In a case of the kettle calling the Target black, fans of the Salvation Army are threatening to take their money away from Target, in response to the retailer’s Grinch-like decision to ban the Army’s red kettles on store property. Target decided last January not to let the Salvation Army ring its bells in front of Target, so several national Christian groups are targeting the retailer for some bad press. “For Target to say that the Salvation Army is no longer welcome at the inn should send a message to Christians that perhaps they’d like to do their shopping elsewhere,” the Associated Press quoted Robert Knight, a spokesman for Concerned Women of America, as saying. The group claims more than 500,000 members. The Salvation Army says it raised $9 million last year from Target shoppers nationwide. But Target felt it no longer could make the Salvation Army the sole exception to a rule banning solicitation at its stores. “It’s unfortunate that this is being looked at as something against the Salvation Army,” a Target spokesman said. “That’s not the way we intended it to be. It’s really about us trying to make our policy consistent. We have always respected the Salvation Army’s mission and their goals.” The stated reason for the ban was to protect Target shoppers from the potential discomfort of being asked for donations, what Target abstractly calls a “distraction-free shopping experience. ” But some observers say the real reason behind the decision was the retailer’s fear that if they allowed groups like the Salvation Army or the Girl Scouts to set up tables, they’d have to do the same for the United Food and Commercial Workers, who would try to leaftlet shoppers and workers about the lack of unions at Target. The American Family Association, a Christian activist group based in Tupelo, Miss., also sent an “action alert” to its 2.2 million member mailing list, asked members to consider shopping at other retailers. “It’s very discouraging when a multibillion-dollar organization with millions and millions of dollars of profit to be made won’t give one month of their storefront to the Salvation Army,” AFA spokesman Randy Sharp said.
Most of the major retailers, in an effort to keep unions away from instore or parking lots locations, have dumped the nonprofit groups. Target’s “distraction-free shopping experience” is an attempt to distract the public from the real reason the bells aren’t ringing this year. For similar seasonal stories, search Newsflash by “Christmas.”