A lot of people think of Walgreen’s only when it comes to buying shirts. But what about their mouthwash? I have risked social ostracism to do extensive testing and can report that Walgreen’s $2.99 ‘Compare to Scope’ Mouthwash™ tastes just as good as the $5.69 bottle beside it, and I am no more unpopular than I was when I was using the name brand.


Peter McCann: “I’m taking your advice and trying to pick 529 plans for my nieces and nephew. I’m curious why do you suggest the Indiana 529 plan. There is a 3.5% sales load. Correct me if I’m wrong but that’s a pretty heavy jockey.”

☞ You’re right. This was dumb. It was a mistake to suggest the Indiana Plan. I relied on a forthcoming book that plugged it, without checking directly myself. But when I did check, I saw the load – or the chance to avoid the load and pay too-high administrative fees for six years. You know how all traces of Stalin disappeared from the Soviet Union when he was discredited, years after his death? Just try to find any reference to the Indiana plan in my archives.


Parks Stewart: “I’m a member of the loyal Republican opposition and I’m really wrestling with this domestic-partner benefits issue. (Where do we draw the line? What about people living together and not married? For how long to qualify? Was I a domestic partner of the two ladies I lived with for a time – separately – before I got married? How’d this get so messed up?) That said, I join the boycott out of support for you.”

☞ Thanks, Parks! Fair questions. I think the answer is: Continue to require a marriage license . . . except for employees denied the right to get one (i.e., inter-racial couples until 1967 in Virginia, and gay couples in 50 states today). For them, in jurisdictions like Vermont and New York City and San Francisco, where you can legally register your domestic partnership, require that. Elsewhere, the employee would just attest to it.

Kevin Kroeger: “Believe it or not, we have something we actually agree on!! I think Exxon’s decision to rescind Mobil’s ‘domestic partnership benefits’ was a poor one. Your example of two weeks v. 10 years is an excellent one. But I do have a sincere question: How do we as a society ‘institutionalize’ domestic partnerships? Then the application of ‘domestic partner policy’ becomes black and white in my mind and this whole Exxon/Mobil debacle becomes moot. Perhaps this already exists and you could enlighten me to its existence/ application.”

☞ Vermont is the only state that permits same-sex civil unions, and it led to a huge battle in the normally tranquil state. Many others states have acted preemptively not only to forbid civil unions, but to assure that civil unions entered into in other states will not be recognized in their own.

Dan Stone: “Why would the effect of a ‘stock boycott’ have to be infinitesimal when the effect of a product boycott would not be? And if one’s portfolio is diversified, how much does one lose when one decides not to profit from culprit corporations? We shouldn’t own companies whose products we would boycott.

☞ Selling XOM could be right for you, even if you’d have tax to pay on your gain. It certainly “feels” right. I just don’t believe it would do any good. The shares you sell won’t disappear; they’ll just go from your hands to less caring hands (less likely to be raised when this comes up for a shareholder vote again next year).

With a consumer boycott, millions of people might participate – people like to battle injustice – and that could lead to a small but noticeable drop in sales. Management, and gas station owners, would notice that. And they might get quiet pressure from big Wall Street shareholders who don’t see the point of alienating a segment of the population.

I don’t own Exxon. But if I thought there were a big profit to be made, I might buy it and use that profit to do something useful . . . like promote the boycott.


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