Facebook users have tired of embarrassing junior high classmates. They’ve got bigger fish to fry.
Sorry, Corporate America: the worldwide webiverse is coming for you.
In just 6 days, a Facebook page named “I Will Never Eat Another Jimmy John’s Sandwich Again” has launched and earned 1,442 likes. Not too shabby for a cause tied to a chain with just over 1,000 stores in 39 states. The Facebook boycott grew out of reports by a Champaign-Urbana, Illinois paper–the “online, independent, free-thinking” SmilePolitely.com–that founder Jimmy John Liautaud enjoys safari hunting for sport. I’ll spare you most of the photos but just to give you an idea:
Champaign-Urbana, home to the flagship campus of the University of Illinois and the first store in the successful chain of sub shops, sounds to be crawling with people who think Mr. Liautaud is a womanizing, tax-dodging, worker-oppressing jerk with a fancy car. And now, thanks to the power of the internet, thousands of strangers are free to draw the same conclusion.
Looking at the picture of Jimmy John holding up slain leopards and dead grizzlies–after reading about Minneapolis stores firing whistleblowers for reporting exhausted, sick workers forced to work in compliance with company policy–I’m none too keen on giving Mr. Liautaud any of my money. There’s a Jimmy John’s across the street from my office that I’ll now happily bypass en route to equally carb-y delights. That being said, I had to spend an hour prairie-dogging around the internet to figure out if I understood or supported the boycott.
And that’s the hiccup with the power of an online movement. Word spreads faster than information.
The Jimmy John’s example is the most recent but consider last month’s online dust-up over Urban Outfitters (and its sister store Anthropologie). When Etsy fixture and jewelry designer Stevie/truche posted pictures of her United/World of Love line up against Outfitters’ I Heart Destination collection…well, it sure looked like theft.
But Stevie, while understandably annoyed, may not have been the first to conceive of her designs either. Regretsy did a little digging and reported that state-outline jewelry was selling on Etsy as early as 2008…and not from truche. I don’t think anyone was stealing as much as states are shaped like states and it’s a neat idea that too many people thought of at once. That being said, Urban Outfitters has long been rumored to be a creativity leech, co-opting independent designers’ work as their own so I might still want to boycott them. But with information coming at me on Facebook at a rat-a-tat pace, I rarely have the time to stop and dig. I bet I’m not the only one who sometimes finds her decisions at the mercy of the last guy who had 5 spare minutes to get the last word.
Again: I’m all for voting with your feet and your dollars. And I understand the temptation to leap to action. You’re talking to a woman who went 10 years hating on Domino’s pizza because one person once told her they support anti-reproductive choice lobbies. However, while Facebook, Twitter and other social media are great ways to rally a cause and empower consumers (example: Chick-Fil-A deciding that it supports cows AND anti-gay-marriage lobbies), social media shouldn’t be your last stop before deciding to declare war on your favorite–or least favorite–corporations.
So, what are your online boycott war stories? Ever been misled? Ever missed out? Ever ended up with egg on your face? Or is it always better to boycott first, ask questions later?