Intentionally Unreasonable: #GrabTheTruth: L.L. Bean deserves our respect

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Dear Shannon Coulter:

Like you, I’m a marketing professional. And like you, I was repulsed by Donald Trump’s videotaped comments about grabbing women’s genitalia – the catalyst for you starting the #GrabYourWallet website and movement. (The fact that 60 million Americans saw that video and still voted for Trump will be a sad staple of political science classes for eternity.)

In general, I understand your approach to holding companies and brands accountable for their direct and active linkage to politicians, policies and others that are clearly “bad.”

One problem, though, is how to calibrate any type of common standard regarding good, bad, fair and unfair, based upon what subjective criteria, and judged by whom?

Also, how to fairly balance the culpability of your targeted companies against the PR value they represent to your group? (Why target a huge and boring industrial company for boycott when a consumer lifestyle brand will get more attention?)

While you and I probably share similar (intensely negative) views about Trump, I’m less settled than you on how best to constructively limit the inevitable damage that he will do to our country and its citizens over the next four years.

Far beyond the realm of partisan dogma or political party tribalism, any desire I have for political or corporate punishment is dwarfed by my interest in avoiding World War III, the destruction of our environment, global economic destabilization and an erosion of our collective humanity.

I’m concerned that your approach to causing short-term economic pain to various companies that you subjectively deem “bad” may bring some measure of punitive satisfaction and digital buzz, but it does nothing to solve the root issues relating to an ill-informed electorate.

That’s why I’m inviting you to join forces to launch #GrabTheTruth – a non-partisan citizen initiative to put the onus of a healthy democracy on voters themselves to take the steps necessary to become better informed.

We can start by agreeing that flawed politicians contribute to bad public policy, but it all starts with the apathetic and/or poorly informed voters.

Though I’m new to hashtag advocacy, #GrabTheTruth has a nice ring to it, right?

Speaking of truth, there is a company up the street from me getting some bad press not for what it did – which for more than 100 years has been consistently great stuff – but from political-born animus directed toward one of its namesake heirs, Linda Bean.

I am not a member of the Linda Bean Fan Club. But as much as I loathe many of Linda Bean’s political positions, her tone-deaf approach to community relations, and her questionable representation of a respected company, I must defend her right to express her personal views.

I also vigorously defend your right and that of #GrabYourWallet supporters to express your own Linda Bean counter-views, through dissenting words and by not patronizing her restaurants or her other businesses.

Her words, her actions, and her support of a man many see as the most dangerous and destructive in the world should attach to her – and in this case, only her.

To economically attack the L.L. Bean company because of a shared name and some inherited/shared family equity is unfair. More importantly, it weakens the reasonable and larger argument that deserves broad attention: corporate accountability.

Beyond the Bean name, DNA, and her giant boot full of money (which entitles her to a board seat,) Linda Bean plays no meaningful role in the management of L.L. Bean – a truth that deserves consideration as exclusionary evidence in the context of your boycott.

As you’re well aware, in today’s highly charged political climate, any small media or digital spark can ignite or sustain powerful, and often unfair and destructive forces. Such forces can do great harm to people and destroy businesses.

While the L.L. Bean company is too respected and too solid an organization to be ruined by your efforts, #GrabYourWallet has done harm to many of my friends and neighbors here in Maine.

Just as Linda Bean should own her words and actions, I respectfully ask that you reflect upon your own with regard to the direct and indirect impact you’ve had on what is – despite its large size – a community business.

In a fair and just world, L.L. Bean should be recognized and applauded on a regular basis for its active and generous commitment to Maine, its employees, and many civic and charity organizations.

As a loyal customer for 50 years, past business colleague, neighbor, and former leader of a bordering municipality, I’ve had the pleasure and honor of having thousands of interactions with L.L. Bean as a business and with their executives – all of them decidedly positive.

Please remove the L.L. Bean company from your boycott list. It is an iconic and caring company that does not deserve to be targeted.

There are too many critical life-and-death issues facing America during this volatile period to waste time or energy on the smoke screens of faux issues (a non-consequential heiress) while the destructive Trumpian wild fires of recklessness, impulsiveness, insecurity, blind narcissism and unchecked ego are raging.

So #GrabTheTruth and, if anyone must, #GrabYourWallet. Use it to buy some stuff at L.L. Bean – they’re a wonderful company with terrific employees, great management and super products.

(Disclosure: my company worked on a small project with L.L. Bean more than eight years ago. Since then, my only relationship with the company is that of a loyal customer of size 14 footwear and flannel, lots of flannel.)

Steve Woods is from away, but fully here now, living in Yarmouth, working in Falmouth, traveling the world, and trying his best. His column appears every other week. He can also be heard Saturdays at 11 a.m. on WLOB 1310 AM and 100.5 FM.

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