In this day and age, corporations are expected to become involved in socio-political matters with statements and actions that reflect falling on one side or another. In the world of commerce, some companies have taken a stand by disallowing the purchase of certain things like firearms.
As early as February of last year, the New York Times was penning articles suggesting banks and credit card companies should prohibit the purchase of firearms from their end. PayPal and Square have taken that route, but it appears VISA, arguably the most popular card in America’s pockets, is not going to play politics.
Appearing on CNBC, Visa Chairman and CEO Alfred Kelly is taking the bold step of treating his customers like adults and declaring his company is Switzerland when it comes to purchases.
“We are guided by the federal laws in a country, and our job is to create and to facilitate fair and secure commerce,” Kelly told CNBC on Wednesday.
Kelly revealed his stance on this comes from the idea that it’s not up to his corporation to determine right and wrong, which is a breath of fresh air at a time when companies like Gillette and Dick’s Sporting Goods are doing that very thing.
“The reality is that it’s very hard for us to do it. … If we start to get in the mode of being legislators it’s a very slippery slope,” Kelly said. “We shouldn’t be determining what’s right or wrong in terms of people’s purchases.”
“We shouldn’t tell people they can’t purchase a 32-ounce soda. We shouldn’t tell people they can’t buy reproductive drugs,” Kelly added.
Kelly also added that legislators do need to take action, and focus on factors that aren’t being addressed like the mental health angle. Though, he did add that types of guns and magazine sizes should be addressed as well.
“They ought to get busy on some common-sense changes to deal with the horrific problems that we’ve seen in the United States, not just this weekend but for years and years,” he said. “It’s time to start looking at mental health, the size of these magazines, the type of weapons. They’ve got to do something.”
To be fair, Kelly seems to know his stuff. He didn’t call it a “clip,” for one.
I hate to say it, but Kelly’s stance of neutrality is brave. This message could easily invoke the wrath of anti-gun groups and online mobs, sparking a “conversation” in this country about what a corporation’s role in society is. Personally, I think Kelly nailed it, at least for his industry.
This isn’t a family-owned cake shop. This is a company that greases the wheels of commerce. If he or other major card carriers begin determining what is and isn’t okay for people to buy, then that could create a situation where the cause celebre would dictate what is and isn’t okay to purchase. Card companies could literally control who gets to buy what.
It would be a disaster. Kelly even hints at it. Imagine not being able to purchase food items because of a political movement catching on that is against such things. Imagine a company that prohibits the purchase of knives or gardening tools because they may be labeled as dangerous thanks to a knee-jerk from politicians after an incident.
My hat’s off to Kelly and his bravery for not caving to political pressure. I hope the other major card companies follow this lead.