is so important to me, I should be respectful of the spending and giving of others, including the purveyors of products I use and enjoy.
Then again ...
There is a local, and locally owned, restaurant chain which throws its charitable dollar at a cause I oppose (not the same issue as Chick-Fil-A’s, incidentally). The management is on one side of a matter, I’m on the other. Their product is excellent; it’s also available elsewhere, from people who likely have opinions on topics of the day but are not making me aware of them. Is it appropriate for me to take my dollar elsewhere? Is it no business of mine? Am I overcomplicated the activity of lunch, or do I sit there, thinking about how I am compromising my beliefs with every bite I take?
We live on a planet full of people who would welcome a meal from any source. I get to worry about the politics of the people who run the businesses competing to offer me food. Everyone should have problems such as these.
So, what should I do? I’m likely denying myself some of this world’s pleasures by making purchasing decisions based on what certain businesses are doing with money transferred from my wallet to their cash registers, businesses that don’t ask me about my politics and are legally obligated to serve me even if they disagree with my point of view, as long as I’m wearing shoes when I walk in the door. Furthermore, it doesn’t take much research to observe which companies do, or did, something I find objectionable (look up how Japanese and German auto manufacturers got through World War II).
Still, my money, my choice. Keep bragging about your causes, businesses, and I’ll keep choosing whether or not you get my patronage.
Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident whose column appears Fridays in the Tonawanda News. Contact him at EdinKenmore@gmail.com.Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident whose column appears Fridays in the Tonawanda News. Contact him at EdinKenmore@gmail.com.