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Putting ‘Canvass’ Claims To The Test

— This week I blogged about a lawsuit by Target to get pro-gay-marriage activists to stop accosting customers at the entrance to their stores. Target says the activists, who belong to a group called Canvass for a Cause, are rude and aggressive in their dealings with Target shoppers and some stores get ten complaints a day about them.

The executive director of Canvass for a Cause, however, told me they were perfectly respectful and took no for an answer. “Ninety percent of the time people tell us ‘I don’t want to talk about it’ and we say OK,” he said.

The group’s opening line when approaching customers is, “Do you support gay marriage?”

It so happened that one day after I filed my blog post I went shopping at the Mission Valley Target with my 6-year-old daughter and there the activists were… at the front entrance. As I exited the store I was approached by one of them and decided to put the claim I’d heard to a test.

“Do you support gay marriage?” the woman said to me.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said.

“You don’t want to talk about it?” she said.

“Yes. Is that okay?”

“Sure,” she said after a slight hesitation.

My experience didn’t quite make the executive director a liar. Yet when I told the woman I didn’t want to talk about it, her tone was more what you’d expect from the question, “What do you mean you don’t want to talk about it?!”

Readers… let me know if you’ve been approached by folks like this and tell me what your reaction was. Were they cheerful and respectful and it was no problem, or did you feel like you being questioned by the Spanish Inquisition?

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Avatar for user 'TK'

TK | March 26, 2011 at 4:30 p.m. ― 6 years ago

You poor thing. It must have been a terrible experience for you. You felt the gay was disappointed because of your deliberate attempt to look for an argument? It sounds like you got exactly what you were looking for, tension. Furthermore, you don't have any license or credit to put the gays down as the Spanish Inquisition when they were the ones who had their marriage right voted away by a bunch of anti-gay Christian fascists.

If you don't like free speech, or uncomfortable conversations, even at a sub-cultural venue such as Target, you're living your life in a straight jacket. Loosen up, ignore them, or say what you really think to them. Get a life you wacky zealot.

Prop 8 is dead!

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Avatar for user 'cornetmustich'

cornetmustich | March 26, 2011 at 5:10 p.m. ― 6 years ago

Wow, another dumb move by Target.
Cheers, Joe Mustich, CT Justice of the Peace, USA.

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Avatar for user 'Sandieganforever'

Sandieganforever | March 26, 2011 at 6:31 p.m. ― 6 years ago

I stumbled across this article after researching Canvass for a Cause, and have to say that my experience couldent have been more different. I am a christian mother of 3 in Poway, and after reading the Union Tribune article this morning figured i'd go and see if they were in front of our Target today and they were.
I was pretty prepared to battle them, because I read how aggressive they are.
I exited the store with my cart full of godies, and the man asked me if I supported gay marriage, and I told him no I am a christian. He asked, got a second to talk about it, and I said sure. We spoke for about 5 min, and I told him about my religious background and my children, and he was polite, smiled, and tried to explain that they want the civil contract not the church version.
After 3 min of chatting with the guy, I didnt end up changing my opinion but I did get alot of information about what sort of stuff you are entitled to with a marriage contract. I really had no idea that you couldn't visit your spouse in the hospital, so I told him I was going to go home and do some research on it.
I read this article by a gay newspaper in San Diego, and I think its pretty spot on with my experiences( . The man was polite, disagreed with me but never got angry or aggressive, and was passionate advocate for his cause.
I'm sure some people probably don't like passionate conversation, but I love talking with people about why they feel one way or another. I'm still not sure I support gay marraige, but I empathize with them and will have to think it over more now.

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Avatar for user 'EugeneDavidovich'

EugeneDavidovich | March 26, 2011 at 6:32 p.m. ― 6 years ago

I have encountered these canvassers outside of Target myself as well and as I was walking out, I was asked if I support gay marriage, I did not have time to talk about it, and I told the canvasser, "I am in a hurry, and dont want to talk about it right now".

The canvasser who was dressed in a suit and presented a very professional appearance and demeanor, said, "no problem, have a nice day".

Tom, I am shocked by your clear intent to make this organization out to be bad in some way only because a canvasser double checked whether you really did not want to talk about the issue of gay marriage. Instead of focusing on the real issue at hand, and that is whether Target can ban people from exercising their freedom of speech. Instead, you chose to try to make the group and its executive director a liar.

If we were talking about the Mormon Church being able to setup tables in front of Target, and target filing suit on them, I am sure you would have not written the piece.

I hope that you realize that you consider changing your views on marriage equality. All people, including gay, straight, etc.. deserve and are entitled to their right to marriage, just like you and I are.

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Avatar for user 'TerrieBest'

TerrieBest | March 26, 2011 at 7:26 p.m. ― 6 years ago

I’m appalled that a non-profit media outlet which relies on forward-thinking educated people to stay alive would attempt to discredit an organization trying to educate the public on an issue that is long over-due to be discussed.

I have also encountered these folks outside of Target many times. Unlike you, I found them to be cheerful and respectful every time.

I have talked and not talked to them over my career shopping at Target. When I have time, I tell them how terrible I feel that the civil rights of a group of citizens were revoked by Prop. 8. When I don’t have time, I tell them and they respect that too.

Target, I’ll miss you but I’ll be doing all my shopping at Walgreens now. If I could, I would bring those Canvassers with me.

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Avatar for user 'hollerinben'

hollerinben | March 26, 2011 at 7:51 p.m. ― 6 years ago

The Spanish inquisition must have been different than I always thought.

"Are you collaborating with the devil?"
"I don't want to talk about it"
"You don't want to talk about it?"
"Is that ok?"

In any case, as someone who has canvassed in the past, I know what the executive director meant, but "I don't want to talk about it" is an unusual response and unusual responses tend to be repeated by canvassers because they don't know what to say but they know that if they don't say something you'll just walk by.

Try something usual like "no thanks" and you're likely to get a "have a good day" type response.

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Avatar for user 'mishi'

mishi | March 26, 2011 at 9:15 p.m. ― 6 years ago

Wow, Mr. Fudge. The Inquisition. Say, aren't those the folks who - in the name of the same Church that pushed through Prop 8 - drew and quartered, eviscerated, and castrated gay men, and burned them at the stake?

Very tasteful of you, I must say, if a bit short on historical perspective. What's next, accusing Jews of acting "like Nazis?"

Here's a little experiment. Go to that same Target holding the hand of one of your male friends and say to strangers, "This is my boyfriend and we'd like to get married." I bet they'll all be civil to a fault.

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Avatar for user 'sirskunksalot'

sirskunksalot | March 26, 2011 at 9:22 p.m. ― 6 years ago

“Do we challenge their beliefs when they say they oppose gay marriage? Sure. But 90 percent of the time people tell us, ‘I don’t want to talk about it,’ and we say OK.”

I guess you showing up to harass them falls in that 10%


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Avatar for user 'rheadove'

rheadove | March 26, 2011 at 11:34 p.m. ― 6 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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Avatar for user 'Lvng1Tor'

Lvng1Tor | March 27, 2011 at 6:18 a.m. ― 5 years, 12 months ago

From my gay little perspective I don't think that Mr Fudge was attempting to take go to the farthest extreme to make a point when referencing the "spanish inquisition" He was't being literal. He was merely relating his experience.
Canvassers are human and some of them are jerks even for a good cause. I would test this out for myself but I boycott target.

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Avatar for user 'Len'

Len | March 27, 2011 at 11:24 a.m. ― 5 years, 12 months ago

I have beeb asked if I support gay marriage probably 4 times outside that Target. My (true) responses have been "No time to talk." The canvassers said "Thank you," "No problem" or "O.K." I suppose if I had wanted to get a less nice response, for column fodder, I could have approached them differently. "Spanish Inquisition"? I saw no rack or thumbscrews, but Mr Fudge apparently did. His columns To slightly paraphrase Terriebest's comment "I’m appalled that a non-profit media outlet which relies on forward-thinking educated people to stay alive would" have such a representative as Mr Fudge.

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Avatar for user 'Afanofthelittleguys'

Afanofthelittleguys | March 27, 2011 at 1:54 p.m. ― 5 years, 12 months ago

If I asked you a question and you came back with something I wasn't expecting, I would also repeat your question to make sure I heard it correctly. Most people just answer Yes or No or I am busy. You said something she wasn't expecting.

For you to make such a deal about it makes many of us wonder. What is your agenda?

She sounded very polite to me.

That is what you should have reported. You were not harrassed, as Target's lawsuit implied. No one prevented you from getting into the store or to your car. You went looking for a fight and didn't find one. Don't lie with implications. Just report the truth. The canvassing person was polite. End of story.

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Avatar for user 'docjester9'

docjester9 | March 27, 2011 at 3:09 p.m. ― 5 years, 12 months ago

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The only point that Target Corp. is trying to make is they do not allow ANYONE to solicit outside their stores, be it satanic goat killers, the girl scouts of america, the Salvation Army at Christmas time or the Canvass group. They are soliciting patrons on private property which is owned by Target Corp. If you or I were loitering or causing a disturbance in this area we would be arrested for trespassing. Target is well within its rights to request a restraining order. The issue is clouded by people's distrust and everyone's attempt to be overly politically correct. This is a very simple open and shut argument, the property the activists choose to solicit on is owned by a private corporation, and they have the right to ask anyone to leave their property. End of sotry.

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Avatar for user 'Tom Fudge'

Tom Fudge, KPBS Staff | March 27, 2011 at 4:28 p.m. ― 5 years, 12 months ago

Thanks for all the responses. I will only say I didn't go to Target looking for a fight and I didn't pick a fight. I simply told the person I didn't want to talk about gay marriage. I did want to test what I was told by the head of "Canvass" since the opportunity presented itself, and since what he told me was very different from what I heard from Target. What I found was that the truth was somewhere in the middle. As the previous commenter points out, the legal question is something apart from whether the activists are polite or rude. Target says it's private property and they can tell people to get lost if they want. Other disagree. We'll see what the court says.

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Avatar for user 'CarrotCakeMan'

CarrotCakeMan | March 27, 2011 at 4:29 p.m. ― 5 years, 12 months ago

But it isn't that simple, doc, Target does allow other groups to solicit. Perhaps that is when their executives approve of the group's message, we can't be sure of who gets permission, but we know for a fact Target has donated to anti-gay candidates for office and anti-gay organizations, so we can reasonably assume Target executives have contempt for a pro-gay viewpoint.

And I get your point about "satanic goat killers."

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Avatar for user 'CarrotCakeMan'

CarrotCakeMan | March 27, 2011 at 4:41 p.m. ― 5 years, 12 months ago

I agree wholeheartedly that I look forward to the court case, Mr. Fudge, when the attorneys for the pro-gay group that Target is attacking get to ask questions of Target executives. It's then we'll see the actual facts of the matter, and not Target's necessarily self-serving press releases and claims from public affairs employees far from their stores.

Your suggestion the truth is somewhere in the middle is responsible journalism, but at a discussion here:

You will find nearly 1,000 comments, way too many of which are my own. If you will read them, you will see a consistent pattern of those who are unbiased report their experiences with the pro-gay group were benign, whereas the only ones reporting any kind of unpleasantry also revealed a strong anti-gay bias.

Someone in that discussion suggested both sides were "angry and upset," but the evidence in regard to that made it clear anti-gays were most of the "angry and upset" ones. In this case, I believe the postings suggest the truth of the pro-gay group's behavior is MUCH closer to what they say about themselves.

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Avatar for user 'MamaBear'

MamaBear | March 27, 2011 at 9 p.m. ― 5 years, 12 months ago

I had an experience with this group long before Tom Fudge wrote this blog post. And I have to say I was relieved when I read that Target was working to get these people to stop bothering their customers. Before I go on, I want to say that it is not the issue that bothers me (I happen to support same-sex marriage). Second, I don't like ANY of the solicitors in front of Target (there seems to be a new petition every time I go there).

But Canvas is THE worst of all of the Target solicitors. One day, when I walked out of the store, a man asked me if I support same-sex marriage. I told him that I don't normally like to engage in political discussion, but that this issue is important and I do support same-sex marriage. He went on with his pitch and asked me to give money. He showed me some marketing materials, which were unprofessional looking. I had never heard of this group, so I declined to make a donation. I thanked him for his time, and if it had ended there I would have left with good feelings.

But then he proceeded to harass me about making a donation or volunteering. He started to talk about suicide among gay teens and said that if I didn't donate I would be personally responsible if a gay teen committed suicide.

That crossed the line, especially since I was in support of their cause I was just not sure if I should donate my money to THAT PARTICULAR ORGANIZATION.

I hope Target wins the lawsuit so I can shop in peace.

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Avatar for user 'docjester9'

docjester9 | March 28, 2011 at 5:53 a.m. ― 5 years, 12 months ago


Target Corp has a strict no solicitor policy, period. They are not allowed to pick and choose who they do and do not allow. If you do look at where Target does make donations, yes, they did make a 150K contribution to the campaign of gubernatorial candidate in MN, however, they contribute about 10 fold that amount to groups that support GLBT. So, I think it's just a matter of one group trying to get a little publicity, which I don't blame them for, and everyone's PC sensibilities being ruffled, overall I have a feeling this group is only doing a disservice to GLBT community.

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Avatar for user 'randolphslinky'

randolphslinky | March 28, 2011 at 8:53 a.m. ― 5 years, 12 months ago

I support gay marriage and I have often defended it here in various discussions, but I can imagine how an issue like this could create a situation - even with the canvassers being professional, polite and non-confrontational. That said, if Target allows other groups to post out front, then they are obviously going to catch flak without a lot of evidence to support their argument that this group is a problem. They may have a point, I'm not sure. What I think is that like what many others have posted here, if you have an issue with gay marriage then you're likely to find yourself offended by someone asking you about it not matter how tame their approach is. It is a sticky topic for some people.

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Avatar for user 'batmick'

batmick | March 29, 2011 at 2:15 p.m. ― 5 years, 12 months ago

Maybe it is the antisocial beast in me but I wish all stores had a no solicitor policy and the right to enforce it. When I go shopping (or to a restaurant or some other public place) I reserve the right to not want to talk to anybody, be it girl scouts, canvassers or panhandlers. By setting up stage right by the exit they deny me the option to just walk by without feeling awkward.
If it were up to me there'd be a 100 foot zone around exits where no solicitors are allowed. This has nothing to do with free speech. You can promote your cause, sell your goods or ask for money as long as you leave me my right to ignore you.

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Avatar for user 'keefycub'

keefycub | June 27, 2011 at 6:39 p.m. ― 5 years, 9 months ago

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. :D

It's funny how The Closet -- I mean TK -- chooses to append the article, instead of talking about the person who approached you as a woman. It is as though she's not deserving enough for the title "woman."

I would find her offensive though. Not over the subject matter, but because she pressed the issue. I am this way with all groups like this. In this instance I would say "yes, of course." I found it most offensive during the Obama campaign, when his supporters would approach me in the street and not understand when I say in my accent "I'm not able to vote, but thank you."

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