Monday, September 09, 2013

Caution: meme crossing (Hasselhoff sign edition)

There are some things that are worth dying for. And some things that are even worth killing for.

But in the grand scheme of things, a life-sized cardboard cutout of David Hasselhoff doesn’t seem to meet the threshold for either.

Nonetheless, a Cumberland Farms (New England convenience store chain) clerk in Connecticut chased after a some kids who nicked a couple of signs – part of a Cumby ad campaign for iced coffee, a.k.a., Iced Hoffee – as they attempted to make their getaway. Unclear from the unclear stories whether the clerk was deliberately dragged by the SUV that the evil and reckless sign thieves were driving, icedhoffee-304or whether it was something less nefarious – hand on the door as the SUV sped off, causing the clerk to fall -  but the poor clerk found himself hospitalized in critical condition with brain injuries.  (Despite a falsely promising headline that an arrest had been made, I could find no indication that the SUV driver, who came forward voluntarily to meet with the police, has been arrested. Thus, I’m guessing that the circumstance was more likely the latter than the former.)


Clearly, if the kids in the SUV hadn’t been stealing the Hasselhoff signs, the clerk wouldn’t have fallen and injured himself. And, certainly, all hopes are that the man will fully recover from his injuries. A fall on the noggin severe enough to land you in critical can’t be any fun.

In any case, I’m quite sure that, in pursuing the Hasselhoff sign thieves, the clerk wasn’t thinking about the (non-) value – in real terms. Or about whether it was worthwhile going after a thief to begin with. We are always told, after all, that retail clerks are trained to give it up, and that however much cash is in the register, it isn’t worth their life. And if cash in the register isn’t worth a life, then surely a Hasselhoff sign isn’t either.

The clerk was probably thinking, ‘Damned kids. I just put that sign up.’ (Or maybe he was thinking ‘I’m sick of people stealing stuff. It’s just plain wrong. But at least in the case of a Hasselhoff sign theft, the thief isn’t likely to be armed and dangerous. So I’m going after these a-holes.’)

The clerk has not been identified, so it’s also easy to imagine that he may well be a “foreigner”, who doesn’t get petty-ante, lack of respect pranks like Hasselhoff sign theft. Or get the camp nature of the Hasselhoff iced coffee campaign. Let alone the hold that the continued existence of David Hasselhoff has on the nation’s collective imagination.

Not surprisingly, The Hoff took to social media when he learned of the incident:

“I am shocked & truly saddened about the Cumberland farms store clerk tragedy,” Hasselhoff said in a posting on his official Twitter account. “My heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with him and his family!” (Source: Boston CBS Local.)

By the way, it should be noted that the Shelton, Connecticut sign thieves are by no means the only ones.

Since the ad campaign featuring The Hoff was launched last summer – and an incredibly cheesy (deliberately so, of course) campaign it is -  swiping a Hasselhoff sign from Cumby’s has been memed.

Over five-hundred of the signs have been taken, and this year the store ordered extra ones to have on hand in anticipation that the meme would continue. (Year over year, however, sign theft is down. Time to get a new iced coffee meme going…)

Anyway, is anyone willing to bet against Cumby and their ad agency wanting these signs taken, hoping that all the publicity would raise awareness of Cumberland Farms and sell a few more cups of Iced Hoffee?

Too bad no one explicitly told the store clerk in Shelton to just let it go.


In truth, the Cumby clerk’s injury aside, the widespread theft of the Hasselhoff signs is actually pretty funny. And as kids-will-be-kids goes, it’s essentially pretty harmless.

It’s not like defacing property with graffiti. It’s not like destructive vandalism of the ‘let’s break into the grammar school and trash all the classrooms’ variety.It’s not like drunk driving. Or OD-ing on molly at a concert. Or sharing a gang rape on Instagram. Or bullying. Or slut shaming.

It’s pretty much good clean goofy fun.

Sure, it’s stealing. But,let’s face it, that sign was going to end up in the Cumby dumpster the minute the ad campaign ended.

This is really no big deal.

Perhaps my ethical sensitivities have been dulled by having grown up in an era when every other dorm room had a “No Parking” or “One Way” sign in it.

And there can’t be many folks of my era who didn’t have at least one colored plastic milk crate from a real milk company find its way into their possession. (They were just such an excellent storage container for LP’s, in that long ago time before there were stores specializing in storage containers.)

So I guess this is just a post that says:

  1. I hope the Cumby clerk is okay.
  2. Assuming they meant no harm, I hope not too much legal trouble befalls the Hasselhoff sign thieves.
  3. I can’t say for sure that, if I were 19 years old, I might not think it was pretty darned funny to nick a Hasselhoff sign myself.


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