Monday, June 18, 2018
Business

Shoppers begin Publix boycott as chain continues supporting Adam Putnam for governor

Publix has been Florida’s favorite grocery chain for decades — but some shoppers are turning their backs on the store after learning it donated more than half a million dollars to gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam.

A handful of state advocacy groups have gone to social media — Twitter in particular — urging shoppers to "#BoycottPublix" this Memorial Day weekend.

Some people have decided to boycott the store indefinitely, or until it withdraws $670,000 it has given to Putnam, a longtime Republican politician who drew ire after he called himself "a proud NRA sellout" and opposed Florida’s new, stricter gun purchasing laws in the wake of the Parkland school shooting.

"Prior to social media, it was much harder to aggregate a bunch of people to take action," said Thomas O’Guinn, a professor of marketing with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Consumers are starting to realize the new source of power they have."

David Jenkins, of Tampa, estimates he spends between $500 and $600 on groceries every month at Publix.

"Well, used to spend," he clarified.

RELATED: Proud mom orders ‘Summa Cum Laude’ cake online. Publix censors it to ‘Summa . Laude.’

He’d long been impressed by the chain’s customer service — which historically has high marks, according to annual reports put out by the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

On Saturday Jenkins did his weekly shopping trip at Winn-Dixie instead, posting the receipt of the trip to Twitter and declaring he wouldn’t shop at Publix until it stopped backing Putnam, the current state Commissioner of Agriculture. Jenkins said voting with his wallet was one of the few things he felt he had control over.

As of Monday afternoon, about two dozen people had posted similar photos with "#TweetTheReceipt" to Twitter.

"I’m sure if you went through every corporate chain you could find something you disagree with, but there’s a certain point where you draw a line," he said. "This situation — where the amount of money is so substantial and the stakes so high — is the line."

Last week Publix responded to Twitter backlash, posting it considers a number of factors when supporting a candidate and has never given money to the National Rifle Association. In a statement to the Tampa Bay Times, it called Putnam the hometown candidate who is "pro-business."

Publix declined to make any additional comments on Monday.

The Florida groups calling for the boycott this long weekend include First Coast Progressive Women, Indivisible Tallahassee and Ponte Vedra United for Progress.

On Monday, there weren’t any obvious signs that droves of shoppers were abandoning the Lakeland-based chain, which ranked No. 1 in customer experience the last two years in the ACSI report. But on the social media, users were sharing a flier in support of this weekend’s boycott.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Publix is supporting Adam Putnam’s run for governor like no politician before

Maurice Schweitzer, a professor of Management from the University of Pennsylvania, said for any boycott to be successful, protestors have to be consistently motivated over time. Similar boycotts in recent history haven’t been overwhelmingly successful, he said, but that doesn’t mean they go unnoticed.

"Corporate leaders are very adverse to negative media attention," Schweitzer said. "Publix does a lot to foster good will in the community and create a positive image. So, this campaign has a greater image threat than an economic threat."

Social media posts since the Tampa Bay Times reported the donation amount a week ago has been a back-and-forth battle in what’s an already divided state.

Publix clarifies:We support Putnam, not the NRA

Several tweets of support for Publix have been going out as well — shoppers who say they plan to vote for Putnam in the Republican primary against Rep. Ron DeSantis and will still shop at the store.

Schweitzer said the uproar will likely blow over.

O’Guinn, however, said that the political climate and fervor from activists following the Parkland massacre along with the organization and steady protesting means there’s at least a chance boycotters could be successful.

CEO pay:What does the typical Publix worker earn compared to the CEO?

"In a classically purple state, you’ve got a good chance of bringing pressure on this grocery chain," O’Guinn said. "If I was Publix, I would want to fall on the right side of history."

Contact Sara DiNatale at [email protected] Follow @sara_dinatale.

Comments
Developer Grady Pridgen buys St. Pete’s shuttered Edward White Hospital

Developer Grady Pridgen buys St. Pete’s shuttered Edward White Hospital

ST. PETERSBURG — Edward White Hospital, closed four years ago because of declining revenues, has been sold to developer Grady Pridgen for $2.7 million.Pridgen could not be reached Monday for comment. City officials said he has submitted plans for rem...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Private Florida firm buys Rent-A-Center in $1 billion deal

Private Florida firm buys Rent-A-Center in $1 billion deal

An Orlando private equity firm has purchased lease-to-own business Rent-A-Center in a deal valued at more than $1 billion.Vintage Capital Management put a bid in for the company on Friday: $15 per share, $1 per share above its previous offer. Rent-A-...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Hernando Business Digest for June 22

Business digestBrieflyHOSPITAL RECEIVES AWARD: Oak Hill Hospital in Spring Hill was the recipient of Healthgrades 2018 Patient Safety Excellence Award, a designation that recognizes superior performance of hospitals that have prevented the occurrence...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Pasco Business Digest for June 22

Pasco Business Digest for June 22

Business digestBrieflyHOSPITALS RECEIVE AWARD: Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point and Medical Center of Trinity were recipients of Healthgrades 2018 Patient Safety Excellence Award, a designation that recognizes superior performance of hospitals t...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Report: 40 percent of Florida property will be ‘highly exposed’ to flooding

Report: 40 percent of Florida property will be ‘highly exposed’ to flooding

One of Florida’s biggest draws is also one if its biggest liabilities — its coastline. A new report projects that Florida is at the greatest risk of any state for tidal flooding caused by rising sea levels. And Tampa Bay faces some of the greatest ri...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Tampa Bay gas prices keep falling

Tampa Bay gas prices keep falling

The summer reprieve in gas prices is continuing.After flirting near the $3 mark, Tampa Bay gas prices fell another six cents a gallon over the past week to an average of $2.65 for unleaded, a wide gap with the national average of $2.91 a gallon, acco...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Your barista is a robot. Should it be friendly?

Your barista is a robot. Should it be friendly?

SAN FRANCISCO - The cold, steely arm of Fernando the Barista swirled the foam of my matcha latte, set it down gently, and waved goodbye from inside a glass case. San Francisco, 2018. Where you can get robot pizza and robot salad, and now, a robot mat...
Published: 06/16/18
Riverview’s commercial real estate prices rise as community booms

Riverview’s commercial real estate prices rise as community booms

RIVERVIEW — The basic economic principle of supply and demand defines Riverview’s current struggle with commercial real estate.With a lack of available affordable commercial properties and a booming population, demand currently exceeds supply in Rive...
Updated: 8 hours ago
St. Petersburg home becomes finalist in HGTV contest

St. Petersburg home becomes finalist in HGTV contest

ST. PETERSBURG — A house in St. Petersburg’s Old Northeast is a finalist in HGTV’s Ultimate House Hunt contest. Built in 2007 in the Mission Revival style, the 4,000-square-foot home a block from Coffee Pot Bayou is among 12 nationwide in the "curb a...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Extending Albert Whitted’s runway could help Innovation District take off

Extending Albert Whitted’s runway could help Innovation District take off

ST. PETERSBURG — Albert Whitted Airport wants to extend its main runway. But what would benefit the airport could also benefit the St. Pete Innovation District.Moving the runway would ease building restrictions around the airport, allowing the Univer...
Published: 06/15/18
Updated: 06/16/18