Thursday, October 1, 2009

Being Politically Correct Without Getting Dirty

Ok, I have a burr under my saddle this morning. I shouldn't be too surprised at where the current feed-the-hungry campaign "Come Together" came from, but I come on people! Macy's is sponsoring the newest feel-good campaign and it's getting a lot of publicity and boosts from news sources such as "Good Morning America". The idea is to throw nice dinner parties, inviting friends and instead of bringing the guests the usual bottle of wine or hostess gift, donating money by "buying" meals for the hungry. The goal is 10,000,000 meals. Macy's is matching the donations to work toward this goal.

Now, don't get me wrong, I have nothing against donating to the hungry, at all. Most of us are only one check away from being in the same predicament as millions of others now. The economic times have been a tragedy for many families. And I have absolutely nothing against Macy's. But let's look quickly at Macy's financial shape right now. In December of 2008 they had 856 stores after purchasing the May's chain. They have closed many so far this year, but they are still strapped with real estate. Their consumers have diminished since the economy has hit hard times. Their clientele has either lost their jobs like many others or they are simply tightening their belts and making the most of less. Their profit margins have sunk into the negative. In December, 2008, their debt totalled $9.8 billion dollars. So the problem Macy's has is how to put their brand in front of the public minus the stigma of a high-end store and look like a community-minded, philanthropic entity with what we perceive them to have. They are appealing to the enlightened shopper.

But what would happen if instead of going to the trouble and expense of throwing a dinner party, sitting down and filling our stomachs with great food that has been peddled by the Food Network's finest, you invited all your guest to meet down at the local food bank or soup kitchen and help serve the same people you are so ready to help with your money donations? Do you think all of your friends would be so ready to do that? Some would. But I'm sure you would get many excuses of other commitments that stand in their way of helping. But you can have their money. Just don't make them get their hands dirty, or spend their time doing things they are uncomfortable facing or with people they don't feel comfortable rubbing shoulders with. Donating money is so much easier and we can pat ourselves on the back for being so helpful.

Again, don't get me wrong. I have shopped at Macy's in the past and I love Macy's. It's been years since shopping there, simply because for us, it's more economical to shop elsewhere. And I love dinner parties with friends where good food and conversation rules the evening. But let's call a spade and spade. Let's not dress up a national tragedy in pretty clothes and throw money at it and then feel like we've done a great thing. If Macy's wants and needs good PR, dress the homeless for interviews or give your employees time off for community service hours. Throw great sales, have special events to bring the customers through your doors. There are still people willing to pay for quality products and excellent service. It just may come in smaller increments for awhile. Sometimes we all have to make the tough decisions to make it through.

As for us, the public, I encourage all of us to get more real and get more involved. Millions of families need our help to get through these hard times. They look just like us. They lived just like us. We don't need gimmicks. And we don't need the pats on our own backs for helping. Let's get in there and work together. Let's feed the hungry, clothe those needing jobs and kids going to school and stop looking for ways to make yourself seem like such a fine person. Just do it and you will seem like a fine person in many eyes that just may not know how to say thank you.

1 comment:

  1. Even in my church, I find that people would rather donate in a way that they do not have to see or touch the people they are helping. It is frustrating to me. While I am not always comfortable around those less fortunate than I, I do have compassion and am willing to physically be in the same room and talk to them.