Mar 28, 2007

Brooks Brothers, Save the Children

These are actually two different topics, not a sentence in the imperative.

1. Brooks Brothers' latest ad campaign cracked me up when I saw a print version lying on the kitchen table at work. I couldn't get over the sense that they seem to be mocking the very people they're selling to. I mean, look at this:

What the heck kind of party is this? If you were on the beach and came upon these people, what would you think? You'd laugh, right? Especially Mr. Guy with the linen sports jacket and the v-neck with the stripes at the collar. I like how there are also Black Folks at this beach party, maybe some relatives of Barack Obama showed up.

2. There is a company called "Dialogue Direct" that hires gregarious young people to stalk the street corners in center city and try to get you to sign up for a monthly giving program to either Children's International, the World Wildlife Federation, or alternately Save the Children. They kind of rotate through the three of them every few months. Sometimes you'll see the same college-aged kid on the same corner for a few weeks at a time, but then they get burnt out from constant rejection and give up to go work at Whole Foods or something.

Today, this nice, crunchy looking guy (probably a summertime camp drama counsellor) approach me with the usual tactic. He stuck out his hand and told me his name, which is supposed to endear me to him, and then I'm supposed to tell him my name (forming a bond between us). He asked me if I was a teacher. I said no.

Him: What are you?
Me: Uh, I'm an architect.
Him: Oh, cool, so what does that mean?
Me: Excuse me?
Him: Do you draw up the plans?
Me: Sorta, yeh.
Him: Like Ayn Rand?
Me: Huh?
Him: You know, the Fountainhead?
Me: Right.
Him: Did you read that book?
Me: Yes. I'm not a Rand fan.
Him: Oh, heh heh, you mean you're not an objectivist?
Me: No. [start digging in my purse]
Him: I read it, I thought it was very interesting.
Me: [edging away] I thought that book was sorta horrifying. I have to go now...
Him: No! Wait! You thought Ellsworth was horrifying?
Me: Yeh, the whole book. Horrifying. Um, bye! [start jogging away and almost get hit by car, realize I am going the wrong way and go around block to avoid him]

That's sorta the end, but this is only one of a million interactions I've had with these kids. Sometimes I am nice and then say, "Good luck, I gotta go." Sometimes I talk to them for awhile, but not lately. Once, the day after I got a raise, I broke down and sponsored a child so now I'm already signed up for the monthly thing, but telling the kids that doesn't stop them, they usually ask me if wouldn't I in fact like to sponsor another child?

Another good one was the time I was sitting on a ledge waiting for something to happen, and I was watching the same guy try to work up conversations with all the people walking by. It was so depressing to see how many didn't even make eye contact with him. I called him over, which confused him. He sat down next to me, and I said,

Me: Why are you doing this?
Him: Huh?
Me: I mean, this has to be the WORST JOB EVER.
Him: It's not so bad.
Me: I would be totally demoralized by all the rejection.
Him: I don't take it personally.
Me: You shouldn't, I just still wouldn't be able to deal with it.
Him: Eh, I'm going back to school soon anyway.
Me: Do you get paid enough to make it worth it?
Him: Eh, not a lot.
Me: Well, good luck.
Him: Uh, thanks.

Later, through talking to yet another one of them, I found out that they get paid a small wage, and then they get a commission when they ensnare someone. Their main company gets paid the equivalent of two years of the contribution rate for every sponsorship. This means that until you have been paying the World Wildlife Federation for two whole years, the WWF doesn't even break EVEN from paying Dialogue Direct.

Somehow this depresses me more. We have nonprofits hiring a for-profit to get them subscriptions, and they don't even see any value from it for at least two years (assuming the person stays on that long). Plus, a whole mess of kids has to endure constant semi-social rejection on street corners. Plus, those of us who work around here have to deal with it. I don't know, I just don't think this whole scheme is a net positive for the world...


Anonymous Anonymous opined...

Kenneth Rexroth wrote a poem called "Thou Shalt Not Kill: A Memorial for Dylan Thomas" at the time of Thomas' death in 1953. Here are some snippets (note the Brooks Brothers ref in the last line).

They are murdering all the young men.
For half a century now, every day,
They have hunted them down and killed them.
They are killing them now. At this minute, all over the world,
They are killing the young men.
They know ten thousand ways to kill them.
Every year they invent new ones.

The first born of a century
Slaughtered by Herod.
Three generations of infants
Stuffed down the maw of Moloch.

You killed him! You killed him.
In your God damned Brooks Brothers suit,
You son of a bitch!

10:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous opined...

I am African-American and I shop at Brook Brothers, in fact last night I purchased several items from them. Brooks Brothers is a hidden gem, because the tailors, if told, can cut a suit jacket, sport coat, or pants off the rack to look couture –– no matter the cost. For example, a BB sports coat is boxy by nature. A snip, clip, and tuck it looks more like a $1000 jacket than a $248 jacket.

By the way, I would be at the party with my wife (black) and fit right in, so Barak because of the labels people have put on him as "clean", "articulate", amoung others stereotypes in the 21st century could be the biggest insult to people like me that never would insult you by comparsion to others. Millions of blacks from around the world would feel comfortable at this party on the beach, however, hearing comments like yours speaks of the power of schemas that penatrate popular culture. In 1957, you would have disparaged as not good enough or sum it as "pick a name of the day"; in 2007 you summed up, blacks that are doing better, educated, and in pursuit of power with a name -- Barak. What in you allows you to make such comments?

8:42 AM  
Blogger Dubin opined...

I'll be happy to tell you what in me allows me to make such comments. I'm pretty suspicious of marketing in general, and when I see Brooks Brothers stategically placing "diversity" in their ads, I get cynical about their motives. They just want to sell clothes, and diversity has become a marketing tool these days.

By the way, just because I'm white doesn't mean Brooks Brothers has historically marketed to me any more than to you. Jews are probably even lower on their marketing pyramid than African Americans.

I hope you understand that I find the whole Brooks Brothers model totally alienating, both from a taste point of view and a cultural/class one. If I met people who looked like that, I probably wouldn't know what to do with them, whether they be black or white. It's a style thing that seems to promote puffery and I'm not impressed with it, whoever wears it. It makes me snicker, I just didn't grow up in that type of snobbish milieu.

Finally, I'm really actually sorry the post came off the way you interpreted it. I was also about to seriously regret spelling Obama's name wrong, but then I realized that it was you who spelled it wrong. Not to split hairs or anythign.

9:19 AM  
Blogger Dubin opined...

Ross, I'm going to say something that I hope doesn't deeply offend you - remember, I say this with all due respect and affection and all that type of thing.

You remind me of my Dad.

(Except my Dad doesn't wear a Happi Coat and doesn't partake of recreational hallucinogens.)

9:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous opined...

I used to think that people who get stressed out about what other people wear to their wedding are certifiably insane, but I'm suddenly frightened that someone will wear formal shorts to my wedding. Thanks for nothing, Brooks Brothers.

And, anonymous, I don't want to get into a "what Dubin really meant" game, but I don't think her point was not that black people don't wear Brooks Brothers, but rather that when a bunch of preppy WASPs get together for their annual family taupe parade, they closest they come to actual people of color is the part where they're all talking in hushed tones about how Ashley's new beau is, you know, um. black.


9:48 PM  
Blogger karen opined...

i'd just feel sorry for people wearing those clothes- one bite of food or one moment sitting at a chair, and it's stain city! the clothes are so impractical that it's just pathetic and laughable.

10:00 PM  
Blogger Megan opined...

Dubin, Amanda! I am not a creative person who makes illustrated correspondences and understands symbols. You MUST help me. Why is the Brooks Brother's loading icon a sheep suspended from a winch? Why? Why? What does that MEAN?

9:44 AM  
Blogger Amanda Bee opined...

It is not about understanding symbols, m'dear, it is about mad research skills. To wit:


The Golden Fleece symbol was adopted as the company's trademark. A sheep suspended in a ribbon had long been a symbol of British woolen merchants. Dating from the 15th century, it had been the emblem of the Knights of the Golden Fleece, founded by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. In ancient Greek mythology, a magical flying ram, or Golden Fleece, was sought by Jason and the Argonauts.

11:18 AM  
Blogger Megan opined...

You're awesome, Amanda. I didn't think to do anything clever like 'look it up'.

Dude, I've been spelling Obama's name wrong in my head ever since I heard of him. Glad to get that corrected early on.

11:28 AM  
Blogger Dubin opined...

I bet I know why. Barak is a Hebrew name, so some kids (remember a guy named Barrak Pressler?) had that name... I don't even remember what Barrak Pressler looked like, but he was a former Portolan and Conquistador, maybe a year higher in grade than I was...

Anyway, no idea of the etymology of Barack Obama's name.

1:18 PM  
Blogger Megan opined...

Dude! I think maybe I do remember that Barrack. He went to VN, too, right? Friends with Irad, who went to every one of my schools since elementary?

1:39 PM  
Blogger Megan opined...

I just googled them both. They look EXACTLY LIKE THEMSELVES. I would totally recognize either one of them. They're doing well at their different deals, which doesn't surprise me.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Dubin opined...



1:42 PM  
Blogger Dubin opined...

Hey, watch this. I'm going to put both their names right here (Irad Eyal and Barrak Pressler!) and see how long it takes for them to google themselves and wind up here and say, "who the hell is Dubin?" It's funny, I doubt they remember me and I don't even remember them really except I remember EXACTLY what they look like, and you're right, they still look like that.

Also, when I describe high school I usually remember it as 100% asian people plus me and Sara Khademi. But I am rewriting history kind of, because then these NJBs from the past keep popping up in conversation. Speaking of NJBs, seems like according to one google result, Barrak is single. Check him out...

2:25 PM  
Blogger Spungen opined...

Great reporting re the Save The Children scam (that's what it sounds like to me). I wonder how big the net benefit is to these organizations? Clearly they think they're getting people who wouldn't be interested any other way ...

I remember in college, for a while the campus and its surroundings were crawling with alleged "students" (student-aged, anyway) who were selling magazine subscriptions. They wouldn't tell you that though. They'd ask you if you'd voted yet. You'd think you just had to check off a box or something. They'd engage you in conversation, ask for information, string you along, then finally let out that "voting" meant purchasing subscriptions from them. They'd claim it was a selective contest they were only allowed in because they were honors students. They would deny under all circumstances that they were selling anything.

I also remember some political campaign, "Voter Revolt," recruiting organizers in college for summer work. It was something like what you described -- making door-to-door cold calls and getting a cut of whatever you collected. I sat through a long meeting before I figured that out, though, and the flier gave the impression the work was much more sophisticated and intellectual.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Megan opined...

I remember Barrak - he was the year between us, right? I bet he'd remember my sister more than me. But we were kinda friends.

I would be hurt if Irad didn't remember me. I bet I could still find his old house -- my Dad drove us to summercamp the year before I went to Welby Way. He seems to be a big IMDB star now, but I remember the first play he was ever in, directed by Ms. Plaisance.

3:46 PM  
Blogger Caroline opined...

Ugh! I hate those Save the Children kids! They also say, "don't you want to save a child today?" so that any answer you give in the negative or indecisive vein just immediately renders you an a**hole: "No, I don't want to save a child," ... or ... "I can't save a child right now, but maybe later."

4:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous opined...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous opined...

It seems like someone in Philly agrees with you:


12:16 PM  
Anonymous Barrak Pressler opined...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:56 PM  
Blogger Megan opined...


That was fast. The internet are magic. It is good to see you're doing well. Now I want Irad to show up.

12:30 AM  
Blogger Irad Eyal opined...

Holy crap, I can't believe Barrak beat me by a year and a half. Ever since Mrs. Cohen's math class he's always trying to show me up. I'm actually kind of offended that he didn't bother to notify me or anything. I'm sure he had a good excuse (naked mole rat required CPR, lemur with bladder infection). I'm wondering what he wrote that necessitated the purge.

But it's great to know you guys are out there. Dubin, I'm sorry to say I didn't remember you although I now know all about you, your sister, family etc... after several hours of online stalking er... research. And Megan, I totally remember you, although not sure why we were carpooling pre-Welby Way. Was that the summer of the Poppy Seed cakes? Do you remember Jared Benson? We recently tried to connect with Ms. Plaisance but she didn't respond :( Jared wanted to put together a class reunion. She's still there though.

Okay, this blog hasn't been updated in a while so who knows if you guys will see this. Thanks for the shout-out. I'm going to email Dr. Pressler now.

- Irad

2:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous opined...

This is David R. Pressler. Barrak's dad. I just happened to Google Barrak, as I do sometimes, and ran into this link.
My congratulations for you guys keeping in touch. I'm sure that I know some if not all of you guys.
And, for the record, I'd also like to know what Dr.-Dr. Pressler wrote that necessitated removal by the Administrator. I guess he hasn't changed much, huh? Regards.

1:50 PM  
Blogger Dubin opined...

Well, let me tell you about how Barrak (not to be confused with Barack) spewed profanity all over my website here and I had to purge him!

Actually, that may not have been what happened. I'll have to consult the long-term storage part of my memory banks. Let me get back to you...

1:05 PM  
Blogger Sydney Pendle opined...

now i know why they say at least 2 years.

6:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous opined...

You should check how fundraising companies get paid instead of posting bullshit. That's number one. You should also open your eyes and see what is happening in the world around you and see what human beings, such as the ones that run Save the Children and Amnesty International, are doing to make it a better place. That is number two. Also, every non-profit is required to post the amount of resources that go into fundraising, administration, and programmatic work. You will find that Save the Children spends over 90 cents of every dollar on programs. The Better Business Bureau checks these stats and verifies them independently for every non-profit it lists. Just in case you think they fudge the numbers. How about you check the bbb for your information next time. That is number three. Lastly, you fuckin signed up as a child sponsor because someone canvassed you and convinced you (and you are so superior)that it was a good idea. Good for you. But you are still a fuckin mess of person riddled with sad, smug, half-thoughts. I hope you are a good architect, because the rest needs some examination.

3:56 AM  
Blogger Lorcan opined...

Hi: I have had similer experiences with Direct Dialogue. Here is a link to some photos of some of their thugs threatening me, and the annonymous support replies to the many folks who report their own annoyance with these people.
All the best
Lorcan Otway

1:21 PM  
Blogger Lorcan opined...

PS The link does not seem to work, but you can find the story and photos on Lorcan Otway, and agressive fundraising, as search terms, or Children International or Direct Dialogue. If you still can't find the link, feel free to email me, at InOBU at
All the best

1:23 PM  
Blogger Zahid Hossain opined...

I'd simply feel frustrated about individuals wearing those garments one chomp of nourishment or one minute sitting at a seat, and it's stain city! the garments are impractical to the point that it's recently terrible and ludicrous.
Also visit my web site:
Belly Dance Tutorial For Beginners

11:36 PM  

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