How to Carry Out An Effective
Consumer Boycott

It's one thing not to buy a product. It's even better to boycott the product in a way that it makes it less likely that others will buy it.

Eric Armstrong

It's one thing not to buy a product. It's helpful, but it takes a long time for a corporation to get the message--it takes until so many people have been educated that the corporation can no longer fail to get the message. But that fact of the matter is that health-conscious consumers are in arms-race with corporations, and consumers are losing. By the time we get enough people educated on any given subject, giant food corporations have found three more ways to soak your wallet.

The fact is there is too much egregiously bad food in America--in particular, foods that contain partially hydrogenated oils and High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). I've shown how deadly the first is, in What's Wrong with Partially Hydrogenated Oils? I haven't written up anything lengthy on the second, yet, but the short version is that corn oil depresses the thyroid, and fructose in high concentrations breaks down into formaldehyde, which does bad things to your brain.

In Americans Should be Mad as Hell, I showed how such foods are bringing the American public to financial and bodily ruin--and how megalithic corporations are profiting, every inch of the way. But what can we do about it? We can engage in a "personal boycott", and stop buying the bad stuff. But that only goes so far. I mean, I can stop buying bad foods. It hels me. But corporate America isn't exactly sitting up at night worrying about that. For an effective boycott, we need the 21st-century equivalent of the Boston Tea party. We need a boycott that keeps harmful products out of other people's hands.

But the process needs to be convenient, as well--something you can do at odd moments, in your spare time. That will allow the boycott to spread. For a while, I toyed with the idea of carrying a little label gun with red stickers displaying a skull and crossbones, with the words "partially hydrogenated oil". But that would be expensive, and inconvenient. It's hardly the sort of thing that's likely to become a mass movement.

But after a while, it hit me. I came up with a way to carry on a small, one-person boycott of unhealthy products in a way that has a larger impact. It's pretty simple, really. When I find a product that has partially hydrogenated oils or High Fructose Corn Syrup, I put it back on the shelf upside down and backwards.

That's a more useful boycott strategy than it might appear, at first. Companies spend on a fortune designing eye-catching packages to sell their products. Making the graphic unrecognizable has to impact sales, at least a little bit. And if they go nuts trying to figure out why their products aren't moving, and they spend another fortune advertising and improveming their packaging, who am I to omplain?

To those who know about the boycott (you!) the package's orientation serves as a warning. To those who don't, the orientation at least makes it more likely that they'll buy something else. And eventually, a few who recognize the problematic ingredients will figure out what's going on. Then they may choose to become part of the boycott, as well.

I don't do turn around every product on the shelves, of course. If I did, I'd spend all day doing it. There's that much bad food in the grocery stores. I just do it for those I pick up because they look interesting.

Generally, I'll only do it for the product I'm holding in my hand. But when I see a product that pretends to be "healthy", I'll turn over all the items at the front of the shelf. It's one thing to eat junk food and know I'm eating junk food. (I'm not perfect.) But it's another thing entirely to poison people by tricking them into thinking they're getting something healthy. That just makes me mad.

Of course, turning packages around probably creates headaches for the store clerks, who will obligated to turn them back. I feel sorry for them. But if things get bad enough, maybe they'll stop carrying those products! That would be even better.

At the moment, of course, they're aren't very many people engaged in this boycott activity. But as more and more people catch on to the concept, I'm betting it could have a huge impact. If nothing else, I leave the store knowing that I've done something. Even if I've only kept one product out of one person's hands, it's something.

Copyright © 2005 by Eric Armstrong. All rights reserved.
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