Bonzai! Jimmy Fund Sneak Attack Sinks Vet

Essexkamikaze_1During World War II, a torpedo struck George Casey's boat.  Sixty-years later it happened again.  But this time he was sunk outside a supermarket in Beverly, MA.  The triggerman?  A 50 year-old cancer icon named Jimmy.

George showed up at the Stop & Shop Supmarket last Monday--as he's done for the last ten years--to sit out front and raise money for veterans around the Memorial Day holiday.  But it was Pearl Harbor all over again when the store manager suddenly ordered him off the property.  Stop & Shop corporate confirmed that the manager had every right to ask the vet to leave, and they thought with good reason. 

Stop & Shop is shooting to raise $14 million this year for Boston-based Jimmy Fund through its annual in-store "Triple Winner" campaign.  And all those dollars, quarters and nickels George was collecting must have been hurting the bottom-line.  So they sent him to the bottom. 

Not that headquarters was all that happy with how the manager pulled the trigger.  Stop & Shop originally said that managers were "doing what they have to do" to keep the focus on the Jimmy Fund drive.  But the supermarket chain was marching to a different beat a day later.  "It is a misunderstanding that we have since apologized for....He's welcome to go back."

"Damn the torpedos!" best summarizes George's response.  In the wake of the incident, he's been interviewed by several media outlets and has become a local war hero.  He's enjoying his fifteen minutes, and raising some good money for vets at his new place of business.

'I'd disappoint all these people [if I went back to Stop & Shop],' he said, waving his hand in the direction of customers in the Shaw's parking lot.  'They want to shake my hand.  Even the women are giving me hugs.  My wife is going to kill me.'

Public relations disaster for Stop & Shop Supermarkets?  Sure.  Should they've dealt differently with George?  You bet.  Are they right to limit fundraising outside their stores when a fundraiser is happening inside?  Absolutely.

If I was a retailer and had a cause marketing partnership in place, I wouldn't let anyone else solicit my customers.  It's not fair that they're hit-up at the register and again as they walk out the door.  Shoppers will think you're draining them dry.  So instead of cause marketing boosting your favorability with customers, you become a poster-child for bad fundraising.  Pretty soon no one wants the partnership.  The retailer isn't growing sales, the nonprofit isn't raising money and the customer is shopping somewhere else.  So don't dilute the power of your cause marketing pact by working with other charities. 

It's like when I go out to dinner.  If I'm thinking more about the crappy service than the meal and conversation, I know I'm not having a good experience.  Likewise, if your customers are thinking more about how to say no to your latest fundraising drive and not about how great it is to give (and how you made them feel that way) they're not having a good experience either.  History is here to help.  Take a page from Japan's battle plan and bombs away.

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