Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Monday, August 17, 2009

Boycotting Fails, But Anti-Boycotting Works

Boycotting doesn't work, Megan McArdle declares, and Whole Foods' CEO Jonh Mackey's anti-reform article on health care might end up helping him, not hurting him.
Here's why boycotts don't work: the vast majority of customers don't care. And yes, that includes the vast majority of Whole Foods customers, a surprising number of whom drive SUVs and even--I swear!--occasionally vote Republican. Now consider the demographic that cares enough about health care to actually boycott a company over it. Most of them are a) wonks or b) political activists. The latter group is disproportionately young and does not spend a great deal of money on groceries. The former group is tiny.

Another POOMA paragraph from McArdle--Pulled Out Of My Ass. No numbers, just supposition.
You may get a large number of people who say they'll boycott Whole Foods. But then when they're out of extra-virgin olive oil and the Safeway doesn't have organic, and the nearest Trader Joes is a twenty-five minute drive away through traffic--they'll shop at Whole Foods. Three weeks later, they'll have managed to forget that they ever intended to stop shopping at Whole Foods. The stores are successful because they dominate their market niche, putting together a collection of things in one store that you would ordinarily have to go to several stores for. Shopping in mulitple places is a big pain in the butt.

So boycotting and economic activism don't work, and we can take her word for it. But let's ask one more person--Glen Beck.
ABOUT a dozen companies have withdrawn their commercials from “Glenn Beck,” the Fox News Channel program, after Glenn Beck, the person, said late last month that President Obama was a racist with a “deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.”

After Glenn Beck said that President Obama was a racist, a political group began contacting his advertisers. The companies that have moved their ads elsewhere in recent days included ConAgra, Geico, Procter & Gamble and the insurance company Progressive. In a statement that echoed the comments of other companies, ConAgra said on Thursday that “we are firmly committed to diversity, and we would like to prevent the potential perception that advertising during this program was an endorsement of the viewpoints shared.”

The campaign against Mr. Beck is rooted in an advocacy group’s objection to the commentator’s remarks on July 28. Given the number of advertisers that have pledged to remove their spots, it appears to have been unusually successful.

Its success also indicates that as commentary on cable news reaches a rhetorical boiling point, advertisers may become more skittish about being near it.

Damn you, Reality, with your meddlesome facts!!
Remember the boycott of the French? Lasted about four weeks, until everyone figured out that this meant foregoing Dannon yogurt and Mephisto sandals, and spending hours looking for a decent American brie. Effect on French foreign policy: dubious. Perhaps negative.

Since the right was simply lashing out in anger that someone, somewhere disagreed with them about illegally invading a foreign country, I'm not surprise that that temper tantrum didn't have a political effect.
Then there's the problem of counter-boycotts. Radley is one. I myself do not particularly care for Whole Foods--I find them overpriced, and their prepared food isn't very good. But as long as the progressive boycott lasts . . . well, Mr. Mackey, you've got another customer. I doubt I'm the only conservative or libertarians who will make the same pledge.

Mr. Mackey disagrees. He dumped half his stock right before he published that op-ed. He obviously thought a boycott might happen and might hurt him. But hey, McArdle shouldn't let that stop her from giving money to a store that she thinks is inferior and overpriced. I'm sure she will enjoy her mediocre food even more under the circumstances, since it will be flavored with yummy spite.


Mr. Wonderful said...

That's her example? "The boycott of the French"? Which no one except the militantly stupid took seriously for a single second?

Words fail me. And that's saying something.

Euripides said...

Leftist who spends slightly more on a Fair Trade product = Unhinged, looney moonbat. Possible Communist.

Rightist who spend a LOT more on a Whole Foods product just because they imagine it will piss off Leftist = Rational self-interested economic decision.

I can haz Business Studies Degree now?

Euripides said...

Also notice that she is ignoring the Nestlé boycott (surely one of the biggest boycotts ever) or even worse, she has never heard of it.

clever pseudonym said...

The entire "I'm gonna go buy stuff I don't even like just to spite some guy who has an opinion different than mine!" is more like a temper tantrum than any kind of argument, rational or otherwise.

I'm glad she brought up the French boycott, though. The images of vendors pouring out French wine they'd already *paid for* are so comical, it still gives me a laugh.

Anonymous said...


Whole Foods is not a cheap store. However, it is a "hit" here in the OC. There are some items here that you wouldn't be able to get elsewhere like Italian Soda but is there a significant difference between organic food and otherwise? (I am not being facetious here, I really don't know if there is a difference). And you can tell that the clientele for Whole Foods is at a higher pay grade.

Still I don't understand the CEO of whole foods getting into this mess. Was he genuinely trying to be helpful? I don't get it.

Euripides: See, this is what I mean by what's the use of an MBA? What does the MBA teach you...I still don't know.


Susan of Texas said...

I wonder how long it takes to write posts off of the top of your head? It must save so much time, which I foolishly spend looking up facts and looking for holes in my arguments and reading research.

Anonymous said...


I think that's truly sad part. That there are so many good bloggers with an audience a tenth the size of hers and she squanders her pulpit with predictable opinions supported with hardly any facts.

I find that a lot of her arguments are based on thought experiments (rather than on facts). The conclusions of which she expands to a generality. I think this type of argument is called induction, (correct me please) and in mathematics/science it is quite powerful. I fear though, her experiments are constructed poorly, mainly because she has a vested interest in the conclusion. And what good are facts if the conclusion is already known?


Kathy said...

Perhaps HoleFoods will advertise on the Glen Beck show. That'd show us.

Anonymous said...

Boycotts can work because most companies have thin margins. A 1% decline in gross revenue will always produce much more than a 1% decline in net profit.