‘Thrown in their face’: Bud Lite salespeople say boycott hurts commission

Salespeople pitching Pod Lite for a Florida distributor got used to car horns, middle fingers and jokes amid a weeks-long boycott, but say they struggled to ignore thousands of dollars in lost commission salaries, two sales supervisors at the distributor told ABC News. .

A typical salesperson at the distributor made nearly $2,000 less in May than he would have over the past two years, mainly suffering from a 60% drop in Bud Light sales during the week ending Memorial Day, sales supervisors said.

One overseer said, “This has really killed a lot of men who depend on commission. That’s what really hurts me.” “There’s nothing they can do – this has been thrown in their faces.”

A consumer boycott of Anheuser-Busch InBev over an April promotion from a passing influencer has battered the company’s stock, but it’s also brought financial pain to thousands of salespeople at independent distributors across the country, many of whom rely largely on performance-based pay, he stated. Anson Frakes, former CEO of Anheuser-Busch InBev, told ABC News.

Bud Light sales have been declining for seven consecutive weeks after a product endorsement from Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender influencer, sparked backlash among many conservatives.

The boycott gained momentum, meanwhile, after some LGBTQ advocates deemed the initial response from the company conciliatory, frustrating the left.

Those losses slashed the income of salespeople who work for the nearly 500 independent wholesalers who sell Anheuser-Busch drinks to restaurants, bars and grocery stores, according to interviews with two distributors and Frericks sales supervisors.

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Sales supervisors and distributors declined to be named because they did not want to be identified publicly speaking about the financial consequences of the boycott.

Salespeople’s compensation varies greatly between different distributors, but the typical salesperson earns about $60,000 a year, including $20,000 in variable pay that’s largely commission-based, said Frikes, who left Anheuser-Busch InBev last year. .

“Good people will start leaving because they don’t make money,” Frakes told ABC News.

On an earnings call last month, Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Michel Docris acknowledged the pressures the boycott has placed on workers in the field.

“This situation has affected our employees and especially our frontline workers: delivery drivers, salespeople, wholesalers, bud owners and servers,” Docris said.

Docris added, “These people are the fabric of our business. They are our neighbors, our family and our friends. They are in every community in America.” “We did everything we could to support our teams.”

Anheuser-Busch said in a statement to ABC News that the boycott has had an impact but that they remain committed to bringing people together.

“Anheuser-Busch employs more than 18,000 people, and our independent wholesaler partners have an additional 47,000 colleagues. The current situation has affected our employees especially front-line workers including delivery drivers and sales representatives. These people are our neighbors, family members and friends. They are there. In every community in America. And as we move forward, we will continue to do everything we can to support our teams as we work tirelessly to do what we do best – bring people together for a beer,” the statement read.

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Bud Light sales across the US were down nearly 26% during the week ended May 20 compared to the same period a year ago, according to data from Bump Williams Consulting and Nielsen NIQ reviewed by ABC News.

At an Anheuser-Busch distributor in the Midwest, nine salespeople rely on commission for roughly two-thirds of their salary, the distributor’s president told ABC News.

The president added that salespeople experienced an overall decrease in sales in May ranging between 6% and 26% compared to the same month in the previous year, which translates into losses of between $200 and $900.

In a meeting with salespeople earlier this month, the boss told them, “None of this is your fault and none of this is mine,” he recounts. He undertook to pay each of them a lump sum which would put his income for the previous month at or above where he would have stood without the losses.

“I am frustrated that this happened [dragged] As long as that is the case, the distributor chief said. “I hope we are moving in the right direction.”

Anheuser-Busch InBev has also provided financial support to the front-line workers at its independent distributors, Ducris said on the earnings call last month. The company provided $500 per employee and additional advertising spend last month, and Wall Street Journal mentioned.

Certainly, some Anheuser-Busch salespeople at independent distributors rely on little or no commission on sales.

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The owner of a different Midwest distributor said the company once paid salespeople outright on commission but stopped the practice in recent years because sales varied so widely between the strong summer months and the weak winter months.

“The staff has never been so bad with me,” said the owner, referring to the interruption.

Morris Schweitzer, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business who studies consumer movements, said the losses incurred by some salespeople at Anheuser-Busch distributors represented an unexpected consequence of the consumer boycott.

“This has a disproportionate impact on a handful of people who had little or nothing to do with the decision that outraged people,” Schweizer told ABC News. “It has a series of unintended consequences.”

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