The Doctrine of: Don’t Go There

Years ago a well known planning consultant came to Southern Oregon.  He spoke and showed slides about urban design showing how to accommodate growth and change gracefully and esthetically.

           Toward the end of the talk a woman asked him about how a city could avoid mega-stores; how could the way of life they represented be kept out; and how could people fight them so that they wouldn’t bankrupt small downtown merchants?

            Our speaker gave a brief account about efforts to stop them, but finally he conceded that it was a difficult task.  If a giant discount store wanted to be in an area, they would most likely succeed in being there.  

         Finally in a soft voice he said,

         “ The best thing to do about businesses you don’t like is to not go there.”  And then after noticing the confused look of the questioner he repeated softly, “Just don’t go there.” 

         His point was clear.  In the business world, that which is not patronized usually does not exist.

         In the late 80’s Domino’s Pizza occupied a location in the downtown area of a city in southern Oregon.  At the time the “right to choose” and the “wrong to choose” forces confronted each other with considerable emotion, and the politics of the issue were focal in election campaigns.  For example, in Bob Packwood’s 1986 Senatorial reelection campaign, abortion rights, or wrongs, were a major issue.  

         One month the Planned Parenthood newsletter featured a one line excerpt from an AP article.  It read something like,  “The founder of Domino’s Pizza donated $50,000 to Michigan ‘Right to Life’ .“  Nothing else was included. 

          No telling how many households received the newsletter, but approximately one year later the local Domino’s Pizza closed its doors.  There was a front page article in the local newspaper concerning the demise of the business and why.  The owners of the franchise felt victimized.

        This was a good lesson.  The doctrine of “Don’t Go There”  affected a business whose politics a critical mass in the community didn’t like, and that caused that business to fail.  What wasn’t supported financially, ceased to exist.

         What we can derive from this is as follows:  

         We might profess to object to super-stores, but they survive because we patronize them;  

         We may complain about the quantity and architecture of fast food restaurants, but they survive because we buy their food;  

         We may object to large salaries for sports heroes, but we watch games on TV, go to see games, buy team related souvenirs, and follow teams in the newspapers all of which sustain the high salaries;

         We may not like certain newspapers because they are destructive forces in that they contribute to misunderstanding, slander, or disharmony, but they survive because businesses advertise in them and customers allow it. 

         Thus, what we may say we dislike, often continues to exist because we buy the product or service.

         Therefore, even if we feel degraded or put off by something, we guarantee that “thing’s” continued existence unless, “We Don’t Go There.”  Or another way to say this is we vote or don’t vote for something with our feet and our money.

         Even though once we think about it we might readily grasp this reality, many of us would still claim a lack of power over our consumption and patronage habits because of finances, demands on our time or the demands and needs of our children.  Children do clamor to be taken to this or that restaurant or store.

         But we can let our conscience dictate our behavior, and parents can say to their children, “I won’t take you there because that business is in a one-story, single-use structure with a franchise theme surrounded by parking. It is an example of fiscally unsustainable, resource-wasting, habitat-destroying sprawl-development and therefore, not a good thing for the environment nor our city.”           

      Brent Thompson