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Steve Sando

Steve Sando, owner and founder of Rancho Gordo, recently made the decision to cut ties with shipping provider FedEx, due to its support of the National Rifle Association. He says that in 2017 his business spent more than $500,000 on shipping with the company but will now find another carrier.

J.L. Sousa, Register

Steve Sando, the owner of Rancho Gordo New World Specialty Food, spends more than half a million dollars each year shipping his heirloom beans to destinations worldwide.

Until Monday, FedEx shipped the lion’s share.

But not anymore.

Sando, who said he was fed up with gun violence, stopped using FedEx as his main shipper.

Sando said he could no longer work with FedEx because it provides discounts to National Rifle Association members.

“The NRA is a really powerful machine that doesn’t allow dialog about gun violence,” said Sando.

Sando, who described his politics as “progressive,” said he doesn’t want his business to be associated with such a group.

This small business owner said he’s always been shocked by the school shootings in the U.S. But after his own son, a New Technology High School student, was part of a lockdown during the Jan. 17 shooting at Starbucks, “it became personal,” said Sando.

Sando said the incident challenged his “‘It couldn’t happen here’ mentality.”

Then, after hearing about how other companies were dropping FedEx because of the shipping discount that FedEx offers NRA members (from 18 to 26 percent), Sando said he’d had enough.

“I was really encouraged” to follow suit, he said.

Sando explained his decision to his FedEx representative and also wrote a letter to the president of FedEx. He said he gave the company one last chance to change its mind, but as of Monday, the NRA member discount remained.

On Feb. 27, FedEx released a statement that read in part:

“FedEx Corporation’s positions on the issues of gun policy and safety differ from those of the National Rifle Association (NRA). FedEx opposes assault rifles being in the hands of civilians.

“FedEx will not deny service or discriminate against any legal entity regardless of their policy positions or political views. The NRA is one of hundreds of organizations in our alliances/association Marketing program whose members receive discounted rates for FedEx shipping. FedEx has never set or changed rates for any of our millions of customers around the world in response to their politics, beliefs or positions on issues.”

“I realize I’m a cup in the ocean,” Sando said regarding FedEx’s revenue. In 2017, the company reported revenue of $15.7 billion.

However, in 2017 Rancho Gordo spent more than $500,000 with FedEx, he said. During the past three to four years that he’s been an exclusive FedEx customer, he’s spent “well over” $1 million on FedEx services.

“FedEx was a huge part of our success last year,” Sando admitted.

He said he loves his FedEx representatives and the local delivery drivers. But, “I just can’t live with” supporting a business that supports the NRA.

Sando doesn’t think it’s too much to ask FedEx to end the NRA member discount.

“Every other company with a hint of a conscience” would do so, he said.

Besides Sando’s decision to change carriers, he said a handful of his own customers called and asked him to stop shipping with FedEx.

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Sando also announced his plan to stop using FedEx on his Facebook page.

While the response so far has been 97 percent positive, Sando acknowledged there was always the chance that his idea would backfire.

“My fear was I’d alienate customers,” he admitted. “It could absolutely be the wrong decision. But I have to do the right thing in this case.”

Sando made clear he’s not attacking the Second Amendment. “No one is saying take guns away,” he said.

“A lot of times we feel helpless” about what is happening with gun violence, he said. But, “this is something I can do.”

The switch won’t be easy, he said. “It’s a nightmare.”

His computer system is set up with FedEx pricing and compatible software. He’ll have to retrain his employees and figure out how to work with the UPS computer system.

Such a change may cost him in lost productivity, he said.

“It certainly slows us down,” said Sando. “The bottom line is – we have to do it.”

UPS came on Tuesday for its first pickup, he said.

“I’m serious about this,” Sando said.


Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.