Jerry Moore: Individual tastes often trump social values

Jerry Moore

How disenchanted could you become with the maker of a favored product before giving it the heave-ho?

Some people make a real effort to find out which firms share their values. The issue of business ethics caught my attention a few months ago when I received a couple letters from readers. They were form letters written by some group, the kind that people just sign and send to their local newspapers.

But as formulaic as they were, these letters raised an interesting question: Do most of us care if we spend money with companies that promote causes we oppose?

The form letters concerned the public announcement by officials with Starbucks that they support marriage equality. The state of Washington, where Starbucks is based, passed a law earlier this year allowing gays to marry. Starbucks endorsed the legislation.

The move prompted a boycott of Starbucks on the part of people who oppose gay marriage. This reminded me of a protest launched last year against Chick-Fil-A, which donated nearly $2 million in 2009 to groups opposing gay rights.

As someone who supports marriage equality, I suppose I should spend money at Starbucks and not at Chick-Fil-A. This dawned on me when Chick-Fil-A opened a new site near my office in late March.

I had never eaten at a Chick-Fil-A before, and the franchise has been given rave reviews. But its revenue eventually finds its way into the coffers of groups I wouldn’t support, so what should I do?

For many of us, it comes down to the product. If I buy coffee on my way to work, it’s always from Dunkin’ Donuts rather than Starbucks. And I ended up buying lunch at the Chick-Fil-A the day it opened.

Boycotts have been crucial in many protest movements, and I support their use even for causes with which I disagree. It’s the right of all Americans to make their voices heard through their spending decisions.

And while we should all be as socially conscious as those who sent me the letters opposing Starbucks, the reality is that shopping choices are based more on what we like and don’t like. Until we match desired merchandise with corporate principles, our taste buds will dominate this process.

Contact Jerry Moore at (630) 368-8930 or