05 Jan 2005 Staples Boycotts Sinclair; Should CBS Be Next?
Dear Mr. Davis,
I read in today’s Washington Post that Staples, Inc. pulled its advertising from Sinclair Broadcast news programming after it received complaints about perceived “right-wing” bias in Sinclair’s programs. You are quoted in the article.
Please be advised that we have cancelled our Staples account and will not reinstate it unless we hear from you:
1. That the report is untrue, or
2. That Staples, Inc. is canceling advertising on all programs perceived as biased — regardless of whether they are biased to the left or to the right. If this is the case, we’ll certainly have some nominations to forward.
You should further be advised that this email is being posted on our organization’s blog. We would be happy to post your reply there as well.
If “concerns expressed by [your] customers” are truly taken into account in Staples advertising decisions, as you suggested in the Post article, we’d be happy to send concerns in your direction.
The National Center for Public Policy Research
In addition, I contacted Staples by telephone about 4:30 PM Eastern. I was told no one was available to speak with me in public relations, but a friendly person took my name and number and promised someone would call me back tomorrow. I also left a voice mail on Mr. Davis’ direct line. I asked him to call back as we have a number of questions, including: 1) Are the newspaper stories accurate? And, if so, 2) if Staples received a large number of e-mails from customers concerned about Staples advertising on CBS, would Staples stop advertising on CBS? I have more questions, but those are the two I left on his message.
I will post an addendum to this blog post when and if we receive responses from Staples regarding the advertising boycott.
For those who might think Staples should boycott CBS, or any other media for that matter, here are the three Staples e-mail addresses we presently have: Customer Service, Investor Relations, and spokesman Owen Davis. According to the Washington Post, Staples pays a great deal of attention to the emails it receives from customers.
The National Center for Public Policy Research is ending purchases from Staples until/unless we learn that Staples is not biased against conservatives. (In all fairness, it may be that they are not biased, which is why we did our best to reach them by telephone before we posted this on our blog, and why we will post any response we receive from them here.) Should others be joining us in taking their office supply purchases elsewhere, we can recommend Reliable Office Supplies. To be frank, we know nothing about Reliable’s politics, if any, but The National Center has used them for over 20 years and been very satisfied. Reliable may be less well known, but it has national coverage, gets our stuff delivered to us very fast, their prices are good, and as far as I know, they have roughly the same inventory that Staples carries. So, if you are used to getting your office supplies delivered from Staples, and aren’t quite sure right now if you want to continue to do so, be aware that you do have options. I know folks who run businesses can’t simply drop suppliers without thinking through the consequences — they need replacement suppliers, for one thing.
If interested, watch this post for updates. And feel free to e-mail me about this, especially if you have information (be sure to tell me if I can’t post the information, or if you want to be anonymous).
Addendum 1/5/05 5:45 PM: Well, it has been 25 hours plus, and neither our call to Staples public relations generally nor our call to Owen Davis specifically has been returned. I said I’d give Staples 24 hours before concluding that their unresponsiveness meant anything, but they have used that time up now. Failing a response, I now conclude that Staples either 1) believes communication would make them look worse than they already look, or 2) talks to the mainstream media but not to this blog (I identified myself as the CEO of a conservative Washington think-tank, a blogger and a columnist with Staples), or 3) is too confused about life to know what to do.
Staples did post a statement on its website. I’ll reprint it in full, all the better to fisk it (Staples, if you mind the copyright infringement, give me a call):
Statement about Staples media buying and Sinclair Broadcasting
In response to recent reports about Staples media buying and Sinclair Broadcasting, Staples has the following statement:
Our media buying process with Sinclair Broadcasting stations has recently been misrepresented by an organization with no affiliation to Staples. Staples regularly drops and adds specific programs from our media buying schedule, as we evaluate and adjust how to best reach our customers.
Staples does not support any political party. We advertise with a variety of media outlets, but do not necessarily share the same views of these organizations or what they report. As we have done for a number of years, Staples will continue to advertise on Sinclair Broadcasting stations.
Contact: Paul Capelli, 508-253-8530
Staples appears to be wanting to have it both ways here. They won’t tell us which group “misrepresented” their action (one could speculate that it is MediaMatters.org, but we can’t base conclusions on speculation — for all we know, it is us), and they don’t say what was “misrepresented.” Staples doesn’t deny media reports that it is withdrawing advertising from Sinclair News (seems to want to fudge the subject in its last sentence), and it does not claim its spokesman was misquoted in mainstream media reports that wishes of customers (presumably, e-mails from left-wing activists) played some role in its advertising decisions.
Our office was contacted today by both bloggers and talk radio; I have to think that quite a few conservatives are following the issue casually and that it will affect their impression of Staples. If I ran Staples, I’d stop the vague statements, start communicating, and be very clear about their policy. If they truly are nonpolitical yet made a mistake here, OK. Just say so. If they are political, that’s their right. Companies are allowed to be.
Let me conclude this update with some links to what others have written about this today:
The Redhunter has a lot to say, including:
What really irks me about all this is how cravenly Staples seems to have capitulated to this pressure campaign. Granted their first responsibility is to their stockholders. No doubt, therefore, the executives at Staples were looking to avoid financial loss. But they have miscalculated. This is a game that two can play, and conservatives can shop at office supply retailers other than Staples.
Dissecting Leftism suggest we help Staples “nip such nonsense in the bud” with a boycott and, perhaps, pickets.
CNSNews.com has a news story by Susan Jones.
Right Voices has a discussion going, with one commenter noting the irony that Sinclair operates some CBS stations.
Considerettes thinks Staples should be asked to stop advertising on NBC “for airing gossip about the Bushes from Kitty Kelley for 3 days straight on the ‘Today’ show.”
WEBCommentary.com is amazed: “It is inconceivable that Staples would willingly throw away loyal customers to satisfy a bunch of sore losers on the Left. Yet that is, apparently, exactly what Staples has done!”
Cranky Neocon has some advice, plus this: “In related news, I have spent the last three years boycotting snotty, barely-sentient Staples clerks. The service was so consistently bad across two stores that I concluded that blank stares and shoulder-shrugs must be in the training manual.” (If you visit, be sure to read the first comment under this post for a laugh.)
Evangelical Outpost recaps the events that made the left angry with Sinclair.
If any other bloggers have weighed in, as I susopect is the case, feel free to e-mail me and, time permitting, I’ll add a link to your post here.
Addendum 2 6:41 PM: Paul Capelli of Staples just returned my call. I am posting this quick to get out the basic message, and will elaborate ASAP with an additional update with details.
Basically, it was a good call. Staples believes the facts have been misrepresented by MediaMatters.org. Staples is NOT, according to Paul Capelli, boycotting or declining to purchase future advertising from Sinclair Broadcasting or from Sinclair News.
I wanted to get this online, but will post soon with more details…
Addendum 3 11:21 PM: See above for more on the Paul Capelli conversation, including the nuts and bolts of what he told me and some additional context.
Addendum 4 1:36 PM January 7: Media Matters strikes back here.