Thursday, November 18, 2004


In a testament to the sometimes impenetrable insulation that exists in corporate suits, Target has chosen to ban Salvation Army bellringers from their premises:

This holiday season's retail conundrum: to silence the bells, or let them ring.

As the Salvation Army kicks off its annual red-kettle program today, a growing number of retailers, from Best Buy to Target, are banning Salvation Army bell ringers from their doors -- to avoid having to choose between competing charities and out of concern for customers, they say.

That's created a schism in the retail world, with rival chains banking on kettle-carrying volunteers to set them apart as more civic-minded.

''The Salvation Army has a remarkable history of providing year-round service to families, and Big Lots is proud to continue our tradition of helping with their fundraising goals," said the Columbus, Ohio, discounter in a statement issued last month after Target Corp. said it was banning the bellringers.

Upon hearing of the Salvation Army's woes -- Target kettles brought in about $9 million last year -BJ's Wholesale Club decided to put the nonprofit group's signature red donation kettles in its stores during the holiday season. Auto parts chain Auto Zone and Books-A-Million the nation's number three book retailer, also opened their doors to the Salvation Army.

What in the world are they thinking? I've always considered the bellringers to be an integral part of the Christmas Season. In fact, think of the classic Christmas movies; practically all of them included a scene outside a department store that included a Salvation Army bellringer.

The "charity" industry in this country is all too often populated by rogues and charlatans, but the Salvation Army has always been a beacon of integrity and, as a result, it's respect is universal. Its history is one of helping the least fortunate among us and it deserves better than the 'bum's rush" from the clueless suits that inhabit the corporate suites of Target.

I have a feeling that the backlash will be swift and furuous and this thick-headed decision will quickly be reversed.

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