Please don’t make me boycott you, Home Depot

“Wait, Philip.” Peter said. “Let Daddy get it started.”

I watched little fingers intertwined with big fingers as Philip “helped” put together the kit that would become a Tic-tac-toe game. Peter bravely held a nail as Philip hammered (with just a little guidance from Mommy). I smiled, thinking about how these Kids Workshops at Home Depot aren’t just for kids. Philip’s learning how to build things, I’m learning to accept his choices, and Peter is learning some patience.

Later, as Philip played with the game at home, Peter and I talked about his progress. We recalled our first workshop back in June. Philip looked everywhere but at the wood and nails that would become a pencil holder. I couldn’t blame him. I found the scent of wood glue, the echo of hammers pounding and the trays of brightly colored paints distracting, too. Except for painting, Peter had done all of the assembly. This would hold true when we returned the first Saturday of the next month, and the month after that. Yet, with each passing month, Philip contributed more to each project.

I realize these workshops are a savvy marketing ploy: lure in families with a free activity to build brand loyalty with children while enticing adults to pick up a few items since they are already in the store. Peter and I rarely buy anything where we come for the workshops though.

That doesn’t mean we’re not Home Depot customers. While we frequent the locally owned hardware store, Home Depot offers longer hours and the lower prices one expects from a big-box store. Plus, the employees at our local Home Depot are just as friendly and helpful.

I especially like Donna and Carrie, the associates that manage the Kids Workshop. They greet Philip by name now, even when they can’t see it on his orange apron. From the start, they have understood and responded to Philip’s needs without patronizing him.

That’s why my stomach sank the other day when I clicked on the Boycott Autism Speaks site.  I was visiting the page because I don’t believe in the goals of the non-profit that claims to be “the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization.”  Any lingering doubts about whether I should support Autism Speaks disappeared the moment I read the co-founders hurtful “call to action.”   I thought I would sign the petition without a second thought, but then I saw The Home Depot listed as a partner of and a donor to Autism Speaks.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. I remembered that they offered blue lights for Autism Awareness Month. Even though I didn’t agree with them, I didn’t protest. I didn’t talk to the manager, write a letter to the corporate offices or even send a Tweet. I continued to shop at the store and order items online. Then I began taking my autistic son to their workshops.

As guilty as I felt taking Philip to the workshop on Saturday, I didn’t hesitate to take him. Over the summer we drove the extra twenty miles each way three times to give the workshops at Lowe’s a try. Unlike the warm, welcoming environment created by Donna and Carrie, we encountered a long line of people waiting to check in, different employees manning the event on each visit, and kits that were more complicated than the projects offered by Home Depot.

So that’s my predicament. The corporate entity that is Home Depot donates funds to an organization that uses hateful rhetoric about my son, does not include any autistic individuals in positions of leadership, and spends its money on research rather than on supporting families at a local level. My local Home Depot provides me with a welcoming environment for my autistic son, a free activity that my entire family can enjoy, and an opportunity for my son to develop his fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination in a real-world context rather than in a therapy setting. Not only that, the local store is cheaper and more convenient than the alternatives in my community.

That’s why I’m pleading with Home Depot: please, please stop giving money to Autism Speaks. There are other organizations that could use your donations that support the needs of autistics without demonizing them . I know other people are going to try to persuade you to abandon Autism Speaks by spending their money elsewhere. I feel like I don’t have that luxury. Please don’t punish my son twice, first by supporting an organization that doesn’t support him and second by giving me no choice but to stop taking him to your workshops. I want to continue as your customer. Please don’t make me boycott you.

I hate to give this up.

I hate to give this up.

I don’t think this story would have the same impact with text alone. The Daily Post’s Weekly Writing Challenge was to create a multimedia post. To meet the requirements of the challenge, I used three different components: text, an embedded Tweet that is formatted as a blockquote, and images, both stand alone and in galleries.

26 thoughts on “Please don’t make me boycott you, Home Depot

  1. We were there this weekend doing the tic/tac/toe thing too!!! I was wondering if you were doing it. I am saddened to hear about this. I want to be a responsible consumer and I don’t like that they are supporting an organization that I deeply disagree with. Thank you for letting me know.


  2. You know, I only learned this information about Autism Speaks last week (a professor at my university was on a panel speaking out about this organization).

    I am pretty strong in my convictions when it comes to boycotting certain companies, but I understand the predicament of benefit to your son vs. the message it sends the corporate office. (((hugs))) to you both.


    1. I don’t think I’ve ever boycotted anything before. I suppose I’ve always thought that I haven’t had enough disposable income to make a difference.
      I guess my first step is to express my opinion to them while remaining a customer. I suppose if I had never been a customer to begin with Home Depot wouldn’t give a rat’s *** if I told them I wouldn’t shop there.


      1. Well, you are speaking out here and letting others know, which is something. When it comes to protesting, boycotting, whatever, you have to do what works for you.

        For example, I could never judge anyone who ate at ChickFilA because they like their food, but I just won’t go there anymore. Then I wouldn’t try to guilt the person either by trying to argue my case; my convictions are mine.

        If everyone boycotted every company that did harm to something, we would be hard pressed to eat, drive or work. You have to pick your battles…


  3. I agree with NotAPunkRocker — you have to pick your battles. I go through phases of getting myself worked up about my carbon footprint, which stores I shop at, the fact that it’s easier on my budget to drink Tim Hortons coffee than to buy fair trade, and any number of the gazillion ethical dilemmas that seem to come with just trying to live from day to day in 21st century North America. But unless we all want to go sit in a cave with our hands folded in our laps, we are going to have to make endless compromises. I think it’s more important to focus on doing what we can than to beat ourselves up over everything else. That said, I hope that you send what you’ve written to Home Depot management!


  4. I feel so uneducated. I hadn’t heard about the outcry against Autism Speaks, and I’ll be completely honest, without your posts that I just read, I wouldn’t have really thought through all that the Call to Action implied. I think this post would be something that would catch the interest of Home Depot, more so than nameless, faceless people boycotting. I hope the right people in the organization see it!


  5. That’s such a predicament – I feel for you. But how wonderful that you have such a neat resource in your neighborhood for your son and your family. That one thing you do together is a beautiful thing – I hope you don’t have to give it up. I’ll boycott Home Depot for you. Only Lowes for me from now on : )


  6. I can see where you’re coming from here, this is comlicated. I think what you’re doing is a really good way to handle it though. Let Home Depot get wind of the problem and maybe they’ll fix it. Could it be that they’re unaware of the issues with of Autism speaks?


    1. It’s very likely that they’re simply unaware. Most people are, and make the somewhat understandable presumption that Autism Speaks is a good organization because it’s by far the largest, most visible, and most well-funded autism-related organization. Most people I’ve talked to are surprised when I tell them what the issues are, and manage to update their views about autistic people a little bit in the process.

      Some, unfortunately, dig themselves deeper into the position of “well you’re obviously too high-functioning for your opinion to count.”

      Let’s hope Home Depot decides to take the right course, educate themselves a bit, and reconsider the kind of autism organization they want to support.


  7. I appreciate the thought you have put into different well-known Autism advocacy groups and for the classy way you are approaching your predicament. It is people like you that give corporations the most pause, not the ranters/ravers. Happy tic-tac-toeing, Philip.


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