By Michael R. Shannon
There's an interesting controversy contrast between two of America's leading retailers. Walmart controversies typically occur out in the parking lot and are signaled by raised voices or the occasional gunshot.
Walmart executive involvement is normally limited to calling 9–1–1.
Target controversies take place inside and are kicked off when an ever–vigilant socialist media commissar spots a political correctness violation. Target honchos actively participate in both the cause and the occasional apology.
A few of Target's more recent sensibility offenses include:
• A T–shirt boasting the word "Trophy" on the front. (I think the fact it didn't come in XXX–Large had something to do with it, too.)
• A Christmas T–shirt that read: "OCD Obsessive Christmas Disorder."
• Another T–shirt that replaced Princess Leia with Luke Skywalker.
• A Photoshopped swimsuit ad that gave a young girl a "thigh gap" and an arm long enough for an Orangutan.
Customers should have gotten an inkling Target wasn't content to confine the outrage to haberdashery when the "Boy's Bedding" signs were changed to "Kid's Bedding" and other departments were put on notice by the company newsletter that, "our teams are working across the store to identify areas where we can phase out gender-based signage to help strike a better balance."
Fortunately those uproars were mostly optional. The Angel of Outrage passed over if you didn't buy the T–shirt and you could always purchase Roscoe's Star Wars sheets at Walmart. Assuming you made it through the parking lot.
Target's latest internally–generated outrage has the potential to affect any customer who just finished a Big Gulp prior to shopping. Bulk bathrooms —that serve more than one customer simultaneously — are now gender fluid. Nathans who feel nelly can enter the bathroom of their choice.
Target PR flacks assured the Washington Post that some customers "are really supportive." I suppose that includes the Idaho man arrested in a female fitting room — he was feeling frilly that day — while he took photos of the woman in changing in the next cubicle.
Personally I've always felt anyone was welcome to join me in the men's room if you can use the urinal without sitting in it.
Others are less supportive.
The American Family Association decided this was the straw that broke the toilet paper dispenser. It launched a nationwide #BoycottTarget campaign in response to what it termed a "dangerous" bathroom and changing room policy. In no time at all women threw down their "Trophy" T–shirts and demanded Target conduct its outreach to the mentally ill in a location that didn't involve baring your behind.
Normally, trendy retailers consider offending Christians one of the perks of being in business. What fun is it if you can't poke the Bible–beaters in the eye once in a while? I'll bet it was was all Baptists and tranny jokes in the break room until the sales figures rolled in.
Home Depot had "robust earnings" and the National Retail Federation "revised its forecasts upward." In contrast, Target sales down by 7.2 percent and foot traffic declined for the first time in two years.
The only area to show any increase was online sales, where customers are pretty sure who is sharing the bathroom with them.
Did the Christians finally win one? Did the almost 1.5 million signers of the boycott petition make a difference?
Target says no. "It's difficult to tease out one thing that's driving results." But if that's the case why is Target now spending $20 million to add one–holer bathrooms to all its stores? These bathrooms are specifically designed to accommodate female shoppers who don't want to play stall roulette.
The only downside I see is most American's aren't prepared for a return to 1960's gas station bathroom etiquette. Back then there was many a time when I'd shot the bolt on a restroom door only to be interrupted shortly thereafter by a tentative jiggling of the door handle.
What to do? Maintain a discrete silence and hope they go away? Try to concentrate on the business at hand and clear out quickly? Before I could make up my mind they usually escalated by knocking.
Now I'm wondering: What are they thinking? The door is obviously locked. If it locked accidentally, knocking isn't going to solve their problem. And since the bathroom is occupied, do they expect me say, "Hey, come on in, I'll slide over and you can join me!"
Target runs the risk of today's unfamiliar customers being so deferential they cross their legs and wait in agony before a door that's merely closed.
Maybe the situation calls for another T–shirt, this time reading: "I used the bathroom at Target & survived!"
Michael R. Shannon is a public relations and advertising consultant with corporate, government and political experience around the globe. He is a dynamic and entertaining keynote speaker. He can be reached at mandate.mmpr (at) gmail.com. He is also the author of Conservative Christian's Guidebook for Living in Secular Times (Now with added humor!).