(Ad)Busted in Vancouver, Redux

24 11 2010

(Note: The following is a re-posting of an essay I wrote for my students back in Canyon on 28 November 2003 while I was in Vancouver BC teaching in our Canada MBA program. With Buy Nothing Day rapidly approach (26 Nov 2010), I thought it apropos to pull this one from the archives.)

I often make references to the Adbusters group in my courses. They are very much against commercialism, materialism, rampant consumption, free trade, and other hallmarks of a free society. The word “liberal” is almost too conservative to describe them.

In 1997 they started Buy Nothing Day, to be held on “Black Friday,” the day after American Thanksgiving. Black Friday is one of the biggest shopping days in the US (and erroneously referred to as the biggest day). The Adbusters group, known for their “culture jamming,” decreed that we should NOT buy anything on this very important shopping day.

They have received a lot of free publicity from their endeavors. That year (2003), CNN ran a story on BND on the 27th of November (American Thanksgiving).

Well, as you know, I was in Vancouver BC Canada during Thanksgiving. I also happened to recall that Adbusters is headquartered in Vancouver.

Ah ha…and now you know where I’m going with this!

I thought it would be extremely appropriate for me to visit them on Black Friday, or BND, as they call it…to see if they would sell me something.

Having awakened to a downpour (nothing new in wintertime Vancouver!), I got my oldest daughter ready, and dove into Vancouver a.m. traffic, headed for an address I had peeled off the Adbusters website.

I traveled westward on West 7th Ave, and managed to go right past the place. I was confused, because I was in what appeared to be a residential district. I turned around, and headed east a little more slowly…and then saw the little sign on the north side of the street. The main entrance was a few steps down into a basement of a large, old house.

Stepping across the threshold, daughter in my arms, I beheld the headquarters of the anti-marketer.

A couple of very casually dressed people said hello, one a woman, the other a man. Mac computers adorned several desks. Magazines were stacked everywhere in huge bundles. Buy Nothing Day posters hung on the wall, along with other evidence of their political leanings (like their opposition to the western hemisphere free trade talks in Miami earlier that month).

The two looked very thin. Why is it that capitalism’s biggest critics always look hungry?

I said hello in return, began thumbing through some magazines, and then picked up a 2004 Adbusters calendar.

I casually asked the woman, “Hey, are these for sale?”

“Yes,” she replied.

“How much?”

“They’re $15, but we’ll let you have it for $10 here in the office.”

“How about magazines?”

“Six dollars in the store, but $3 here.”

“Can I have one of each?”

“Sure!”

Man, I never thought it would be so easy to catch someone in the act of hypocrisy. Here it was, their self-proclaimed Buy Nothing Day, and they were tripping over themselves trying to sell me things.

I handed over a CAD$20, which they had difficulty handling. They returned with a handful of parking meter money.

Then I told them, “In real life, I’m a marketing professor. I’ve used your site for years to have my students see what the other side is saying.”

You should have seen their jaws drop, for they knew they had just been busted.

Continuing to play with them, I seized the moment. Carpe diem, baby. “Yeah, I like to use the Fox News approach to teaching…you know, a ‘fair and balanced’ education.”Even though I don’t like Fox News, it was a convenient card to play.

“So, do you have any literature I could take back to the classroom with me?”

“Hmmm….we don’t actually have anything…but wait, we have some back issues here.”

I walked away with a year’s worth of magazines, my ill-gotten calendar and current issue, my daughter, and the satisfaction of knowing that even the most liberal of folk have a capitalistic gene in their DNA.

I loaded my daughter and propaganda into the rental van, drove to Toys ‘R Us to buy my kids a treat, and then headed off to the magnificent MetroTown mall (over 450 stores bedecked in all their greedy capitalist glory!).

And we proceeded to spend unimpeded. This. That. One thing. Another.

So much for Buy Nothing Day.

Dr “You’re Busted!” Gerlich

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One response

24 11 2010
Dr. Sandi Gardner

Gotcha! Love it! Who would suspect that they would be participating in Buy Nothing Day….it wasn’t “SELL nothing day”.
I did go to the AdBusters Site to see if they were still doing this and sure enough, it’s there again! This time they’ve used technology to have “meet ups” Alas, Looks like there is not one near you! But one person does want to meet up in Commerce Texas. I think there is something unusual about that one.

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