Friday, January 8, 2010

My Values Are Important …. Most of the Time


In August of 2009, I mused in my blog “Consistent Messages – The True Source of Inconsistency” about whether or not the messages we broadcast to the world are in resonance with our values and actions.

One of the things I discussed was in regards to a national supermarket chain and their inconsistent message around plastic bags, announcing that they did not want their customers to use them.  The reason was because the environment was important to them and this was one way they were demonstrating their commitment.  To accomplish this, they would begin charging 5 cents per bag moving forward. 

The reason they selected 5 cents was that in fact they only wanted to lightly discourage people from buying them without offending anyone.  They didn’t in fact want you to stop as the signs in the supermarket suggested and I thought the inconsistency between message and intention was amusing.

I was listening to a spokesperson on the radio this morning from the same supermarket chain describing why the chain offered the bags free of charge to customers during the holiday season and had extended the free bag offer for the time being.

Here was the explanation that was provided (paraphrasing).  Tell me if you see a pattern:

1. Holiday time is a busy time and customers have enough to worry about without having to worry about bringing their reusable bags in.

2. Customers are going to the other supermarket that offers the bags free of charge all the time.

3. We are still committed to removing “x” number of bags from the environment.

4. Customers are going to the other supermarket that offers the bags free of charge all the time.

5. Some customers have complained that people using the reusable bags are causing delays at the checkouts.

6. Customers are going to the other supermarket that offers the bags free of charge all the time.

7. Customers need more time to get used to the concept of reusable bags and so we have relaxed the requirement to buy plastic bags.

8. Customers are going to the other supermarket that offers the bags free of charge all the time.

The spokesperson then summed it all up with a choice of words that I found interesting.  This is a direct quote:

“In the end, it comes down to the business.”

As a business person myself, I agree that bottom-line financials are important.

However, when one promotes through advertising, in-store signs, etc., that they are committed to the environment, perhaps they should change the message to read:

We will do our best to be committed to the environment by keeping plastic bags out of landfill but if you don’t like that, that’s ok with us also.  We don’t want to offend you and lose your business.

Or, to put it another way:

Our values are negotiable.

I’m not an uber-environmentalist by any stretch although I try to do my part.

However, this causes me to wonder:

1. Are our values something of convenience?

2. Are our values a useful promotion tool?

3. Are our values based on intentions and not actions?

4. Are our values something we aspire to have at some point?


5. Are our values consistent with who we are, what we do, and how we do it and are we willing to stand by them at all cost?

The answer to those questions has profound impact on our lives personally, professionally, economically, politically, ecologically and socially.

Are your values negotiable?

If you say they are not, how do you know?

In service and servanthood.


To read my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “My Values are Important …. Most of the Time”, please click here.


Addendum: In March of 2010, the same supermarket chain announced that they would offer customers plastic bags free of charge for the foreseeable future.  The reason given?  The competitor was doing it.   Their values are for sale.

1 comment:

  1. This is such a timely subject because we are living in an expedient environment where we all tend to be swayed by popular opinion.

    When I started Just About Perfect, I elected to not use recurring billing for monthly membership fees. Recurring billing is popular among marketers because people tend to continue subscriptions by habit rather than choice.

    I was persuaded by my advisory board to use recurring billing because it was more convenient. After experimenting with it for two months, I decided to revert back to my original plan. I want people to make a conscious decision to retain their membership rather than to continue it just because it is convenient.

    I do lose a few members but those who remain are the ones that are committed and those are the members I want to work with.