want to vent their frustration. They
want to vent their anger,” he said.
Jay Ricker, chairman of Ricker Oil,
which has some 50 Ricker’s convenience stores and BP gas stations in Indiana, told the Wall Street Journal that
sales fell 5.4% in the weeks after the
accident. BP retailers in other states reported declines of as much as 10%.
Similarly, consumers from time to
time suggest boycotting all gasoline
stations for a day to protest high prices
at the pump. Again, such boycotts typically make little impression on big oil
companies, but could hurt businesses
if they were to succeed. These kinds of
boycotts are better at generating headlines than they are at keeping away customers.
On the Home Front
Sometimes, businesses can find themselves embroiled in more locally based
controversy. Last year, African-Ameri-can leaders in Dallas called for a boycott of a local Diamond Shamrock store
after a dispute between a single customer and the store’s owner.
What started as a dispute over the
store’s policy requiring a $5 minimum
on debit or credit card purchases, escalated as local civil rights leaders, clergy
and others charged the store owner,
who is Asian, with racism. Soon, the
local media was on the scene and the
business suffered short-term losses.
Then there’s the convenience store
in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, that
faced a boycott last year organized by
a local high school where teachers, administrators and students objected to
the sale of tobacco products and smoking products so close to school grounds.
In California, the United Food and
Commercial Workers called for a boycott of San Jose-based grocery store
Mi Pueblo, after it joined a federal program designed to verify the immigration status of employees. The store said
the boycott had more to do with efforts
It takes a rare perfect storm of issues and publicity for public opinion to have a serious impact on a business’s bottom line.
to unionize its workers than with its
immigration verification program.
Of course, anyone can call for a boycott and it has never been easier with
the help of social media — another reason to keep close tabs on what people
are saying about you online. In the vast
majority of cases, these online boycott
calls fail to gain traction and are usually
On Facebook recently there were
calls for boycotting the Red Eye Dock
Bar in Grasonville, Maryland, because it
supports the Pittsburgh Steelers instead
of the Baltimore Ravens; Petco in John-
son City, New York, because a number
of animals drowned there during a
2011 flood; and Hobby Lobby because
it is suing the U.S. government over the
health-care contraception mandate.
Scott Orr is a freelance writer based in