Why Bother Being Two-Faced?

Last Updated Jun 17, 2008 4:21 PM EDT

Grocery store giant Safeway found itself between a rock and a hard place yesterday, and it didn't do a very good job wiggling its way out.

Here in San Francisco, there was an event to talk about corporate efforts to reduce smoking. Safeway participated and announced that it would ban smoking in and around its corporate offices.

But would Safeway take the truly courageous step of discontinuing the sale of cigarettes at its stores? Are you kidding? Here's what the Safeway rep told the audience at the event:

Safeway has no plans to quit selling tobacco because it does not dictate what legal products its customers should buy, and ceasing cigarette sales would put the company at a competitive disadvantage.
Oh really? Gee, I didn't notice guns and ammo for sale at my local Safeway. Nor, for that matter, can I buy shoes, computer equipment or plumbing supplies. Obviously, a grocery store and all other retailers choose their selection of merchandise from the universe of products to sell, and at Safeway, highly profitable cigarettes make the cut.

Since this is so obvious, why bother being dishonest about it? For that matter, when your company is one of the largest purveyors of cigarettes, why participate in a corporate event like this at all? You can't win, but you can make yourself the target for criticism such as this.

  • Jon Greer

    Jon Greer has been analyzing media and PR for more than 25 years. He's been a journalist and a PR executive, and has been a featured speaker for many years at the Bulldog Reporter Media Relations Summit, and served as Bulldog's Editorial Director for their PR University series of weekly how-to audio conferences.

    Jon provides PR services including media relations and freelance writing to clients including start-ups, law firms, corporations, investment banks and venture capital firms. In addition, Jon provides spokesperson training. Learn more about Jon's training programs at The Media Bridge.