Not Even God Should Shop At Hobby Lobby After It Reopens Stores During Shutdowns

The Hobby Lobby is defying stay-at-home orders because presumably God wants people to die for arts and crafts supplies. How else are Americans going to make party favors for all the parties they can't have? The oh-so-Christian retailer is “quietly reopening" stores across the country, including in Kansas,Ohio and Wisconsin, whose governors have ordered residents to shelter-in-place. These orders close all businesses except for those that provide “essential services." Hobby Lobby does not provide “essential services."

Despite literally having the word “hobby" in its name, Hobby Lobby has tried to rebrand itself as an “essential" business. A hastily made sign on the window of one store claimed it's now operating as an essential business because it sells “PPE masks, educational supplies, office supplies, and various components for at-home small businesses." That's absurd. Bars and restaurants offer food, which is essential, but they're all closed except for takeout and delivery.

Hobby Lobby is not an actual grocery, pharmacy, or hardware store. There's no gray area here, and billionaire owner David Green is choosing to endanger his employees, and the communities they live and work in, in service of his bank balance. How evangelical!

Some Hobby Lobby stores keep doors open amid stay-home

From Business Insider, which had the scoop:

"This has all been so stressful and exhausting," an employee in a nearby Midwestern state, where stores have yet to close despite mandates from lawmakers, said. "I don't want to stay home because I'm too lazy to work. I want to stay home to do my part to stop the spread of the virus."

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis stated outright that Hobby Lobby isn't exempt from the stay-at-home orders. The chain isn't Walmart or Target, and a public health crisis is not the time to overhaul your business model.

"Hobby Lobby is fighting that we are an essential store," a Hobby Lobby employee in North Carolina said. "There is absolutely nothing in Hobby Lobby worth spreading this illness. I'm honestly appalled at this company and the way it doesn't care for its employees and only about making their money."

This employee was advised not to wear gloves or masks in the store because it might make customers “uncomfortable." This is dumb and grotesque. Customers understand we're fighting a pandemic. This is the kind of senseless “wish unpleasantness away" mentality that kills.

The big brains at Hobby Lobby ordered store managers to cut hours and operate on a shoe string, which isn't ideal when you need extra (hopefully gloved) hands to clean and sanitize everything effectively. Employees have complained that they don't even have necessary cleaning supplies. This is a straight-up health hazard.

Hobby Lobby also knows but doesn't care that it is putting staff in an uncomfortable situation when the police show up wondering why the hell they're selling scented candles and donkey milk soap during a shutdown. Randy Betts, senior vice president of store operations, sent a memo to all store managers with the subject, “Talking with Local Authority." Whatever Hobby Lobby pays store managers, it is nowhere near enough to expect them to explain corporate's reckless business decisions to the police. We also doubt anyone is receiving hazard pay.

In stores that are open, and there is an emergency order issues where that store is located, the DM [district manager] needs to guide store management in how to respond and communicate if they are visited by a local authority that asks why we are open.

You and the DM must identify the specific reason within the emergency order that provideds the stores permission to order.

The reasons could be: because we sell educational materials, because we sell products for home based businesses, or because we sell materials to make PPE (personal protective equipment). Or other reasons that can be identified in an order.

The note also instructs store managers on how to speak politely to police officers while ignoring a stay-at-home order.

Hobby Lobby is so cheap and gross it makes employees use personal paid time off and vacation benefits during store closures that aren't their fault. But even employees who barely get by have enough sense to know they should stay home. Michael Fair, who worked for seven years at a Lakewood, Colorado, location, quit Monday because he "no longer felt this company was protecting its employees."

The Hobby Lobby needs to close all its stores right now and remain closed. Their employees and the general public deserve better. And then management, like this pastor who flouted social distancing orders, needs to go to jail.

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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