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April 28, 2021

Should employees be able to 'cheat' with a rival company's product?

There was a case a while back, five years now, when a Miller employee was fired for drinking Bud Light.

No, seriously. In February of 2005, a Miller beer distributor was snapped by a newspaper photographer at a Wisconsin bar with friends. The next day when he came into work, the place was “abuzz.”

“They said, ‘You’re in trouble for drinking Bud Light,” said the employee, a father of two, who was canned after he appeared in print enjoying the competition’s product.

“It’s my choice of beer,” a peeved Isac Aguero said later. “Who can tell you what to drink or not to drink?”

Now, any rational employer – even Miller, I’d think – would admit letting Aguero go was ridiculous. But the dated firing brings to mind an interesting debate. 

At a time when brand loyalty couldn’t be lower, should employees be forced to exclusively use products of the company they work for?

For instance, if you or I hate McDonald’s, we go to Burger King. Or Wendy’s, Harvey’s, A&W or wherever. But for Mickey Ds staffers that feel the same, “cheating” on your employer – as industry sources have put it – is often deemed a touchy, traitorous act that should be a punishable offence.

“If you have somebody who’s working for a company and they’re not even using the product, then that is absolutely diametrically different from what we’re looking for in terms of a referral,” Ted Matthews, a Toronto-based brand coach and founding partner of Instinct Brand Equity, told the Globe and Mail.

“It’s a complete negative endorsement and no company can afford to have that in this day and age.”

What Matthews suggests, that no company can afford such treason, doesn’t appear totally accurate.

Brand loyalty seems like a bigger deal within small companies where bottom lines rely on the support and promotion of its employees. An independent coffee joint loses out when its barista keeps showing up to work with a Starbucks in hand. Toyota shouldn’t care if its line technician rolls into the staff parking lot in an Impala.

So there are different scenarios and different permutations of the issue, but the same concern remains: Should employees be forced into using the products of the company they work for?

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...