Dear Target: Better Never Than Late

Target_gay_marriage_protestersSo four years after Target Corporation backed fiercely anti-gay rights candidate Tom Emmer for Minnesota Governor, and three years after it refused to oppose Republicans’ mean-spirited ballot measure to enshrine a gay marriage ban in the Minnesota Constitution, corporate executives have apparently read rapidly changing public opinion surveys and are consequently endorsing a legal brief backing  marriage equality.

“It is our belief that everyone should be treated equally under the law, and that includes rights we believe individuals should have related to marriage,” ­Target’s human resource chief, Jodee Kozlak, said in a posting on the company’s blog.

What next? Perhaps Target Corporation will come out against Jim Crow laws half a century after they were struck down. Maybe they will reveal their newfound love of the Magna Carta.

I know, I know, that’s not very gracious.   Marriage equality supporters are supposed to celebrate Target now. As a marriage equality supporter, I’m tempted to say “better late than never.”

But the more I think about it, I’m going with “never.”

In other words, I wish Target and its corporate brethren would just get out of politics, even when they agree with me. Target, stop judging our bedroom choices. Hobby Lobby, stop judging our birth control choices. All of you, stop funnelling dark money to bankroll any brainless politician who promises to free you from all corporate responsibility.

Just stop it.

Target’s latest public policy pronouncement is not better late than never. It would be better if Target never again put its valuable retail brand in the middle of divisive politics. I don’t need Target to be a policymaker or kingmaker. Leave that to the voters. I need Target to supply me with a steady stream of cheap, stylish crap that I don’t need. They’re better at that than they will ever will be at politics, so they should stick to their “core competency,” as the C-Suiters  say.

That would be infinitely better for their brand, and our country.

– Loveland

Note:  This post was also featured on MinnPost.

Target Minimum Wage Employee Would Need To Work 1.7 million Hours To Earn What Target Board Is Paying Failed CEO In Severance

Target_Steinhafel Hiding behind a group called Minnesotans for a Fair Economy, Target’s top executives have been vehemently opposing  Minnesota’s recently enacted minimum wage increase.  Much too high, Target executives said.

Today the Star Tribune reported that Target CEO Gregg W. Steinhafel, after essentially being fired due to poor company performance under his leadership, is being given a severance package worth a cool $16,000,000.

Even earning Minnesota’s newly minted minimum wage — the minimum wage that Steinhafel said was too extravagant —  it would take one of Target’s minimum wage workers about 1,684,210 hours , or 210,526 full-time shifts, to earn what the failed CEO is being given as a departing gift from his  Board of Directors.

This all too familiar snapshot of corporate America shows how the U.S. has evolved to the point where we  now have  the most unequal distribution of wealth of any advanced economy in the world.

– Loveland

Note:  This post was also featured in Politics in Minnesota’s Best of the Blogs.

MN GOP Gubernatorial Candidates Demand Target and Best Buy Shutdown Their Online Retailing

Target_Missoni_crashMinneapolis, Minn. — Minnesota Republican gubernatorial candidates today demanded that home state retailers Target and Best Buy  pull out of online marketing because of serious technical meltdowns associated with their respective commercial websites.

The Republican candidates’ criticism of the local private retailers was consistent with harsh criticism they have leveled at the government-run website, Minnesota’s new online venue for comparing and purchasing private insurance policies offered in association with the federal Affordable Care Act.  A Minnesota Department of Commerce analysis finds that MnSure offers the lowest prices in the nation and has proven to be a popular destination for Minnesotans, but MnSure website visitors have also been subjected to frustrating delays and bugs.

The three Republican candidates ordinarily stress that  private companies are superior to  government-run initiatives.  But today the candidates pointed out that Minnesota-based Best Buy and Target also experienced MnSure-like launch problems, and therefore also should terminate their online retailing operations.

In September 2011, Target Corporation was publicly humiliated when its website crashed during a crucial launch of  a much anticipated Missoni-designed clothing line, infuriating its  customers.  At the time, a New York Times article noted:

The site was wiped out for most of the day; the company said that demand for items was higher than it was on a typical day after Thanksgiving, and that is usually the biggest shopping day of the year.

A few months later in 2011,  sheepish Best Buy officials had to notify customers that it would not be able to fill their orders in time for Christmas, because the electronics retail giant had underestimated the initial demand for its products. USA Today reported:

The largest U.S. specialty electronics retailer said late Wednesday that overwhelming demand for some products from has led to a problem redeeming online orders made in November and December.

The Minneapolis company declined Thursday to specify how many orders are affected or which products are out of stock.

“I would do anything I could to end them,” said Minnesota Senator Dave Thompson, said of Best Buy and Target.

“I don’t believe it can be fixed,” added Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson about the retail giants’ glitches.

“It just isn’t going to work,” agreed former Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers.

Note:  This post is satirical, and not true.  Though the quotes above are the exact words the candidates used about MnSure in August 2013, the candidates have not, to the best of our knowledge, made the same demands of Best Buy and Target.

This post was featured in Politics in Minnesota’s Best of the Blogs, and republished on MinnPost.

Naming The Vikings Stadium

And what shall we name our new little crown jewel?  No, I’m not talking about His Royal Highness Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge.  I’m talking about the long-gestating  stadium of Minneapolis, formerly known as Mall of America Field, formerly known as the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.

The stakes for this little name game are high.  The owners of the San Francisco 49ers recently negotiated a stadium naming rights deal worth $220 million over 20 years with Levi Strauss, an obscure little brand desperate to buy itself some name recognition.  Vikings owner Zygi Wilf hopes to secure a cool $10 to $15 million per year off of naming rights of the new stadium.

The Wilfs have hired a firm to handle this task in Minnesota, Van Wagner Sports and Entertainment.  The naming guru at Van Wagner, Jeff Wagner, gave us “Target Center” a few years back.

But I am willing to offer my services for free.  After much research, here is my detailed analysis:

U.S. Bank Stadium.  This is the front-runner, because U.S. Bancorp is local, and because financial institutions are big into the stadium naming game these days.

  • Pro:  They’re sitting on lots of money and not lending much, so why not buy yourself a vanity plate?
  • Con:  Brand confusion.  Another crappy football team already has “The Bank” on the east bank, so adding a second “The Bank” branch on the west bank just would make everyone’s heads hurt.

Land O Lakes Stadium.  It would make a lot of sense for our local dairy food processor to want to put its name on the asymmetrical building that looks like a half eaten block of butter.

  • Pro:  Sounds like a melodic description of the Vikings’ beautiful home state, not like just another corporate commercial.
  • Cons:    Our neighboring rivals may have the corner on all dairy-related branding.

Wheaties Stadium.  If General Mills wants in, I hope they lead with their top sports-related brand rather than the parent company brand.

  • Pro:  “Wheaties” connotes “champions,” our aspiration.
  • Con:  “Wheaties” connotes “champions,” which would bring immediate false advertising charges.

3M Stadium.  3M, formerly known as Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, is an iconic Minnesota company that produces world famous products such as PostIt Notes.

  • Pro:  Ultra-compact two-letter name dramatically saves on signage costs.
  • Con:  Sets up endless hilarious post-game punchlines for our beloved Wisconsin friends:  “You know what the three “m’s” in 3M Stadium really stands for, don’t you?”

Matt’s Bar Stadium.  If we must have a stadium named after a business, why not one that Minnesotans actually like, such as the loveable home of the Juicy Lucy in south Minneapolis.

  • Con:  They may not have quite as much money as U.S. Bank to pony up.
  • Pro:   It would be a homage to small businesses, which quietly account for half of Minnesota’s private sector jobs, while remaining “small enough to fail” without need of taxpayer bailouts.

OmniSynCorp Stadium.  OmniSynCorp is a little known start-up company that spent all its seed capital on hiring a corporate naming firm that now badly wants to see its name in lights.

  • Con: Promoting a business that will be in Chapter 11 in a few months may ultimately reflect poorly on the home team’s brand.
  • Pro:   The corporate naming firm promises that the corporations’ bleeding edge brand represents “an iconic homage to the game-changing synergistic synergy imbedded in our value-added values.”

Target Stadium.  I mean, why not?  We already have Target Center, Target Field, the Target Public School system, and Target Politicians.

  • Con:  It’s unfair to poor Walmart.
  • Pro:  It’s the soothing symmetry that only monopolies can offer.

People’s Stadium.  Governor Dayton famously promised us this would be a “people’s stadium,” not just the Vikings’ stadium, which persuaded the people of Minnesota to put up a half-billion dollars to pay for the joint.

  • Con:  It’s vaguely Soviet.
  • Pro:  Justice.

– Loveland

Note:  This post was also featured as a “best of the best” by MinnPost Blog Cabin.

Will Target Put Emmer Back In Its Shopping Cart?

Talk radio pundit and former state legislator Tom Emmer is running to become the new Michele Bachmann.  He fits the part.  Remember, this is the guy who sponsored a “nullification” amendment to the Minnesota Constitution that says Minnesota won’t obey any American laws – civil rights protections, interstate commerce rules, banning of health insurance pre-existing condition limitations, etc. – unless the Minnesota Legislature agrees to do so by a two-thirds majority, a threshold that in recent times has proven to be nearly unattainable.

In other words, Mr. Emmer wants to go to Washington to set federal laws, which he wants Minnesotans to ignore.  It makes perfect sense.

If Mr. Emmer can win the GOP nomination, he will become the new Michele, since Bachmann’s district has been custom gerrymandered for GOP domination.  There won’t be a lot of suspense in that general election contest.

But one interesting question that remains is whether Minnesota-based Target Corporation will again back Emmer, and his anti-choice, anti-fair wage, anti-gay rights, anti-tax, anti-contraceptive, and pro-nullification ways.

To be fair, an  Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel vigorously defended its 2010 backing of Emmer by insisting that he was merely purchasing the anti-tax and anti-fair wage portion of Emmer, not the anti-choice, anti-gay rights, anti-contraceptive, pro-nullification portion of him.

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Is Target Still Playing Kingmaker?

About 16-months ago at Minnesota-based Target Corporation’s annual meeting in Pittsburgh, an embattled Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel stressed that Target would heretofore remain neutral on the issue of gay rights, but would continue to make political donations.   A June 9, 2011 Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal headline characterized the balancing act Steinhafel was attempting:

CEO: Target will be neutral on marriage vote, will still give politically

Steinhafel’s neutrality pledge came on the heels of a customer backlash prompted by the corporation making a large political donation to anti-gay rights Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.  Remember all the news stories, boycotts, social media rants, and flash dance protests?

At the time Steinhafel made this announcement in Pittsburgh, I wondered how Target could  possibly manage to support political candidates while keeping its neutrality pledge, since virtually all candidates take positions on gay rights issues.   After all, the world community would no longer consider Switzerland neutral if it was funding a combatant.

So, what is Target doing now?  In the 2012 election, what candidates are being funded by Target, or has Target decided to stay out of politics altogether?

My drive-by Googling can’t find the answer to this question.  After all that coverage and controversy in 2010 and 2011, could it be no business or political reporter has followed up with Target?