“Bah, Humbug! Department Store Bans Salvation Army Bell Ringers,” a Fox News columnist reported on Saturday, leading others to call for a boycott of the department store chain. But now the company is telling a different — although baffling — story.
Salvation Army bell ringers have long been a mainstay at the Belk chain, based in Charlotte, North Carolina. With nearly 300 stores across 16 states in the southeastern U.S., Belk has brought the Salvation Army a lot of donations by allowing their bell ringers to stand at the entrances of their stores. That’s why it was such a shock when the Salvation Army announced that Belk had banned them.
The Salvation Army spoke to Fox News’ Todd Starnes, along with other media outlets, about the ban. They said they expected $1 million in lost donations this year because of Belk’s move.
Salvation Army Lt. Rob Dolby told Starnes, “It’s a huge impact for us. Those funds go to operate Christmas programs serving tens of thousands of kids. We believe that a lot of Belk’s customers align with the Salvation Army’s views. We believe in saying ‘Merry Christmas’ because we believe Jesus is absolutely the reason for the season.”
As for the reasoning behind Belk’s decision, the Salvation Army indicated it had something to with the company’s changing “social consciousness.” Now here’s where it starts to get confusing.
When Starnes talked to a Belk spokesman, the spokesman said the company was going a different direction with a “social impact program” and that “they really want to focus all of our efforts on this impactful campaign.”
“The Salvation Army does a lot of important work in the community — and perhaps there will be opportunities to partner with them in the future,” the Belk spokesman added, which indicated to Starnes that they were confirming the bell ringer ban.
That’s what many Belk customers and Salvation Army supporters believed, too, as they called for a massive boycott of Belk over the weekend.
But not long after Starnes’ story went viral, Belk responded on their Facebook page, “Salvation Army bell ringers have been at Belk stores for decades, including many of our stores today. We have had a long relationship with the Salvation Army — especially during the Christmas season — and welcome them to all of Belk's 294 stores.”
Belk’s statement was still vague, indicating that bell ringers were not at all of their stories and giving no indication of why the Salvation Army thinks they’re banned. It wasn’t until they replied to one of their commenters that they gave a few more details.
“As you probably know, Belk has a long-standing commitment to giving back to our local communities — especially during the Christmas season,” Belk wrote. “During the process of making that commitment even stronger, we mistakenly left out the Salvation Army at some stores. But we are fixing that starting now. We have had a long relationship with the Salvation Army, and they are welcome at all of our 294 stores. And the Salvation Army will absolutely be a part of our community commitment moving forward.”
What do you think of this? In other news, the Red Cross is getting a lot of flak for some major changes they’re making.