Informed Consumer by John C. Street
When was the last time you bought an article of clothing – specifically clothing to be worn while hunting or fishing – that didn’t have the name of the maker prominently stitched or stenciled on it? How in the world have we allowed ourselves to be duped into paying for a piece of clothing and then being a walking billboard for the purveyor?
And clothing isn’t the only thing we pay for and then advertise for the maker. Take a gander at you’re hunting and fishing gear and see for yourself just how pervasive this trend has become. I’d be willing to wager a tidy sum that nearly all your outdoor paraphernalia, from knives and guns and bows and arrows to tackle boxes, fishing poles and boats are plastered with the name of the company that made them.
While it bunches my shorts no end that the makers and purveyors of outdoor gear and clothing permanently – and prominently - affix their name to everything they make, there’s nothing dishonest in what they’re doing. In fact, whoever the marketing person was who came up with the idea should be given a gold star. Getting consumers to not only pay for their products but advertise for them as well was a stroke of shear genius.
Aside from the economics (not being reimbursed for being a walking advertisement for their product), I have another contention with a few of the purveyors of outdoor gear, specifically those who have lent their product name to a political cause. Buying their product, therefore, is seen as an endorsement of their political views.
These folks, however, are generally pretty up-front about their politics and advise consumers in advance so the purchaser knows the scoop and either buys or not depending on their feelings about the political cause the maker/purveyor is advocating. In other words, if you don’t like their politics, at least you aren’t being duped into buying the product. Conversely, if you do like the politics the maker espouses, you may want to purchase their product to make a statement of support.
In both these examples, the consumer casts a ballot of either approval or disapproval every time they spend – or don’t spend – their money for that product. The makers and purveyors of the clothing and gear are not being disingenuous about their intentions.
The same can not be said for some of our hunting, fishing and wildlife oriented clubs and organizations.
Back some years ago, I found myself at philosophical odds with several of these national hunting and fishing organizations. I had been a member for many years but decided it was time to part ways when they began aligning themselves with political causes with which I did not agree. And, for exactly the same reason, I had already dropped out of a couple wildlife oriented groups that had also carried my name on their membership roster – and their cause de jeur - for years.
It is not important to this dissertation to share the reason for being at philosophical odds with these folks but it is important to understand, I have no problem with anyone having opinions that run contrary to my own.
I do have a problem, though, when those contrary opinions are shoved down my throat and I have an even bigger problem when the leadership of the organizations to which I belong imply – because I happen to be a dues paying member of that organization - that I support, endorse or concur with whatever political cause they’re pushing. And my dander really gets up when they do this without asking me first.
A current example of this misrepresentation will explain why I have become extremely selective with my membership dollars.
Recently, the national, parent organization to many of the sportsmen’s clubs operating in Pennsylvania put out a series of press releases that made unsupportable assertions about the “opinions” of hunters and anglers. The rank and file members of this organization (as I discovered by talking with several of them) had not been consulted on this issue, did not agree with the assertions of their parent organization and were appalled that their personal and club names were being aligned with the assertions.
They were even more appalled when they learned that the “assertion” of their parent organization was based on a poll of only 300 or so people. And while this is an untenable situation in and of itself, it also raises a bigger issue.
Most of our national hunting and fishing and wildlife oriented organizations (and the one alluded to above fits this category) are designated by the Internal Revenue Service as “Not-for-Profits.” While there are many advantages to this tax-exempt status, there are restrictions they must abide by as well, not the least of which is a prohibition against the organization engaging in political “lobbying.”
While any first year law student would likely be able to beat the “lobbying” rap for this national organization, the best law firm in the country could not overcome the perception. Arguably, however, given the political weight of the “assertions” they are making to the national press in the name of both their membership and the larger community of hunters and anglers, perception is more accurate than legal reality.
Sometimes there’s just no practical way to get all the advertising off my hunting and fishing gear so, even though I remove as much as possible, if you look real close, you can still find the name of the company that made my deer rifle, the purveyor of my fly rod and the people who imported my side-by-side shotgun. At least I have a choice, though, and I know when I make the purchase that not only am I paying for the product but that I will be a walking advertisement as well.
Since becoming an informed consumer, I have a similar choice to make with the hunting, fishing and wildlife oriented organizations to which I belong. And more and more I’m choosing not to join because I don’t believe in the political causes they’re promoting.