When Boycotts Backfire; Chick-Fil-A

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Back in 2012, following some comments about gay marriage and some questionable donations by the CEO of Chick-Fil-A, activists called for a boycott. To be clear, I’m not a “boycott” kind of guy. It dates back to my childhood, when people would occasionally still burn books. For you millennials, that means that collections of words on paper bound together were ignited, not an illegal copying of Kindle files. I digress. However, I quickly came to the conclusion that sometimes boycotts backfire.

In the case of the aforementioned book burnings, I always wondered how many folks bought a copy just so they can participate. There’s something intoxicating about an angry mob with matches and chemical accelerants, after all. Furthermore, assuming none of them bought the book for the sake of burning it, others will buy it to see why they are burning it.

Flash forward to 2012. I was the one guy that had never had a Chick-Fil-A sandwich. Hard to believe, but true. Suddenly, this regional chain was all anyone was talking about. You see, I rarely take food advice from passive aggressive bovines. Angry mobs on the other hand? I want to know what made them so mad. Hence, off I go to Chick-Fil-A.

Over the last 7 years I have had more than a couple chicken sandwiches from the offending franchise. All the while still wondering what makes them so offensive. I really don’t care what the guy who makes my sandwich thinks about gay marriage. I only care about how he makes a sandwich. Even if I did care about his world view, that’s where things get more complicated.

These people are incredibly nice. Unnervingly nice. Are the trying to get me to join a cult nice. At which location, Steve? All of them! They do really bizarre stuff that you never expect to see at a fast food restaurant. Like smiling, for example. And you ask them to do something extra, like refilling your soda or something, and they say “it will be my pleasure”. And then, even more bizarrely, they act like they’re actually generating pleasurable feelings from the experience of refilling your cup. Creepy, but nice.

How boycotts backfire.

At this point, you’re probably assuming I am perfectly happy to accept this surprising fact of life and move on. You don’t know me. I know these folks are calculating, dare I say plotting to get me. Alas, yesterday my opportunity to force the eventual confrontation along to reality presented itself. Allow me to set the scene with a picture from the actual set where the duel would transpire.

Boycotts backfire at Chick-Fil-A.
Notice the chair pulled out, straining against the cable.

What you see is an ordinary picnic area. Look again. See the cables and padlocks? That’s right, it’s winter time in Cartersville Georgia, so the patio is on lockdown. Finally, I’ve got them. It’s 68 degrees, so I’m going to eat in the closed patio area ensuring that one of the following things would happen.

  1. In typical fast food style, nobody even notices that I’m there.
  2. They notice that I’m there, but choose to ignore my scofflaw attitude because confrontation requires the exertion of more effort than fast food wages compensate for.
  3. Having noticed my deviant behavior, the long awaited confrontation occurs when management tells me to eat in a chair that isn’t chained to a fence or vacate the premises.

Upon taking physical posession of my delicious refreshments, I headed straight for the patio. Of course, I ordered my food in a takeout bag. This way when I get tossed, I don’t have to wait for the bag that “it will be his or her pleasure” to bring me.

Now at this point you’re thinking I’m nuts. No way will they confront me, right? Wrong! I didn’t see any speakers on the patio, but I swear I heard that old “western duel” music as the manager came through the door strolling towards me. I fought the urge to grab my sandwich and run for the truck stop. This was the moment that all my visits to substandard restaurants with disgruntled employees had prepared me for. We locked eyes. She continued to stroll… no, saunter. She definitely sauntered towards me. And as she stopped not 6 feet away and reached into her holster, I knew the climactic moment had arrived.

Her steely eyes met my gaze. I reached for my holster, but I didn’t have one, so I settled for a waffle fry with a less than generous amount of ketchup on it. Under my breath I muttered “if they take me back to the dining room, they won’t take me back alive”. Then slowly, I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said dramatically, she turned towards me so I could see her hand rising from her hip, cold steel glimmering in her hand. A six shooter? No. A key.

“Let me unlock that cable for you so you can pull that chair all the way out”, she said with a grin. The standard, friendly (if not too friendly) Chick-Fil-A smile they issue to you immediately after your hat and right before your nametag.

The precise moment when boycotts backfire.

Son of a…! That wasn’t on the list of potentialities. I of course declined the offer. Hey, you don’t know, it could be a trick to get me to stand up. She fired back “is everything ok with your meal”? Not unless you consider heaven on a bun to be just “ok”. Not wanting to tip my hand, I replied that it was, still eyeing her for some type of Chick-Fil-A trickery. She reiterated her earlier offer, assuring me that it would “be her pleasure” to unchain my chair. Defeated, I again declined and drowned my disappointment in fried chicken and Cherry Coke.

How can one possibly get mad enough to boycott these people? It’s not like they fired a bunch of gay people, or kicked them out of the restaurant. Not to mention how good the sandwiches are. If they were kicking straight people out I’d find a life partner to take with me to get my order. I’d wear mascara and risk being accused of going in gayface for that deliciousness. That said, I want to be supportive so I’ve reached a compromise deal. I’ll agree to participate in the Chick-Fil-A boycott… on Sundays. Allow my continued patronage every day that they are actually open to serve as a reminder of what happens when boycotts backfire.

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