When I think of “celebrating” Veterans Day, a lot comes to mind: drinking a few cold ones and trading war stories with some fellow vets, chatting with my dad over the phone to thank him for his service, or marching up Fifth Avenue in New York City with my friends from Iraq And Afghanistan Veterans Of America. What I don’t think about, though, is the best way to take advantage of the many sales going on that day.
It happens every year in the days leading up to Nov. 11: “Celebrate Veterans Day with a free money transfer.” Really? Do you really think that is how people want to celebrate Veterans Day, Western Union? For each wire transfer made on Veterans Day, are you allowing one of the 8,400 troops in Afghanistan to wire home money for free? Doesn’t look like it.
I’ve never thought about it until I recently watched a commercial for a Veterans Day furniture sale, but it dawned on me that countless stores are literally making money off of veterans without the decency of putting some of those profits back into causes that support them. How is this possible? I don’t know how I never realized it before, but this is bullshit.
It’s one thing for companies like Vineyard Vines to use Memorial Day to promote a suit drive that benefits veterans. It’s another, however, to use Veterans Day to promote a sale that in no way benefits veterans. There is nothing altruistic about using a holiday meant to honor veterans to increase your sales, which is precisely the reasoning behind the promotion. A 2014 Nielsen survey found that 55% of people are willing to pay more for products as long as the company is committed to having a positive social impact. So is it crazy to charge normal prices on Veterans Day and have 30% of sales go to veterans instead?
It’s 2016, our country has placed the burden of fighting multiple wars on the backs of a tiny percentage of brave Americans, and you think the best way to honor our troops is to have a sale? Let me help you out: It’s not. If you fall into this category and aren’t offering help to any of the veterans you are using to make money off of, you are wrong. And if you paid to advertise your Veterans Day sale and couldn’t even find the decency to address one of the myriad problems veterans face, you should be ashamed.
When public attention regarding our troops and veterans is waning, we can’t afford dog-and-pony shows that do nothing to support our veterans. The days leading up to Nov. 11 are the perfect time to capitalize on the media attention paid to this community, and wasting it on ads that do nothing to support our troops and only aim to line people’s pockets is seriously problematic.
If companies really think this is how people do celebrate Veterans Day, let me offer some advice on what celebrating Veterans Day should look like:
- First, make the day about veterans, not your business. Plenty of businesses offer up free meals and discounts for service members and veterans without asking for a thing in return. Follow their lead.
- If you’re offering a discount, that’s great, but can you make sure it is veteran-specific? That seems like a no-brainer.
- And if it’s not veteran-specific, why not ensure that part of the proceeds go to supporting a veterans charity? There are tens of thousands of them around the country.
- Use your social media accounts to share stories of veterans, especially those that work at your company, or about the issues they face.
- Lastly, continue supporting veterans on Nov. 12, and every day after.
The last point being the most important. If you think veterans only deserve one day a year to be honored and celebrated, we need to have a chat. All of the discounts and promotions on Nov. 11 won’t solve the problems veterans face the other 364 days of the year and we in the veteran community can’t solve these issues alone. Together, with support and investments from corporate partners, we can make sure that we not only give our veterans the respect they deserve on Nov. 11, but ensure that every day of the year is Veterans Day.