What does it take to drop a major American corporation to its knees?
A stupid online petition with a measly 4,275 signatures, that’s what.
Trader Joe’s annual revenue is $13 billion for its 500 U.S. stores. The chain is known for doing some things differently, often employing humor. (Fun fact: Every store has a plastic lobster hidden somewhere.)
Trader Joe’s has a loyal customer base, including (of course) a few flakes. And some precious cupcakes, such as Briones Bedell, who wrote on the confused petition, filled with gobbledygook, “The grocery chain labels some of its ethnic foods with modifications of ‘Joe’ that belies a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes.
“The Trader Joe’s branding is racist because it exoticizes other cultures — it presents ‘Joe’ as the default ‘normal’ and the other characters falling outside of it.”
May I say, no, it is not racist, no, it does not exoticize other cultures, and, no, it doesn’t present Joe as the “normal.”
Bedell’s petition also criticized the use of “Arabian Joe” to brand Middle Eastern foods, “Trader Giotto’s” for Italian goods, and “Trader Joe San” for Japanese cuisine.
Trader Joe’s said those names were intended to be playful, but shamefully acknowledged that they may have had the “opposite effect.” Shamefully because the $13 billion corporation can be so easily bullied.
“While this approach to product naming may have been rooted in a lighthearted attempt at inclusiveness, we recognize that it may now have the opposite effect — one that is contrary to the welcoming, rewarding customer experience we strive to create every day,” company spokeswoman Kenya Friend-Daniel said.
Based on what — fewer than 5,000 signatures?
I ask myself, would I be offended if Trader Joe’s called itself Trader Yosef in order to sell matzoh ball soup? I would not. I would chuckle. But I am not easily triggered.
What’s worse — racism, or humorlessness?
OK, racism is worse, but it has to be the real thing, not something invented in the imagination of a 17-year-old high school student, which is Bedell, who probably now is in line for a Nobel Prize. Trader Joe’s lightheartedness has been blown up by a teenager not old enough to buy a beer.
The American funny bone has been under attack for some time.
Standups as disparate as Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld refuse to play college campuses because they are stifled by Political Correctness, now with an overlay of fear of offending anyone, which is anathema on most campuses.
Now Trader Joe’s is bending a knee.
Sad. Where have the grownups gone?