Monday, February 13, 2017

The New Vetting

I never cared about the philosophical underpinnings of the leaderships at Microsoft, Apple, Starbucks, Airbnb, or any other of the big and powerful profit machines.    I was just your standard issue consumer – if I liked the service or products and thought the price was fair, I bought.   Forever gone are those carefree days. 

It all began with Target.   You know, I never entered that store without spending $100 more than I had intended to spend?    Loved their products.  Then they jumped into the transgender bathroom nonsense, when Barrack Obama was at the helm, wreaking havoc on traditional citizens with traditional values.   While I have nothing against transgender individuals (yes, I do know a few) when Target took such an aggressive stand on the issue, they had my full attention.  The transgender population represents a very, very small portion of society and Target thought that this small segment of the population needed to feel accepted.  Ok.   But, they never thought about or spoke to the much larger segment of the population who would feel unaccepted and marginalized by coed, co-use bathrooms.   The restroom policies at Target favor the comfort of so very few at the expense of so very many. 

I have not crossed the threshold of Target since their very odd and aggressive stance on bathroom policy.*  If they cared so little about my position on the matter, the only sensible thing left for me to do was to stop giving them my money.  So, I did.  They don’t care about me or my business, of course, and I do know this.  However, I instantly felt good about my decision and have never regretted it.   It made me feel less powerless in the face of great nonsense. I do wish they had stayed out of the transgender bathroom conflict and had simply stuck to selling me socks and sheets, but I estimate that my separation from Target has saved me at least $1500 far.  That said, I do feel like I was vetted - profiled - and considered unimportant.  Not included.  So it goes.
(*I have read that Target has since backed off their regrettable stance on transgender bathroom policy and that it cost them over $20 million to do it.)   

Today, I find myself making similar decisions.  Many similar decisions. 

When Starbucks announced that it would hire immigrants while many Americans are jobless, hungry and eager to work, they got my full attention.   In no world does this makes sense, I thought.   Either Starbucks executives have a bone to pick with our current President or their marketing department saw an opportunity to get more brand loyalty from millennials, who part with great sums of money to be able to ‘hold the cup’ – that handy emblem of the accomplished! Regardless of the motivation behind their anti-American pronouncement, it struck me as vicious and perverse.   I am a coffee achiever as those who know me can attest.  I drink no fewer than six cups a day and I use to swing by my local Starbucks three to four times a week.  No more.   From the day that Starbucks played its sinister hand in politics and marketing, I stopped my Starbucks habit.  Again, I know that Starbucks does not care about me and my little itty bit of business.  That is not the point.   I use to enjoy my Starbucks coffee and might have gone on enjoying it, had the organization not done such a clumsy, transparent, manipulative, polemical thing.   Heavy sigh.   On the upside, I order my coffee in bulk now (not from Starbucks) and I keep a coffee machine in the trunk of my minivan.  Yes, I brew my own pot of Joe when I’m on the road and it is simply divine.  I have saved $20/week since I separated from Starbucks, but more importantly, I feel very good about the decision.  On the other hand, I feel bad about being vetted by Starbucks’ politics and I wish they had simply stuck to selling me coffee. Starbucks now makes me feel unwelcome, not included.  So it goes.

Now, I travel a good bit with my teenagers.  Some years ago they told me all about Airbnb and I’ve been an enthusiastic customer for a few years now.  I got a very odd email from them a couple of weeks back – something about “weaccept”.  When I clicked through the link in the email I found myself having to accept what amounted to a catechism!  If you know anything about serious faith-based organizations, then you know that many ask you to sign a statement of faith saying that you agree with their ideas on higher powers and the order of the universe, etc.   Well, that’s what this was, except that the orthodoxy was political.  This outrageous communication from Airbnb gave me two choices – accept or decline.  Here is what the decline button got me: “Declining this commitment means that your Airbnb account will be canceled, and your future reservations will be canceled.”

I did not accept.   It was as offensive as it was stupid.   I could be a lying, thieving, pervert hoping to rip off some good soul – but as long as I click on “I accept” somehow I’d be part of some Airbnb-good-guys-club?  Again, either the owners of Airbnb have a bone to pick with our current President or they are hoping to get deeper into the pockets of millennials, their main source of business.  Either way, it is at best disingenuous and at worst contemptible.  I closed my Airbnb account.   Once again, I was vetted. Profiled and found to be unimportant.  Not included….by this organization that preaches inclusion.    Hmmm.   So it goes.

I am a sociable person and I have been using Meetup for joining various outdoor clubs.  Today, I received another odd email – this one from Meetup.   They want me to know that they created 1000 meetups for anti-Trump individuals.   I cannot begin to express how many ways this offends, unless Messrs. Heiferman and Meeker have also created 1000 meetups for those who support the general direction in which our country is headed under the new leadership in DC.    I am waiting for that email.  It seems to me that Meetup can accomplish its mission by allowing its users to figure things out all by themselves.  There is no need to create meetups which may or may not be used, unless of course, their intent is to tell people what it is they should think.  I have unsubscribed, of course, as there are other ways for me to get information on the local outdoor activities. Maybe Meetup owners are just keeping their investors happy.  I don't have time to follow the money, but I am sure someone will.    It is so strange to watch an organization created on the idea of inclusion turn its back on cultural diversity - rebuff its pluralistic membership.  I guess Meetup is not that keen on inclusion, after all.  Again, I was vetted and made unwelcome - not included.   So it goes.

My life as a consumer has been utterly transformed by those who do not like the changes that our new president is making.  There is a dirty, corporate inquisition afoot.  It seeks to corner people, demand to know their political identity and then exclude them because of it.   This is being done in the spirit of acceptance?  

On the other hand, I have not been made to feel unwelcomed by any businesses or organizations which support the President.   I know of several large enterprises which are run by conservatives who probably support Trump, but I have not received any emails from them seeking to vet or extort my politics or which require my compliance or subordination for continued inclusion. 

The stunning results of the election in November and the fact that most news sources and pollsters had wildly incorrect predictions proved that there is a big conversation going on, but that it is very one-sided.   The big companies discussed in this essay – companies seeking to vet their customer base - are also in one big conversation.  With each other.   This is the opposite of progress.   Many of the corporate, anti-American thinkers who are disguised as “accepters” and “nice guys who want the whole world to move to America”, simply talk to each other.  They do not want to be in a conversation with that other part of America.  Because that would be hard.  It would be deeply challenging.  They’d rather preach the virtues of flying to an audience of birds.  

Meanwhile, along with many others who support our current administration, I am forced to make my consumer decisions based on my politics.  What?   I am being vetted and profiled by those who are shrieking against the idea of vetting and profiling.  Hmmm.  So it goes.

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