Sunday, October 21, 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
After Hurricane Michael, a hunt for surviving oysters in Apalachicola

After Hurricane Michael, a hunt for surviving oysters in Apalachicola

  The old oyster cleaning room at the 13 Mile Oyster House now shows a destroyed dock where the Ward family docked their boats and TJ maintains his smallest oysters that he farms. TJ Ward assesses his farmed oysters after Hurricane Mich...
Published: 10/19/18
Updated: 10/21/18
Hurricane Michael’s effect on timber industry ‘catastrophic,

Hurricane Michael’s effect on timber industry ‘catastrophic," Adam Putnam says.

Hurricane Michael’s enduring legacy could include long-term damage to Florida’s timber industry. While experts try to get a handle on the carnage, state Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam said Friday that preliminary estimates peg it ...
Published: 10/19/18
Updated: 10/20/18
Florida’s unemployment rate falls to 3.5 percent while Tampa Bay’s rate plunges to 2.9 percent

Florida’s unemployment rate falls to 3.5 percent while Tampa Bay’s rate plunges to 2.9 percent

Florida’s economy is continuing to hum along, according to September employment numbers released Friday. The state’s unemployment rate dropped to a mark last seen in February 2007 — 3.5 percent, down from 3.7 percent in August.And compared to a year ...
Published: 10/19/18
Jeff Vinik invests in another tech startup focused on health and wellness

Jeff Vinik invests in another tech startup focused on health and wellness

TAMPA — Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik has made a series of investments in companies focused on health, wellness and technology in industries ranging from construction to medicine, and from fitness to radiation protection.He’s at it again. This...
Published: 10/19/18
Is the annual pass worth it? As Disney changes pricing system, we help you decide

Is the annual pass worth it? As Disney changes pricing system, we help you decide

Though costly, annual passes at Disney World, Universal, Busch Gardens and other parks can sometimes be a smarter choice. You just have to know what you’re getting.
Published: 10/19/18
Tampa’s Oxford Exchange one of nation’s 50 most beautiful independent stores

Tampa’s Oxford Exchange one of nation’s 50 most beautiful independent stores

TAMPA — Architectural Digest has named Tampa’s Oxford Exchange as Florida’s most beautiful independent store — and one of the 50 most beautiful in the nation. Opened in 2012 in a onetime stable, the exchange a at 420 W. Kennedy Blvd. includes a resta...
Published: 10/19/18
A new Earth Fare is coming to Lutz this winter

A new Earth Fare is coming to Lutz this winter

Times Staff Writer LUTZ — Earth Fare will open its third location in Tampa Bay this winter, continuing to expand the area’s growing organic grocery market.Earth Fare entered Tampa Bay in 2016 with a location in Seminole and then opened a second in Ol...
Published: 10/19/18
Is Tampa Bay finally seeing signs of a buyer’s market? Soaring September sales hint at it

Is Tampa Bay finally seeing signs of a buyer’s market? Soaring September sales hint at it

Bucking a national trend, sales of single-family homes soared by double digits in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Hernando counties in September.That dramatic increase, coupled with minor price increases, suggests that a real estate market that has favore...
Published: 10/19/18
Aldi unrolls grocery delivery through Instacart across Florida

Aldi unrolls grocery delivery through Instacart across Florida

Savvy Tampa Bay shoppers may have already noticed Aldi pop up in their Instacart app earlier this month, but the discount store officially announced its delivery expansion across Florida this week.Instacart is a delivery service that allows shoppers ...
Published: 10/19/18
Tuna-gate: StarKist admits fixing prices, faces $100 million fine

Tuna-gate: StarKist admits fixing prices, faces $100 million fine

StarKist Co. agreed to plead guilty to a felony price fixing charge as part of a broad collusion investigation of the canned tuna industry, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday.
Published: 10/19/18