Dear Lowe’s: A Little PR Advice

Open Letter to Robert A. Niblock, Chairman of Lowe’s, a chain of home improvement stores in the US.

Dear Mr Niblock,

First let me say I’ve never visited one of your stores; to be honest, as a British citizen and resident, I’d never heard of your company till this week. Being even more brutally honest, even if I lived in the US close to one of your stores, I’d probably not visit as home improvement isn’t one of my skill-sets. I’ve put up the odd shelf successfully. And then the odd one has fallen down. Overall, as the young of today might say: home improvement Fail.

You came to my attention because of the TV show All American Muslims. Of course, I haven’t seen it, but from what I’ve seen it’s been favourably reviewed in the media, both American and international. The show, apparently, is a fly-on-the-wall documentary, looking at the daily lives of some American Lebanese families. It sounds fun, and fairly harmless. And undoubtedly a show like this is useful right now, what with small gangs of crazies like the Florida Family Association trying to stir up hate against ordinary Muslims, and everything.

It was inevitable that people like Pamela Geller, a hate-monger with strong links to European fascist groups (not to mention an inspiration to the Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik), would jump on this bandwagon – after all, spreading hate and fear is how people like Pam make their living. And so of course, some crazies were going to call for a boycott of the show. And in this Internet age, it’s so easy to put a form online allowing any old moron to click a button and instantly send a protest email.

So, complaints were duly sent. Morons don’t want to see actual, real-life Muslims. They want to see TV programmes representing Muslims as terrorists with red, angry eyes slitting babies’ throats. Which would be a bit like presenting Tim McVeigh as your average all-round American. But that’s morons for you – can’t live live them, can’t live without them (at least I can’t – this blog would be really boring without their help).

I’m a British Jew, and these moronic calls for boycotts of anything Muslim remind me of the things my grandparents and their friends and relatives went through in the 1930s. We had relatives scattered across mainland Europe, and boycotts of anything Jewish became commonplace. And then it got worse (not sure if news of this reached America, but we European Jews had a small local difficulty they call the Holocaust). My Dad had a go at drawing up a family tree a few years ago (as boring old retired people tend to do) and identified over 100 of our relatives who had died in the Holocaust. So forgive me if I seem a little over-sensitive, but boycott of anything on racial grounds brings up negative thoughts.

But this is 2011 – really, would any business in this day and age carry out a Nazi-style racial boycott? So imagine my surprise when I saw your company, and your name, mentioned in the media as having withdrawn advertising from the All American Muslims TV show. Of course, business is business, and if you think a lot of your customers are Nazi-inspired, bigoted cretins who won’t come to you next time they want a garden furniture set (or whatever it is you sell), then you gotta do what you gotta do.

But here’s the thing: I’ve run a few small businesses, and I don’t get your PR strategy here. You’ve gone and got yourself loads of global, negative publicity. The name Lowe’s has overnight become synonymous with fascism. Now OK, perhaps you have your eye on the Nazi dollar. But is that dollar going to balance out all the bleeding-heart fascist-despising liberal dollars you’ve just lost yourselves? Personally, I doubt it. From what I know, rednecks don’t even buy garden furniture. They recycle broken old sofas in their yards (I’ve seen the Dukes of Hazzard), which is certainly environment-conscious, but not great business for the likes of Lowe’s.

Now here’s what I would have done: in the face of a boycott campaign by Nazi morons like Pamela Geller (who after all, only commands the adoration of a few thousand internationally-scattered illiterate fuckwits), I’d issue a press release, along the lines of: As an American business Lowe’s upholds American values of freedom and equality, and completely rejects calls for blah blah blah…. Then, sure you’ve lost some of your Nazi customers. But you get yourself free, nationwide (even international) publicity. You sell more crap to liberals. And you corner the Muslim market! (Quick, build yourself a store in Dearborn!)

Looks like you’ve missed that boat – hopefully someone smarter than you will grab it.

Best regards,

PS: if any Lowe’s shareholders are reading, I’d recommend you fire your moron Chairman.