February 8, 2014

Channeling Andy Rooney

Andy Rooney
Did you ever wonder...

...if the Hobby Lobby folks (who are suing because having to provide certain contraceptive medicines as required under the Affordable Care Act violates their religious beliefs) should interview potential customers to see what the customer's beliefs are before allowing them to spend money in the store?

Because I'm kinda thinking that if the religious beliefs of the company's owner by extension also apply to all of the company's employees, I would think that they would also extend to the customers.

And there certainly would be no reason for a moral business to accept money from people who don't subscribe to the same beliefs, right?  I mean, if I don't agree with the business, why would they want my money?

Here's what that interaction would look like if I was the customer:
HL employee:  Thank you for coming to our store today.  Before I give you this shopping basket, I'd like to ask you a few questions, is that OK?
Me: Uh, sure, go ahead, but I really just wanted to pick up a couple of cheesy picture frames.
HL employee: No problem, we have lots of those.  But first, do you believe that it's OK for a woman to receive the morning after pill if she needs it?
Me:  I don't really think it's any of your business, and I'm not sure what that has to do with me getting a couple of cheesy picture frames from your store?
HL employee: Well, our owners believe that those medications are morally wrong, and we want to make sure that we don't take money from anyone who doesn't share the same beliefs. So to make it possible for our company owners to sleep at night, we need to ask this question of all our customers. Your money is important, of course, and we'd love to take it, but our company owners' beliefs are more important. 
Me: No problem, I completely understand.  I'll go get my cheesy picture frames from the Christmas Tree Shops. I think I remember seeing them right near the Christmas tampons and Christmas toothpaste. You have a nice day.
HL employee: Thanks for almost shopping at our store. You have a nice day too.
Yeah, that would be fun to do, wouldn't it? Or maybe instead of asking customers the question, the store could just post a sign on the window?  Let me know if that's happening at HL now, will you? I went to the store once, long before this whole 'my religion is your religion' issue came up, and finding nothing to buy, haven't gone back.  Although I certainly would give them credit for honesty if they did something like this.

Speaking of honesty, remember the wing-flapping over Chik-fil-A and their support of anti-gay programs and charities over the years? Here's a compilation of issues if you're interested. There's been a lot of noise about these folks, particularly when the head of the company tweeted his thoughts last summer after the SCOTUS released its decision on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California's Proposition 8.

In a refreshing burst of of honesty, here's what the company said about the (now-deleted) tweet:
Yesterday, President and COO of Chik-fil-A Dan Cathy tweeted a personal comment upon hearing the Supreme Court decisions on DOMA and Prop 8.  Dan recognizes his views do not necessarily represent the views of all Chik-fil-A customers, restaurant owners, and employees so he removed the tweet to eliminate any confusion. At Chik-fil-A, we are focused on providing great-tasting food and genuine hospitality to everyone. 
Good for Chik-fil-A for appreciating the difference between the owner, the people who work there, and the customers who eat there.

And, did you ever wonder...

...why so many of us, particularly those who scream and shout about getting government out of business, and letting the free market rule the world (with corporate welfare contributions, of course) get so up in arms when a business does what it wants without a lot of interference from the government?

We all know about the Duck Dynasty case, where the A and E Network decided to put the main Duck Dude on suspension because of his intolerant comments about gays and happy black people in the deep south. Suspension, while the show was on hiatus. Which is kinda like the fraternity on Animal House being on double secret probation or something. Or, as I noted previously, like a baseball pitcher being suspended and having games they were officially scheduled not to pitch count towards their suspension.

I'm guessing you've heard the news from CVS/pharmacy, the nation's second-largest well-stocked corner store that happens to have a pharmacy in the back. Like any good corner store, they have all the stuff we need -- sunglasses, sugary and salty/crunchy treats, personal hygiene items for folks of all ages, beer, cigarettes and what not.

Oh yeah, and they have that pharmacy, and they also do flu shots and the like, which in their business model qualifies them as a health care provider. And if you're a health care provider, it doesn't make sense to sell cigarettes. So, CVS  has announced plans to phase out tobacco products by October of this year. Let the games begin, folks.

A classic 'you can't win for losing', they are getting hammered as much as they're being supported, in some cases by the same subset of the population: doctors, business experts, college students, and of course the anonymous chatterboxes on social media.
  • You've got the "I'll never shop there again, the bastages, since they took my cigarettes away" theme, as if there weren't a gazillion places to get smokes if you need them. Some 90% of all cigarette sales happen at convenience stores, people, not at CVS and Walgreen's.  And probably some 90% of CVS customers don't get their cigs at CVS.
  • Then there's the "what about beer and junk food?" contingent, as if a person (and by person I mean corporation, of course) who makes one positive step deserves to be chastised for not making a million positive steps at the same time.  Can you even imagine the audacity of them, the bastages, not emptying their shelves EVERYTHING? Right NOW?!
  • Then there's the 'Nanny state' group, those who believe this is some kind of black-helicopter, NSA-type plot, part of the government take-over our lives. As if this was done by law, edict or fiat, by some Obaman stroke of the pen. This was a business decision, not a government regulation. This was a company decision, not a Bloomberg big gulp chomp out of your personal freedom.
  • And that of course leads to the next contingent, the people who question the real motive of CVS in making the decision. Some folks don't believe that this has anything to do with 'health care' and totally has to do with marketing and trying to be more competitive.  
Um, does it really matter why they're doing it?  I mean, if they had come out and said, "after much soul-searching, we bastages at CVS have decided to change our business model and stop selling cigarettes so we would look more like Target" would that make you happy?

If you think they're bastages for stopping selling tobacco, you have the right to stop shopping there, just as a person has the right to stop buying lunch at Chik-fil-A or shopping at JC Pennney or Abercrombie or  watching the Duck Dudes or stop buying knick-knacks at Hobby Lobby.

And that leads me to wonder about the deafening silence from the folks who are always Right There in support of businesses making changes on their own, without being forced to make them, without the government getting involved. Where the heck is Sarah Palin on this?  I checked her Facebook page, but she's pretty busy promoting her new TV show and wishing Ronald Reagan happy birthday, so she probably doesn't have time to jump in here in favor of free enterprise.

Where's John Boehner, chest-thumping and sobbing his eyes out, championing the 'certainty' that CVS has put out there in the market? That's what the Republicans in the House have been crying about for the past five years, isn't it?  The 'lack of certainty' that Democrats made happen?  Well, Crying John is focused on immigration, and the IRS, and the Keystone extra-large pipeline, not on free-market business certainty, apparently.

And Mitch McConnell? He supports "insurance policies tailored to those with preexisting conditions, promoting wellness and reigning in junk lawsuits" in this post on his website. I think the CVS move hits all three of those right on the head, don't you? Smokers with lung disease, cardiovascular disease and other smoking-related health issues fall right in his first bucket, and stopping cigarette sales is in the second bucket, and everyone knows that tobacco lawsuits are junk, right?  This is right up his alley, but he's a little busy focusing on getting the IRS to stop investigating 501(3)(c) organizations and on getting support for hemp-growing in Kentucky to pay attention to CVS right now, I guess.

Did you ever wonder if some of these folks are really just self-serving opportunists? Here's a thought: if CVS had made even the remotest connection to religion in their decision, these three would be all over this.

Let me know what's got you doing the Andy Rooney thing these days.