Dear Hy-Vee: why are you supporting pro-slavery talk radio?

by Matthew Grimm

Hy-Vee chain advertises on talk show that advocates immigration internment and slavery, then pretends a corporation its size has no leverage regarding when its ads air…

I want to note before reposting this originally Facebook-posted call for a Righteous Boycott of the Vile Corporate Monster that is Hy-Vee, that it is not that. As America’s uberclass of rapacious loathsome MBA-misdirected corporate douchebags bobsledding the human species towards inevitable doom go, Hy-Vee is not really among them. A Midwestern grocery chain most otherwise notable for being fun to say, it is an employee-owned company (though there are, internally, some semi-contentious limits on which employees make it to employee-owner status), it is also kind of an Iowa institution, like if a supermarket could be comfort food, it would be that.

Which is why it’s actually tough to do this. As became clear in my conversation with my buddy Mackenzie, a fellow expat Iowan here in Madison, we don’t want to be mad at Hy-Vee, so much, as you’ll see later on, we had to quibble over who’s really responsible for what. Subconsciously, we see Hy-Vee as a little bit of Iowa embassy here in town, which I think becomes clear in my initial email to them. Anyway, here’s how it played out:

Just so you guys know, I was supernice in my email to Hy-Vee. I don’t know why I feel the need to emphasize that, but I fucking was, and I’ll prove it. Anyway, if you shop at Hy-Vee – and I do love Hy-Vee irrationally just being an Iowa native – it may be time to opt for Woodman’s or Copps or Fareway or Aldi for a bit. I know my grocery bucks aren’t much, but, as my missive to them (below, w/ response) states, I don’t have much else I can really do.


Hi, Hy-Vee people,

Just wanted to send an email about something that I realize is not your fault but that you should at least be made aware of. I know I am just a lone customer and who cares what I think, right? But I grew up in Iowa and have always loved Hy-Vee and when I moved to Madison, I was particularly heartened to find Hy-Vee had opened stores here. YAY!

However, apparently your company headquarters is sponsoring the radio show of a guy on WHO radio in Des Moines who has said some unconscionable things. The guy, Jan Mickelson, is a conservative voice on a conservative station, and THAT’S FINE, whatever, that’s most talk radio everywhere, I understand we can all change the channel. Except Mickelson, apparently aroused by the ugly xenophobic wave sweeping the country, recently called for wholesale government detention of undocumented migrant workers and their families and their “enslavement” to do forced labor. Offered a chance to back away from this, Mickelson doubled down on it. There are many means of dealing with immigration issues, but advocating slavery and concentration camps would be something that, at very least, I would think Hy-Vee would not want to lend its name, reputation and sponsorship to. I believe the show is even broadcast from “the Hy-Vee Studios.” And yet [Hy-Vee prez] Mr. Edeker has refused to address this.

Look, I know this is not the fault of the stores here in Madison, but my means of recourse on this are really limited to sending this email in hopes that word gets back to corporate hq, and, I hate to say, choosing not to shop at Hy-Vee. I plan to spread this around to my friends in person and via social media as well, both here and in Iowa, and lord knows folks in Madison have had their fill of reactionaries poisoning the public dialogue with well-calibrated divisive rhetoric. I don’t want to, believe me, but I don’t feel I have a choice other than to withdraw my meager shopping dollars from the Hy-Vee brand, at least until such a time as Mr. Edeker and employee owners decide to withdraw sponsorship of such loathsome retail hatred.

I don’t think it’s going out on too long a limb to suggest perhaps Hy-Vee should not fiscally support advocates of slavery. And if this kind of extremist antipathy is something the company DOES support, well, I probably shouldn’t be shopping there anyway, I suppose.

So there it is. If you’ve bothered to read this all the way through, thanks, and hope to see you sooner versus later.



Dear Matthew,

Thank you for contacting Hy-Vee.

We have more than 235 stores in eight Midwestern states, and our customers represent a diverse cross-section of backgrounds, cultures and opinions. We respect our customers’ right to express their views and beliefs, and we support civil public discourse. But our radio ads are aired at the discretion of local stations, and do not constitute a sponsorship or endorsement of any program, opinion or host.


Stacie M.
Customer Care Representative


Thank you very much for the response, Stacie. But wouldn’t this be a case where the sponsor of the radio station overall might want assume the discretion of where its ads might air, much less exercise some leverage with the title-sponsorship of the studio from which the show in question is broadcast?

It’s Hy-Vee’s money, after all.


As mentioned, Mackenzie and I had a long back-and-forth in the comments of the post. She’s a brilliant person, progressive as the day is long and more than capable of discerning these issue. But, having worked in media, she brought up the question of how much control the company might have over what pods its ads go into on X station, as per Stacie M’s blanket qualification. So is it a SPONSOR-sponsor, or just a WHO sponsor, and the spots fall where the station flings them?

This is one of the most entrenched insitutional advertisers in Iowa. Hy-Vee is in every major and minor metro, and, in Des Moines, for better or worse, WHO-AM is even more entrenched an institution. It’s the WGN of Iowa. Fucking Reagan worked for them, which most Iowans know because they don’t let you forget. This is a business partnership that goes back, and, indeed, is so chummy that Hy-Vee title-sponsors the studios from which are broadcast the handful of local-interest programs in between the standard rogue’s gallery of reactionary flagships (Limbaugh, Hannity, et al). It is not zany fiction to posit that there is a regular line of communication between the company, its agency and the radio station. Hy-Vee has leverage there.

Should it use its leverage to make sure all content it advertises on is a lovely neutral gray, or that only is the fervent leftist radio muckraking that A) I drink like the tears of cut-off trust-fund babies and B) don’t exist? Mackenzie made a good point we always have to keep in mind in these matters: “You also have to consider that Hy-Vee as a corporation based in Iowa is going to also need to play it pretty neutral or advertise on all fronts, because they can’t afford to have only liberals shop at their stores given their locations. As a fan of Hy-Vee in general, I’d hate to see them suffer because they developed their business in a state that used to be more blue but is now more crazy-red.” She is speaking of the Koch Industries colony once called Wisconsin, which we now call Wississippi.

I re-emphasized I don’t really, honestly expect Hy-Vee to not advertise on shitty old school media that tends to be populated with seething reactionary dickbags, listened to by seething fear-motivated Iowans. That’s not the issue. The issue, as I wrote Mackenzie, is this dickbag took his seething across a pretty well-demarcated line “that this is BEYOND just differences of opinion. A lotta people used [scattershot ad placement] as a defense of advertising with Limbaugh when the big tsunami started against him — ‛look, guys, we want EVERYBODY’s money’ — and we understand that, nobody’s gonna just advertise to LIBERALS or whatever, but at length, a TON of them decided calling women whores was a bit beyond. I do think it’s worth articulating to the company that making people slaves is a bit beyond.”

Which should be read as a deliberate understatement.

To make my earlier point, this is obviously not just scorched-earth broadside against Hy-Vee as I would have no compunction directing toward Exxon-Mobil or Goldman Sachs or McDonald’s or Nestle or everyone in the insurance industry or anyone else who works so tirelessly and unabashedly to make the world a profoundly shittier place each day. I’m not trying to be a dick to Stacie M., for whom cutting-and-pasting that thing is probably an odious part of a job that requires her to do way more important shit. But, as I asked in my initial query, shouldn’t this be a dialogue you have with companies you do business with? Isn’t it okay to at least ask this stuff? And shouldn’t they maybe really substantively engage it before they get any more of my dollars?

A whole bunch of Iowans and Madisonians participating in the facebook thread, including my Aunt Judith, who thinks I swear way too much, think they probably should.

By the way, Hy-Vee president Randy Edeker’s email is


“The Stephen Colbert of Heartland Rock,” Matthew Grimm is a solo recording artist and the former frontman for The Hangdogs. Visit him at

2 replies »

  1. Dear Matthew

    Thank you for contacting Hy Vee and for your passion and persistence in bringing this to our attention.

    However, after discussion with our marketing department, I have learned that our advertising on Mackenzie’s show is actually not because he’s part of a package media buy, but rather because our segmentation has found that our major demographic is in fact bigoted zenophobes who don’t know shit about shit and are attracted to ridiculous ideas and preposterous statements. While this demographic is no larger in Iowa than in other rural states, it’s particularly attractive these days because of the opportunity to piggyback our brand with that of demagogues popular in our state right now, like Donald Trump.

    Sincerely…no really, sincerely: Fuck you.

    Stacie M