Walk into L.L. Bean’s flagship store in Freeport, head for the hunting section and you’ll find a display rack loaded with bright-colored “Shoot-N-C” targets. A pack of six costs $7.50.
I strongly suggest that Grab Your Wallet take a timeout from its new boycott of L.L. Bean and buy a pack.
Maybe then organizers of the anti-Donald Trump website, who aim to bring down the president-elect by telling us where to (and where not to) shop, will learn the art of taking careful aim before they fire.
“If L.L. Bean thinks a part-owner and board member can (personally support Trump) and have it not affect their bottom line, that’s very naïve,” huffed Grab Your Wallet co-founder Shannon Coulter to Press Herald Staff Writer Gillian Graham this week. Coulter lives in San Francisco and works as, wait for it, a “brand strategist.”
The real target of Coulter’s ire? Not L.L. Bean per se but rather Linda Bean, granddaughter of the legendary Leon Leonwood Bean and one of the company’s 10 directors.
Linda Bean, who sells boiled lobsters for a living, found herself in a bit of hot water last week when the Federal Election Commission alleged that she’d contributed $60,000 to a political action committee – $55,000 more than the legal limit.
It appears to be one of those dog-ate-my homework things: The PAC’s chairman, David Jones, said he thought he was running a super PAC, to which Bean could have contributed all she wanted.
Jones has since filed amended reports with the FEC in an effort to straighten things out. But the damage already was done.
Once the words “Trump” and “L.L. Bean” hit the internet, a company that is as assiduously apolitical as it is roundly respected here in its home state suddenly found itself in the cross hairs of Grab Your Wallet.
Formed in October to make Trump pay for his caught-on-tape remarks about assaulting women whenever he pleases, the website now lists 82 companies, many household names, to be shunned until further notice.
Initially (and logically), the group went after companies that directly sell Trump products. Shoes.com, for example, recently stopped selling Ivanka Trump’s line of shoes, which in turn prompted Grab Your Wallet to pull the online shoe retailer off its boycott list.
But then there’s another tier of targets: companies that are, in Grab Your Wallet’s eyes, guilty by association. Thanks to good old Aunt Linda, L.L. Bean now resides on that list.
A couple of things worth noting here.
First, Linda Bean is no wallflower. Four years ago, in the throes of the Republican primary race to boot Barack Obama out of the White House, the longtime backer of conservative causes penned a letter calling the president “HITLERIAN” and predicting that if he won another term, “4 years from now, we may not even have a ballot.”
In other words, as most Mainers have known for decades, the loudest of the Bean clan knows how to get people riled up. In fact, she seems to thrive on it.
Now, when she’s not forecasting the end of the world as we know it, Linda Bean owns and operates Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine, a conglomeration of high-end lobster shacks, vacation rentals and other enterprises.
So why didn’t Grab Your Wallet banish Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine to its no-buy zone?
Because, however more appropriate a target that might have been, it was too small for Grab Your Wallet to hit from all the way out there on the West Coast, that’s why.
L.L. Bean, on the other hand, is huge. It’s nationally known. Slap a target on that brand and, voila, you spawn more headlines and online clicks than black flies in the Allagash on Memorial Day.
But here’s the unfortunate part.
L.L. Bean is a great company.
L.L. Bean treats its workers remarkably well.
L.L. Bean is an exemplary corporate citizen – in the last decade alone, it’s donated upward of $25 million to everything from conservation and education to social services and the arts.
And last but far from least, L.L. Bean treats its customers like royalty.
A case in point: A winter jacket I bought there last month developed a tear in a seam. Before taking it all the way back to Freeport, I called to explore my options and see if they still had the same color and size in stock.
“Oh, you don’t have to come up,” the cheery woman on the phone assured me. “I can take care of that for you right now.”
Three short days later, the new jacket was on my doorstep, complete with a free return-shipping label for the old one. Printed across the top of the invoice: “Sorry for the delay – thank you for waiting.”
Lest I make this newspaper Grab Your Wallet’s next target, let me be crystal clear: Donald Trump’s looming presidency is, on so many levels, a disaster waiting to happen.
But confronting that, indeed combating it when necessary, will require disciplined organization, deep fortitude and, above all, relentless focus.
Scattershot boycotts aimed at fuzzy targets? That’s only a waste of ammunition.
(Urban Outfitters’ parent corporation got booted off the “Shop These Trump-Free Alternatives” list after Grab Your Wallet discovered the CEO had donated not to Trump, but to House Speaker Paul Ryan and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum. Who’s next on the hit list, companies whose stockholders binge-watched “The Apprentice?”)
Sunday evening, understandably worried about the impact Grab Your Wallet might have on his great-grandfather’s “do unto others” legacy, L.L. Bean Executive Board Chairman Shawn Gorman took to Facebook to state what we Mainers knew in the first place.
“L.L. Bean does not endorse political candidates, take positions on political matters, or make political contributions,” Gorman wrote. “Simply put, we stay out of politics. To be included in this boycott campaign is simply misguided.”
Bill Nemitz can be contacted at: