Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Before Donald Trump even won the presidency, the #GrabYourWallet movement was in full effect. The organizer Shannon Coulter threw every retailer that carried Donald or Ivanka Trump products into a spreadsheet and distributed it across social media to help those opposed to the then-presidential candidate avoid businesses that didn’t align with their values. The intent of the boycott is to encourage stores to drop any lines affiliated with the new first family. And on the surface, the boycotts seem to be working: Brands like Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Belk, HSN, ShopStyle, and T.J. Maxx have dropped or backed away from selling products emitting from the Trump orbit. Although all these brands have declined that their motivations are political, these shakeups feel like wins for Coulter’s movement nevertheless.
Meanwhile, there’s a bizarro #GrabYourWallet bubbling on the other side of the aisle. Trump supporters are starting to boycott companies like Nordstrom, T.J. Maxx, Starbucks, and movies with actors who are opposed to the President and his policies. They don’t have a catchy hashtag, but they do have the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth and one of his top advisors, Kellyanne Conway, motivating shopping decisions.
They also share a sense that now is not the time that companies should be getting mixed up in political views. “Because the election was so divisive, I feel like having corporate entities making their opinions public and part of their modus operandi, it just really turns me off because it's so divisive right now that we don't need them helping that,” Samantha, an office worker in Sacramento, says.
This view was echoed across all of the Nordstrom boycotters I spoke with. They believe that the climate is already politically charged enough and they don’t want to hear the same thing they’re already getting bombarded with on the news and social media from department stores and coffee shops. “It's bad enough it’s normal people,” Denise Brown, a school security guard living in New Jersey, tells me. “But when it's the big businesses and the actors and actresses that say something, then it hits a wider variety of people, a wider span of people. So then it gets on the news, and everybody hears about it, and then it seems to make things worse… I think that they fuel the fire for the public.”
At least for many of the supporters I spoke with, influencing corporations to stay out of politics is their primary goal. “I want to send a message that we don't want to hear your political opinions,” Samantha says. “We just want you to sell clothes or coffee.”
Dawn Hudspeth, a woman from the US but currently based in Australia working in software development and implementation and who almost voted for Gary Johnson, believes that now more than ever companies should rely on just doing good business rather than making things political. “It's such a sensational moment that this is the wrong time to pick a side, when we're trying to stabilize things. So, I think that companies should rely on their marketing.” She also doesn’t want to see politics influence how places she shops do business. Hudspeth wants companies to say, “We're going to run business as a business and we're not going to let this spike in negativity and rhetoric drive what our business does,” she explains.
And while Nordstrom has said through multiple statements its decisions to drop Ivanka’s line was motivated by poor sales and not politics, that doesn’t ring true to the people I spoke with. “If they want to drop her that's fine, but it can't be for political reasons and the statement that they released tells me it was absolutely political reasons,” Tom Rinehart, a West Texas resident, tells me.
“Okay, well you know you have to take their word for it in the beginning, but then when they released their statement and they put immigration into it, then no, I don't, I no longer take their word,” Rinehart explains, referencing the pro-immigration internal memo Nordstrom’s co-presidents sent in response to Trump’s executive order.
The boycotters want to stop companies from injecting politics into their decisions because they believe that’s a way to bring a divided country together. “They need to just relax so that people can get on with their lives and hopefully forget about it,” Brown says. “And just honor him as president.”
To create change, the Trump supporters will trade places with those behind #GrabYourWallet and start boycotting Nordstrom. Some admit that this won’t make a difference in their lives because they never really shopped there. “I don't even shop at Nordstrom anyway, so that for me was kind of like ‘Okay,’” Samantha says. And while Brown once did shop there, in her opinion it’s “overpriced.” “I think it's for snobby people,” she says.
Rinehart isn’t a Nordstrom shopper himself, but his wife was. “I don't shop, but I have a wife that does and she's no longer shopping there because I've cut up the [Nordstrom] credit card... There's plenty of other stores that she spends too much money in,” he says. Rinehart adds that he isn’t familiar with the retailer “except that I got a bill from there every month.” The website Breitbart, the right-wing website recently chaired by Steven Bannon, current Chief Strategist to the President, has many more testimonials from customers who are similarly cutting up their Nordstrom cards in light of this boycott.
Hudspeth says she expected Nordstrom to “have better class” than to “have such a one-sided view” of these issues. After our conversation, she sent me a now-deleted tweet from Nordstrom’s vice president of creative projects that read “#yeswecan #yeswedid” attached to a picture of an article about Nordstrom dropping Ivanka Trump (the image remains, without a caption, on Instagram). She took this as proof the move was political. “Most definitely this was political as well as catty,” she wrote. “Adult business professionals don't behave like that. They lost their class. Nordstrom lost my business forever.”
If there’s anything that could come out of this boycott for Rinehart, it’s that the public give Trump a chance. He believes the media has been very unfair to the current president. “He can't watch TV in his bathrobe without getting the blues for it,” he says. Almost all the Trump supporters I spoke with echoed this feeling that Trump isn’t getting a fair shake at the presidency. Boycotters like Brown feel these corporations are personally attacking the president. “I feel very protective of him because I feel like people are taking it out on his whole family,” Brown, who adds she’s “not a full-fledged crazy Trump supporter.”
However, Rinehart isn’t too optimistic that any of the pro-Trump boycotts will move the needle in any way. Rinehart says he’s boycotted many businesses now, and not always for political reasons. “If someone does something stupid then I just won't spend my money there,” he says. He stopped eating at Carl’s Jr. because its “smack lip annoying commercials where they open their mouths and they eat like pigs.” He says he makes these decisions independently and believes other conservatives are the same way.
“We conservatives are not good at protesting, not good at boycotting, not good at organizing,” he says. “We just kind of do what we do.” A couple of the other supporters I spoke with did explicitly note that they weren’t boycotting because someone told them to. “I'm a professional and I try to be emotionally intelligent, so I'm not one to jump on, ‘I'm going to boycott something just because everybody else is doing it and I'm mad because the election didn't go the way I wanted it to,’” says Hudspeth.
“I won't shop at Nordstrom, but it's not because of anything that was organized,” Rinehart says. “I haven't been asked not to shop at Nordstrom. I wish I had been because that would mean maybe we are organized, but I haven't heard of anything in a organized fashion.”
There is something cropping up on Reddit, though: an opposition to the #GrabYourWallet movement called TheRightBoycott. The subreddit serves as a hub of information on which companies to boycott, either because they’re against Trump or represent values they don’t agree with. This can include the Netflix series Dear White People, which those on the subreddit believe is “racist,” or the show The Mick because it “features a trans-trender [sic] 6 year old.”
It’s how Samantha, who also uses Reddit to go on The Donald subreddit and Female Fashion Advice (where she first heard about Nordstrom dropping Ivanka Trump’s line), got involved with the boycotts. She says that something like #GrabYourWallet has a lot of momentum behind it and with TheRightBoycott, “we're trying to get our voices heard, too.”
The subreddit, which features an image of alt-right symbol Pepe the Frog holding a gun with the word “Boycott!” over it on the sidebar, currently has just below 3,800 “woke customers,” but Samantha believes this will naturally grow. “I would like to see it gain more attraction,” she says. “I think other people also feel that way where they just don't want all this political rhetoric staring at them from every angle.”
(I reached out to the moderators of the subreddit requesting an interview, but after one asked me to prove my identity by tweeting “Trump Is My President” so he could make sure he’s “speaking to the right person,” he muted me.)
The closest thing the #GrabYourWallet’s opposition has to its own catchy hashtag is #BuyIvanka, which advocates for people to buy the president’s daughter’s line after Nordstrom dropped it. Denise, who’s never bought anything from the line, says that “she may look now,” though.
Samantha believes that there are others out there who feel the same way she does and are looking for a source of information on which companies to boycott. “I'm not blazing in the front lines for it, but if people are like ‘Oh, I don't like these companies that are doing that,’ I'll be like, ‘Hey, there's a subreddit where you can know who's doing what.’”
One thing almost everyone I spoke to agreed on is that Trump shouldn’t use his Twitter account on behalf of his daughter’s brand. “I think he needs to be off Facebook. I think he needs to be off Twitter,” Brown says. “He needs to worry about what's going on in our country to fix the problem with all the drugs, all the refugees, everything. Whatever his agenda is, he needs to fix instead of worrying about if his daughter's making money.”