Amazon and Costco do not appear to be among the major U.S. retailers to have pulled MyPillow merchandise from their shelves in recent days over what MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell has said is his support of former President Donald Trump’s calls to overturn the presidential election.
As of Wednesday afternoon, MyPillow’s Amazon.com storefront was still active. While searches for MyPillow products on Costco’s website returned no results, the website of the Issaquah-based warehouse club still listed a bevy of MyPillow promotional events taking place at Costco stores around the country — including in Kirkland and Tacoma — in January and February.
Amazon, based in Seattle, did not immediately respond to questions. A Costco executive declined to comment about the company’s relationship with MyPillow.
Kohls, Bed Bath & Beyond, Wayfair and Texas-based H-E-B Grocery are among the retailers that have pledged to cut ties with Lindell after the businessman appeared to have lobbied Trump last week to impose martial law, according to a widely circulated photograph of Lindell’s notes for the meeting as he entered the White House.
The photo sparked an outcry on social media, with many people calling on retailers to dump MyPillow products and some Trump supporters saying they will boycott stores that cease to carry MyPillow.
Bed Bath & Beyond and Kohl’s have said they will drop Lindell because of slumping MyPillow sales, not politics. J.C. Penney also stopped carrying MyPillow last year, citing decreased customer demand.
Retailers weighing whether to back out of relationships with politically charged products will need to factor more than just economic realities into their calculations, said University of Washington management professor Abhinav Gupta, who researches business and politics.
“The reputational effects of being part of a big controversy can spill over into the marketplace,” he said, in part by “giving room for competitors to say, ‘Buy our product, because theirs is mired in a specific controversy.'”
He warned, though, that Amazon and Costco, as major retailers with thousands of suppliers, run the risk of creating an unenforceable precedent if they decide to remove MyPillow products from their shelves because of the political leanings of the company’s CEO.
“You have to think about — is this going to be a one-off incident?” he said. “If the activism keeps escalating, they will have to take a stance that could implicate a large number of businesses and individuals.”
Lindell launched MyPillow in 2004, selling a foam pillow he guaranteed wouldn’t lose its shape; he claims that by 2017, the company brought in $300 million in revenue. The company has been dogged by complaints of misleading advertising — the Better Business Bureau gave it an “F” rating for running a yearslong “Buy One Get One Free” promotion — and lawsuits over Lindell’s false claim that he is a “sleep expert.”
Lindell, an evangelical Christian and recovering crack-cocaine addict, vaulted out of the realm of late-night infomercials in 2018 to become a regular fixture at Trump rallies. He is known for touting conspiracy theories: Last summer, for instance, he promoted a fake cure for COVID-19.
More recently, Lindell has boosted Trump’s false claims of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election on right-wing talk shows and to his hundreds of thousands of followers on social-media channels.
Amazon and other online retailers began to pull some merchandise with ties to election-fraud conspiracy theories from their platforms in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Their progress has been piecemeal; Amazon merchants were still selling apparel commemorating the “Battle for Capitol Hill” on Tuesday, The New York Times reported. (Those products were subsequently removed.)
Companies will likely need to continue to redefine their relationships with politically controversial vendors in the coming weeks and months, said Lawrence Parnell, a professor of strategic public relations at George Washington University.
Twenty years ago, he said, companies “left it up to consumers to decide whether they wanted to buy controversial products.” Changing consumer expectations means that’s no longer an option, he said.
“Companies need to take a stand,” he said. “You can’t be neutral on issues like this. People will respect you more for making a decision on this rather than just trying to … run out the end of the clock on the news cycle.”