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Bad Business

The Day We Picketed A Store

By James Donahue

We still actively celebrated Christmas when this event happened. My wife Doris and I were living in a compact place, and because she loved to cook, I chose a special gift that I thought was made to order for our compact space. It was a multi-task kitchen appliance that mixed, chopped, blended and performed many tasks with attachments to one power unit. It seemed like a good idea and Doris thought she was going to really like the appliance until she plugged it in. It was defective. The motor did not work.

I returned the whole package to the store where it had been purchased, expecting to get an exchange. Instead of that, the woman that owned and operated the store said she would send the defective motor into the company that manufactured it and try to get it repaired. Then the part didn’t come back for months. We made several calls and stops and got no cooperation. My wife’s Christmas gift was still on hold.

It was spring when I gave the store an ultimatum. I demanded for a replacement unit or my money refunded. I had paid over $100 for the gift and so far, we had nothing for my investment. The store refused either. They said they would call the manufacturer and find out what the hold-up was. I was so angry I walked down the street to the local hardware, bought paint and some poster board, then went home and made signs. My son got involved in this. That same day we picketed the store. Our signs said things like “Don’t Buy Here, Won’t Back Up Their Products” and “This Store Cheats Customers”

Shortly after we began picketing the police arrived. A squad car pulled up and the officer got out. Surprisingly, the officer was laughing. Instead of giving us trouble, he advised us how to picket legally without breaking any laws. He instructed us to keep moving and not block the entrance to the store. That was it. We would be allowed to picket all day and for as many days as we wished.

It was a nice warm spring day and we picketed for one entire day. We noticed that the local weekly newspaper, an office located right next door, didn’t bother coming out to ask why we were picketing. The store must have been a regular advertiser so the newspaper didn’t wish to put advertising revenue at risk. But we had a lot of support from the public. Cars honked as they went by. People stopped to ask what our complaint was about. We were given encouragement and told that the owner of the store had a reputation of not backing up any of the things they sold. Other people had similar horror stories to tell us.

We picketed all that day and then returned to continue for a second day. But this day the people in the store were waiting for us. We could tell by their actions that they had something bad planned for us. After a short time of picketing, my son suggested that it was time for us to leave, which we did.

A few days later the store called us to say the motor was in and we could pick up our appliance. We told them to go to hell and keep the damned thing. Christmas had been six months ago. And that was it. Or it was almost it.

We learned later that the store had been in financial trouble, was up for sale, and that a potential buyer came to Caro to look at the store on the very day we chose to picket the place. Our actions had a lot to do with chasing the buyer off. The store went out of business a few months later.

Later the woman that ran the store and caused all of our trouble put her name up as a candidate for Tuscola County Treasurer. We got busy and worked hard to get the word out and make sure she was defeated. Voters did not give her the job.

We discovered that when done correctly, picketing can be a very effective tool for bringing about desired change.