Brooks Brothers, Save the Children
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?
Him: You know, the Fountainhead?
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?
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...