Many people have asked me a hard question. Some think I should've already answered it. They knew I was dodging it. It seems simple but is deceptively so. It's really a question about knowing and doing the right thing. It's about what I believe is obedience to God (righteous conduct). It's also a question of "What about those 400,000 people that work there?" It's also about what happens to my close friends who are stuck on the Titanic. The question is: "Is it morally right to continue shopping at Kroger right now? Or should we boycott it?"
If I'm honest, I felt like I could've had a heart attack trying to answer that. So much to balance. Every possible answer led to more questions. You all deserve a clear answer, though. After much prayer, I'll share what I think is the right thing to do in these situations. I'll also mention the also-ran that looks good but might not be. Here they are:
Highest-Impact Choice, Definitely Righteous
Boycott Kroger entirely due to them abusing both workers and customers consistently for years. Spend that money at suppliers who stock the shelves with better treatment of workers. In my area, that includes Costco, Superlo, Reeds (Piggly Wiggly), and Aldi. As you boycott Kroger, post the reason you're doing it online everywhere from review services to media outlets. Make it clear you're not shopping there for those reasons. Also, mention that you will return to shopping at Kroger when executives actually listen, halt the evils they're doing, and start doing business ethically.
Your decision is essentially a costly rebuke of the evil things they're doing. A response that makes their balance sheet reflect their decision to abuse people. They lose a sizeable chunk, but not all of, their revenue in a way that hits executives where their heart is: their pockets. Your response also comes with an ultimatum to force them to take action. If they listen, it's a temporary boycott with temporary losses. If they don't listen, they chose to keep the losses permanent.
You're letting them know that the evil things they're doing will cost them. You're also giving them a chance to repent, start running their business the right way, be forgiven for their prior foolishness, and get back in good standing with their customers. They would be rewarded on their balance sheet for the wise decision they made. They'll make more money by doing the right thing.
High-Impact Choice, Morally Ambiguous
Same as above. Only difference is that you shift most of your money away from Kroger with only small purchases there. You're treating them like a convenience store, barely buying anything. Maybe just sales items they make little profit on. The executive-facing impact should be just as high given it's large losses. Same changes are possible. Kroger remains beneficial to its stakeholders.
Main reason people might do this is thinking it will do the most good. Shopping there might help you share the Gospel, minister to people there in need, and keep people employed with good benefits. Some might say it's loving and blessing your enemies. Three counterpoints: boycotters can be good to workers in many ways without even shopping at the stores; the jobs argument is kind of like shopping at Enron or buying from sweatshops to keep their workers employed longer; it's flesh and blood people, not corporate entities, who we're supposed to love and bless. Shopping just to do good deeds might be neither necessary nor good.
Why I believe it's wrong in Kroger's case is about the character of the organization. Kroger is run by abusive, anti-consumer executives who have done more evil every year to both customers and workers. Likewise, they've tried every year to reduce workers' benefits and have reduced the good they could do (esp with staff cuts). Every dollar they earned helped them acquire more stores where they did more of these same evils. With that established, you can know with mathematical certainty what they'll do with the next dollar you spend. Rephrasing it: you'd be giving evil people money to do more evil hoping they'd also use it to keep doing whatever good they're doing which they're also always trying to cut.
The market becomes more righteous and good to both consumers and workers when we instead give money to companies that embody those values. Companies that don't just put values on their web sites but actually practice them. Vote with your wallet! Our choices then grow their businesses, increase volume discounts for their customers, and create jobs in better environments. Our decision also sends a signal to other suppliers in the market that it's a competitive advantage, maybe a necessity, to prioritize treating people respectfully and giving consumers what they came for (eg actually stocking shelves). Markets sometimes respond to these signals with sweeping changes across the board in the companies in them.
There will probably be enough people that continue shopping at Kroger that they can keep their jobs. The only thing that is currently harming and will harm Kroger employees is the decisions of their management. Even with a drop in sales, the management will be the ones deciding how to spend whatever they are still earning. If a boycott was damaging, the managers are the reason. If there's damaging problems, the managers are responsible for fixing them.
It's companies' responsibility to be good to their employees and customers. It's consumers' responsibility to give them extra motivation to do that. In the end, God will hold all accountable for how they used what He gave them. He will render each according to their works, good or evil. Down to every word we said. He will punish the sins of all those who rejected Him, harmed others, and/or lived in wickedness. In His mercy, He's called us to repent for our sins by turning to His Son, Jesus Christ, through His Gospel. From there, to live in holiness and love until we die or He returns to judge the world.
"Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me." (John 14:16)
"Therefore repent and turn back to God so that your sins may be wiped out." (Acts 3:19)
"...that if you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9)
His Gospel is for everyone from lowliest person all the way up to the Kroger CEO. It has proven power. If you put your faith in Jesus, He'll reconcile you to the one who is already so worthy of our worship for who He is, who also knitted us together in the womb, loved us enough to die for us, will end our pain, and will spend eternity showing His loving-kindness to we who don't deserve it. He'll justify you based what He did for you. If you put your faith in Jesus, His Holy Spirit will transform you from the inside out over time to be more like Him. His light will shine through you into everyone around you: families, friends, coworkers, and strangers. He'll use you to achieve His purpose for you while giving you everything you need to do it.
I encourage all reading to repent so that your sins will be washed away, you will become a new creation in Christ Jesus, and you can look forward to the eternal glory He has waiting for us. I encourage all my brothers and sisters in Christ to keep living holy lives. Keep praying, sharing, and showing love from a pure heart with full faith that God is working through it. He promises to make it worth it in the end. He might move at any time in your immediate lives to remind you how much He loves you. Some of you tell me He already is. Just keep abiding in Christ and God will guide your every step.
(Read the Gospel with proof it's true, learn how to live it, or back to main page.)