business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Boston Globe has a story about Dave Ratner, owner of Dave’s Soda and Pet City, described as “a small chain of shops selling the unlikely combination of pet supplies, birds, fish, and beverages for humans.”

Ratner, the story says, “attended President Trump’s signing of an executive order authorizing changes to the Affordable Care Act designed to create cheaper — and less comprehensive — health insurance plans. An Associated Press photograph of the event, with Ratner smiling broadly behind Trump, has come back to haunt him, big time … Ratner has been excoriated on social media, and many customers are calling for store boycotts.”

Ratner says that not only was he unprepared for the reaction, but he didn’t even really know what Trump was signing. “I absolutely abhor what he did, and I would not have been there had I known what was happening,” Ratner says.

The Globe described the backstory this way:

“Ratner is an active member of the National Retail Federation, a trade association supportive of small, local businesses. For years through this federation, his company and others negotiated for cheaper group insurance rates, giving them some of the advantages large companies have. With the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act, this negotiating power vanished. Since then, he has trekked to Washington, D.C., annually, talking to anyone who will listen about how unfair that is.

“Fast-forward to two weeks ago. Ratner received a call from the federation, inviting him to a ceremony in which Trump would sign an order restoring that power to small businesses.” What he didn’t know was “the scope of the rollback of the ACA included in the executive order,” nor that Trump would shortly sign another order eliminating “a subsidy that makes health coverage affordable for many low-income citizens.”

Not only does Ratner say he did not completely understand what he was going to the White House to witness, but even his wife “now tells him that was naive.”
KC's View:
One of the things that’s interesting about this story is that over the years Ratner has built his business by personalizing everything about it - he does the TV commercials, his voice is on every store’s voice mail, and he has tried to establish a connection to his shoppers at every opportunity. In short, he’s done everything you’re supposed to do to give yourself an advantage, which then came back to haunt him when those same customers felt betrayed.

Some argue that this is political correctness run amok, but I’m not sure that’s true. Like it or not, agree with him or not, Trump and his presidency are fairly described as highly polarizing … and the health care debate remains a hugely divisive issue.

I don’t think the answer here is for businesses to stay away from politics, because, in fact, I think that it may be more important than ever for businesses to be involved in the shaping of public policy. But not knowing what they’re talking about, or what they’re associating themselves with, simply is not an option.