First, go read this post at AMERICAblog about Target's ongoing struggle to defend their anti-woman sucking up to the American Taliban. Their PR people are trying so hard to come up with BS justifications for their nonsensical policies that I imagine their policy meetings look like this:
(I love, incidentally, the whiny tone of the Target exec in the reply letter who moans about "why are weeeeeee being singled out". My response would be much the same as what parents tell their children every day: "This is not about what your little brother did, it's about what YOU did." Oh, and also: "You're big enough now, you should know better.")
Now take a minute to check out BuyBlue.org and look up the retailers you most frequently patronize. Be prepared to be surprised and often depressed by what you find, especially if-- like me-- you live in a red state where the overwhelming majority of shopping options are big-box strip mall retailers.
Here's the thing. Most of us who are at least moderately politically aware want to shop responsibly-- not just choosing retailers who contribute to progressive causes but whose policies are fair and who treat their employees with respect (real respect, like paying them competitively and letting them form unions-- which incidentally Target doesn't-- not fake "we let our employees discriminate because we respect their sexism"-- which Target does). Most of us make at least some effort to support small, independent businesses especially when doing so supports our communities.
But it definitely takes effort to shop according to your principles, not just in time spent researching companies but also, sometimes, adjusting your habits or going a little out of your way to avoid giving your dollars to a retailer with a weaselly reputation. And let's face it, sometimes there are budgetary considerations, or limits on how far you can travel to shop, or just not really anything more than the best of a bad lot to choose from. And who hasn't had a day where you're tired, you don't feel well, you just want to get your errands done and get home and you just pick the most convenient choice even if it's a place you'd normally avoid?
The reality is that it's often a luxury to be picky about where you shop. Back in my couch-change-scrounging days when I had no car, the places that got my money were the ones that enabled me to stretch that money the farthest and the ones I could walk to. And while I certainly encourage responsible consumerism, it's really a choice that everyone has to make for themselves.
Protesting the policies of any given company really comes down to two approaches: Either, I have not given you my business because you do X, and if you didn't do X there's a chance I would change my mind; or, I give you my business because [whatever reason] but I will take my business elsewhere unless you stop doing X. Sure, there's weight in the bad PR of a letter campaign, but I can't imagine that businesses really care nearly as much about complaints they get from people who aren't customers and probably never will be. (Although calling Fry Pharmacy to read them the riot act, as Dan Savage suggests, could probably be a lot of fun!)
So here's a protest idea that talks to businesses in the language they speak-- the bottom line. It really only works if, like me, you obsessively keep receipts long past their usefulness or you're willing to start hanging on to them.
Let's use Target as an example, since they're on my shit list.
Write them a letter telling them that you oppose their policy, in this case allowing their pharmacists to refuse to fill Plan B prescriptions based on sexist "religious" beliefs. Make it clear that you are, or are willing to, take your money elsewhere because of it.
Now, here's the arts and crafts portion of the protest. You'll need to dig up some receipts; Target ones if you shop there, and if you don't, ones from shopping trips for things you can generally find at Target. Tape some of them to a sheet of paper (let's say a month's worth, but whatever you feel is effective-- one receipt is effective if it's for a big enough purchase) and photocopy the paper so that you can black out any personal information you want to. Then write in bold letters (red pen if you have it!) on the photocopy something like "I took $[the total amount of the receipts] worth of my business elsewhere because of your Plan B policy" or "This $[total amount] per month is going to another business next time because of your Plan B policy". Include it in the letter, which could be as simple as this (feel free to crib from it if you have trouble writing your own):
Dear [Target Executive]:
I am outraged by your decision to stand by your pharmacists who refuse to fill women's prescriptions for Plan B on the basis of discriminatory "religious beliefs". Further, I am insulted that you would think I was stupid enough to accept your specious excuse that you are respecting their beliefs in accordance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when you also state that you are selectively applying that standard *only* when it comes to dispensing Plan B. That Act was not intended to enable one political special interest group to discriminate against half the human race, nor does it contain a proviso that says that an employer can cherry-pick which of their employees is worthy of its protection. That you suggest otherwise is sleazy and offensive.
If I refused to do any part of my job duties as I understood them when I accepted the job, on the basis of "personal beliefs", my employer would be justified in firing me. That Target does not do the same suggests that you agree with your shiftless pharmacists and that therefore it is your corporate policy to discriminate against your female customers.
The business from which I purchase my prescription medicines is one that I expect to fill my prescriptions and advise me and my physician of wrong dosages or possible interactions, without delays, hesitations, hand-offs, or any kind of interference whatsoever. That's it. I will not tolerate a business that allows a stranger's "religious beliefs" to butt into my private medical decisions, no matter how smoothly they pull off that sleight of hand in my presence.
I have attached several receipts showing a sample of what I spend [in a month at your business]. If your discriminatory policy is not revoked, and the pharmacists who refuse to fill Plan B prescriptions disciplined or fired accordingly, this is how much revenue you will lose when I take my business elsewhere. Do you really want to see the numbers if even a small percentage of your customer base does the same?
You should know that I will be reporting about your response, and whether or not it is satisfactory, on Target's profile on BuyBlue.org, and I will attempt to influence friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances accordingly.
Target's hip, urban advertising campaigns are extremely misleading. Your ads would more truthfully depict a pregnant rape victim in a burka being scolded by one of your pharmacists. You should be ashamed of your duplicity.
[The Mad Hathor]
An even more effective version of this would be to write it as a group letter and let each signatory contribute their own receipt sheet, coordinated perhaps by a progressive organization.
I'm going to rifle through all my receipts and give this a shot-- you can bet I'll be posting any response I receive here in this blog!