A Message From PetSmart

I just received a message from the CEO of PetSmart, which inspires this project: I ask any and all Ethics Alarms readers to send in, as comments to this post, other virtue-signaling screeds from businesses and organizations on the topic of race. Once we have a sizable collection, Ethics Alarms will hand out some awards—Most Sincere, Most Offensive; Most Ridiculous; Most Hypocritical; Most Substantive, even Most Useful, if there is such a message. Perhaps I will put these up for a vote.

Here’s the PetSmart letter; I’ll have some comments at the end.

Dear PetSmart Family,

This is a pivotal moment in our country. It is a time to come together in support of basic human and civil rights and to love one another unconditionally.

The belief in unconditional love, that very important lesson we learn every day from our pets, is the heart of PetSmart. We promote belonging and inclusiveness in an environment where individuals with diverse backgrounds and talents can excel.

But we can ‐ and must ‐ do better.

It isn’t enough to say that we value diversity or to speak about inclusion in general terms. Now is the time to listen attentively and to be clear in our words and our actions. Now is the time to state plainly and unequivocally that Black Lives Matter and to do our part to ensure that this is our truth.

Right now, we are working on actions including:

  1. $1 Million scholarship fund to support all associates of color to advance their educational aspirations.
  2. Grants from PetSmart Charities support pets and pet parents in under-represented communities.
  3. Enhanced development and recruiting to improve black representation at PetSmart.

At PetSmart, we believe pets make us better people, but we know that conscious actions lead to real progress. That is why we must all commit to standing with our Black communities, to taking meaningful action, to being held accountable, and to saying what we must until it is no longer necessary: Black Lives Matter.

J.K. Symancyk
CEO, PetSmart


  • Get the pet tie-in? “Unconditional love.” If there is one concept that the George Floyd protests and riots did not communicate, it is unconditional love. “Do as we say and what we want or else” is not an expression of unconditional love.
  • Who is PetSmart to assume that merely by buying some dog food, chewies and dog toys I invited its executives (or PR department) to lecture me about race in America? That’s both presumptuous and obnoxious.
  • How do you “state plainly and unequivocally that Black Lives Matter” without stating what the slogan means? To me, it means that someone is accusing me and lots of other non-black Americans of believing that black lives don’t matter, because of my skin color and heritage. Well, that’s racism in my dictionary, toward whites.
  • “Taking meaningful action, to being held accountable, and to saying what we must until it is no longer necessary.” The rhetoric around the current “movement’ is redolent of the old Hunger Project scam, which extolled meaningful action to end hunger, but never specified any measures at all, though they did take contributions. Not to be a broken record, but advocating taking meaningful action is not meaningful. Being held accountable means nothing without tangible bench marks that one can be held accountable for. And nobody tells me what I “must” say, especially when saying things is distinct from doing anything, and when there’s no substance behind  talk, talk is all you are going to get. What is the indicia that will prove that such talk is “no longer necessary”? I doubt that J.K. has a clue. If he did, wouldn’t he tell us?
  • Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that  “$1 Million scholarship fund to support all associates of color to advance their educational aspirations” racially discriminatory? No white associates need help advancing their educational aspirations? How does discriminating against employees—withholding benefits based on color is the essence of workplace discrimination—advance the mission of “inclusion”?
  • If PetSmart is being “clear in its words and our actions,” isn’t only giving financial assistance to non-white employees clearly a statement that black lives matter more to the company than white lives? What else could it mean?
  • I have no idea what  “Grants from PetSmart Charities to support pets and pet parents in under-represented communities” means, put I’m pretty sure it will do nothing to keep a sick cop from kneeling on anyone’s neck.
  • I wonder if Black Lives Matter is aware of the fact that its name and hashtag are in danger of becoming a meaningless mantra or talisman, waved in the air and mouthed to show compliance with mandatory politically correct sympathies, but ultimately signifying nothing. It may be fated to end up as a fitting addition to Homer Simpson’s immortal line, “It doesn’t mean anything. It’s like Rama-Lama-Ding-Dong or “Give Peace a Chance.”

71 thoughts on “A Message From PetSmart

  1. First they came for the Milk-Bone Soft & Chewy Dog Snacks, and I did not speak out—
    Because I did not have a dog.

    Then they came for the Temptations™ Cat Treat – Tasty Chicken, and I did not speak out—
    Because my kitty got diarrhea from them once and I was so angry! I wrote a letter but I never got a response.

    Then they sent me these damned ideological letters, and I whimpered against it—
    And I *unsubscribed* from their marketing emails.

    Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me — not even myself! because
    I have no sense of identity except an abstract one. Who am I? I do not know. I am sitting in my chair. Oh dear.

    Anyway, I am now ordering a bird feeder with 5 lbs of bird seed. I have just joined a bird-feeder forum.
    I’ve always liked birds.

    • Aliza– those things are known as “cat feeders” in some places.

      So far the feed stores (hay, grain, fence hardware) have remained on the sidelines. Only the usual monthly touting jeans with sequins on the butt (which I don’t wear) and tacky silver jewelry. I have a delete button for those, just leave the hay & grain alone, please.

      I did get a blast from the axis of sweat (local Ace Hardware + Stihl) reminding others that Fathers’ Day is coming and they can get more work out of me with new chain saws, weed-whackers, etc. I already have those… And protective equipment which would double as reasonable attire should I want to attend a peaceful demonstration… To their credit they give a nod to who does the heavy lifting. 🙂

    • Walmart in the last few days has put the following sporting goods in theft resistant packaging

      Waterproof matches
      Instant fire starter
      Lighter fluid
      Butane for small camp stoves

      I suppose this is how they will fight injustice.

  2. From Penzey’s Spices – FOUR YEARS AGO.

    Racism Update: At Penzeys we believe it’s not the use of tools that set us on a different path from the rest of the animal world; what has set humanity in motion is cooking. In our nearly a million years gathered together around the fire, cooking shaped our bodies and transformed our minds. Cooking unlocked our potential and gave birth to reason, to religion, and to politics and government. The kindness of tens of thousands of generations of cooks created our humanity, but racism, sexism, and homophobia can all very quickly unravel all the goodness cooking puts out into the world. As the voice of cooks, we will never sit idly by while that happens.
    You may have read Tuesday Night’s email. In it I said: “The open embrace of racism by the Republican Party in this election is now unleashing a wave of ugliness unseen in this country for decades. The American people are taking notice. Let’s commit to giving the people a better choice. Our kindness really is our strength.”
    Since I ask you to read my emails, I feel it’s only right that I read each of your replies. In sifting through those replies it was clear that, though not intended, a good number of people seemed to sincerely believe that in my statement I was calling all Republicans racists. In the emails of those Republicans who voted for someone other than the party’s nominee, I sensed genuine pain at having the strength of character to not go along with what was happening, but nonetheless be grouped in with those who were. I apologize for writing something that caused you pain; that is not the person I want to be. You are your party’s future, and you deserve my admiration and respect, and your country’s as well.
    For the rest of you, you just voted for an openly racist candidate for the presidency of the United States of America. In your defense, most of you did so without thinking of the consequences of your candidate’s racism, because for most of you the heartbreaking destruction racism causes has never been anything you or your loved ones have had to experience. But the thing is elections have their consequences. This is no longer sixty years ago. Whether any of us like it or not, for the next four years the 80% of this country who did not just vote for an openly racist candidate are going to treat you like you are the kind of person who would vote for an openly racist candidate.
    You can get angry at everyone else for treating you like you just did the thing you just did, or you can take responsibility for your actions and begin to make amends. If you are lucky and younger family members are still coming over for Thanksgiving, before it’s too late, take a moment and honestly think about how your actions must look through their eyes. Simply saying “I never thought he’d win” might be enough. But if you have the means, leaving a receipt from a sizable donation to the ACLU or the SPLC accidentally laying around where you carve the turkey, might go over even better.
    Or, just do what you do best and volunteer. Through our customers’ support, we’ve given away a lot of our Penzeys Pepper, the Pepper with heart. More often than not, those we meet cooking and serving food to feed those in need are Republicans. You really are a good bunch, but you just committed the biggest act of racism in American history since Wallace stood in the schoolhouse doorway 53 years ago. Make this right. Take ownership for what you have done and begin the pathway forward.
    Thanks for reading,


    • I stopped shopping at Penzeys Spices because of their “virtue signaling” years ago (possibly because of that same email you posted). I switched to The Spice House instead – founded by near relatives (siblings?) of the Penzeys Spices people, and blessedly apolitical (so you’re just buying spices from them, not an editorial).

      • You might want to consider The Frolicking Fascist’s Spice Cabinet. That’s where we get all our imported spices, hot sauces, etc.

        I didn’t order it myself — I have my own reasons which I won’t go into here — but there is even Adolf & Eva’s Best Beloved German & Austrian Recipe Book printed in that Germanic gothic type. Did you know there is an official way to make a Nazi Omellete? (I didn’t but it is quite interesting).

        Here, at mission headquarters at home, we have taken to Anti-Virtue Signalling. To be the worst and most retrograde people we can be. To turn against the progressive tide. In short to become evil and smile all the while!

        Won’t you join us in a robust Hitler Salute?

  3. From Next College Student Athlete (NCSA) President Lisa Strasman:

    NCSA Athletic Recruiting

    Athletes, Parents and Coaches,

    First, I hope you and your families continue to be safe and healthy. I don’t think any of us could have anticipated what 2020 would bring when we began this year. It has forced us to come together to overcome unprecedented challenges and support each other during a pivotal time in our nation’s history.

    All of us here at NCSA were devastated by the senseless murder of George Floyd. His death, and the deaths of so many others, shined a light on the systemic racism and inequality that plagues our country.

    We owe it to our teammates, our customers and our communities to be very clear in condemning these recent acts of violence and police brutality. They represent a disregard for basic human rights that has no place in our society.

    NCSA has zero tolerance for any form of racism, bigotry or hatred. Our organization stands for justice, equality and fair and respectful treatment of all people.

    We stand with the black community including our black student-athletes, families, coaches and partners.

    Nelson Mandela once said, “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.”

    Our organization was founded upon the idea of building better lives through sport. Every day, our team works to help athletes identify opportunities to improve their lives, and we believe those opportunities should be available to all.

    One of NCSA’s Core Values is to “Lead By Example” and now more than ever, we need to practice what we preach. We must not only demand change – we must be a part of it. We will not stand on the sidelines.

    Since we were founded, NCSA has been committed to making college sports accessible to all student-athletes, helping thousands of deserving young athletes who may not otherwise have an opportunity to continue their education and play their sport in college.

    NCSA has provided free recruiting support to over 30,000 qualified athletes and donated millions of dollars in services to deserving families through our All In Award and Seat At The Table programs.

    While we already partner with and support various organizations that promote youth sports in underserved communities, we must do more. We pledge to leverage our various resources to bring more All in Awards and youth sports opportunities to these communities.

    Within NCSA, we will be taking immediate steps to ensure more representation from our black teammates and do our part in helping demand systemic change. While diversity and inclusion have always been an important part of our culture, we are committed to making it a priority, setting goals, and holding ourselves accountable.

    We will prioritize recruiting and hiring team members that represent our country’s diversity and will work to implement measures to specifically improve employee retention and success amongst our minority team members. Our team should reflect the community we serve.

    To our athletes, families and coaches of color and the entire black community, we commit to listening, learning and renewing our effort to create an environment for support, discussion and change.

    We support all of those who are working to achieve a racially-just society and encourage everyone to use their platforms and privilege to proactively work against inequity and injustice of any kind. We must continue to do better.

    Lisa Strasman
    President, NCSA

    Former Captain, Yale Women’s Ice Hockey
    Parent of two student-athletes

  4. Got this one (from a bloody supplier of aftermarket European auto parts, no less!). I figure I’m doing my bit since I’ve bought parts from them for a granddaughter’s black Jaguar.


    This is not a typical email for me, and I still don’t think I’ve found the right words to express my thoughts.

    Let me first speak clearly and unequivocally: Black lives matter. We stand in solidarity today and forever with the black community.

    This is a human rights issue, and FCP Euro must leverage its platform and community to drive change as we continue into the future.

    One of FCP Euro’s core values is People before Profits. We’ve spent the last 20 years striving to build a morally and ethically sound company that takes special care of its employees and customers. As someone who cares deeply, I have and continue to feel the responsibility to not only talk about diversity, equality, and inclusion but to make meaningful contributions and improvements to how we fundamentally operate and grow as an organization along with ourselves as individuals. The recent events have made us take an even deeper look into our company. We realize we’ve come a long way, but there’s still more we can do.

    FCP Euro has an obligation to drive change in our community, environment, and society. In furtherance of that commitment, we would like to give visibility into the steps we’ve already started to take and will continue to move forward:

    We are committed to improving our diversity and overall social responsibility throughout FCP Euro while making our progress completely transparent to the public. These will be visible and accessible at cares.fcpeuro.com by July 1st.
    We are committed to immediately enhancing our process and platform for FCP Euro employees to raise social issues and concerns to the appropriate colleagues and decision-makers by June 15th.
    We are committed to developing a Social Responsibility plan that we will share with all of you by July 1st. This includes our social values and annual goals in key areas such as our governance, people, environment, market, community, and society.
    We are committed to immediately bringing diversity into our board meetings through the development of a Social Responsibility Board that will consist of eight individuals within FCP Euro from diverse backgrounds and functional expertise in the areas of our Social Responsibility plan by June 15th.
    We are committed to making ongoing financial contributions in all areas of our Social Responsibility plan. We will share those details with our employees and customers at cares.fcpeuro.com as we develop our plan.
    We are committed to living in a community that treats everyone equally and with dignity. We do not tolerate discrimination, harassment, or racism, and we respectfully ask any customers not willing to abide by those same values to choose another parts supplier.
    I’m holding myself accountable. I’m holding FCP Euro accountable. And I invite you, our customers, to hold us accountable.

    FCP Euro remains committed to shaping and changing the future, and we ask for your support along the way.

    Scott Drozd | CEO

  5. Just got this from Instacart….long virtue-signalling missive.

    We at Instacart are deeply saddened by the series of disturbing and tragic events that have taken place over the last few weeks related to the violence and injustice toward the Black community including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others. The resulting protests have created a flashpoint for awareness, action, and change—one that we recognize is long overdue.

    As we grapple with the senseless loss of life and continued systemic inequality, we’re stepping back to examine what more Instacart can do. We believe this work starts by supporting our internal teams, as well as helping black communities across North America. To that end, we’re investing $1 million to help support actionable change within both the Instacart family—including our shoppers and employees—and the broader community that needs our support right now.
    Supporting our Shopper Community
    First, we’re prioritizing the safety of our shoppers by investing $500,000 to support this important community. This investment will go towards compensating in-store shoppers and teams for any disruption to their shifts due to store closures or local curfews, as well as additional tools and features that support shopper safety.
    Supporting Black Communities
    Our mission is focused on giving people access to food and we believe we have an opportunity to more prominently show up for communities of color that are disproportionately struggling with food insecurity. Through our work with Feeding America and Food Banks Canada, Instacart is in a unique position to support underserved counties with the highest food insecurity rates in North America. To better support these communities, we’re making a $250,000 donation to go to food banks in the Feeding America and Food Banks Canada network.

    As a company, we’re committed to speaking up and taking action against discrimination. In the spirit of this commitment, we’re donating $250,000 to the Equal Justice Initiative. The EJI is a non-profit organization that challenges racial and economic injustice on behalf of marginalized communities by confronting inequalities within our criminal justice system – offering support to those wrongly convicted, denied a fair trial, or offered poor legal representation.
    Deepening Our Diversity & Inclusion Investment
    The events of the past week have prompted much reflection about how we can make meaningful and lasting changes at Instacart to ensure the diverse voices across our employees, customers, and shopper community are heard and represented. From holding ourselves accountable to fostering an inclusive work environment to giving employees space to participate in meaningful conversations and activism—we’re committed to taking action within our own community.

    We’ll continue to use our voice to be a positive force for change and look forward to continuing to listen, learn, and evolve as an organization.

    Thank you,

    Apoorva Mehta
    Founder & CEO, Instacart

  6. JOEL MUNDT sends along this from Barnes and Noble:

    Black Lives Matter
    A Statement from Barnes & Noble

    The murder of George Floyd, tragically joining an ever-growing list of murdered Black civilians, lays bare racism and bigotry in our country. The protests that have followed provoke a tipping point for systemic change. So, let us be clear—we stand with the Black community and all those seeking justice across the country, and are committed to becoming both part of the conversation and part of the solution.

    At Barnes & Noble we believe it is in our power as readers to be informed, to react and to teach. Books are a conduit for learning, growing and providing insight into the lives and thoughts of those we may not know… but with whom we may discover we share much in common.

    Right now, we are listening to and appreciate the many voices calling on us to stand up and support a more just society. This is how we learn, how we move forward. We are committed to engaging in this dialogue, not only with our stores and communities but with the publishing industry as well—to identify and promote books by Black writers and books that seek to educate us all on antiracism, racism, allyship and the ongoing movement for justice. We look also to address any inequities we see within our own walls.

    We must take this moment to speak out, to take responsibility for our failings and to move toward a path of peace and recognition. As the great James Baldwin once said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

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