Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sweet, Sweet Snobbery

It would be very easy for me to be a snob on a lot of levels. Academics are notorious for looking down at people and finding the tastes and opinions of the hoi-polloi quite horrid and distasteful.

Luckily enough, I am not that sort of person. I am of the "regular guy" faction in academia, a movement that I hope grows. Academics have a bad enough reputation as it is.

So, when I notice people trying to use knowledge (or the semblance of it) to try and make people feel bad or inferior, it usually makes me pretty mad.

Especially when the entity doing the belittling is a business. Money, as I see it, can be the great equalizer...if I got the cash, I gets to play. Simple as that.

We all know that it is not as simple as that, but dammit, it should be.

Anyway, the commercial enterprise in question is a candy shop on Capital Square in Madison. Click here and you will immediatley see what sort of place this is.

A small box of their chocolates would keep me in beer and pizza for three weeks, that's what sort of place it is.

This snooty chocolate place recently had a sign out in front that read something like this:

"Fifteen kinds of chocolate and none of them are named after a baseball player."

Well, aren't we grand?

I assume they are referring to the fact that the Baby Ruth candy bar is supposedly named for Babe Ruth. Because it is, right?

Well, maybe.

The story that is told by the original makers of the Baby Ruth bar (the Curtiss Candy Company of Chicago) was that it was named for the daughter of President Grover Cleveland, who was apparently called "Baby Ruth." Uhh, ok. I guess. Seems a bit obscure.

This was the story that I always heard and, given lack of better evidence, believed. Well, it turns out that the Curtiss Candy Company might have been trying to pull a fast one over on the Sultan of Swat and then feeding people a line.

It seems that the Baby Ruth was introduced in 1920, just when a certain New York Yankee named George Herman Ruth was starting to shine and get really popular. In a lot of ways, Babe Ruth can be seen as one of the first real celebrity spokesmen; he lent his name to everything from chewing tobacco to underwear...for a fee.

Well, the Curtiss Candy Company didn't want to pay that fee apparently, so they named it something like Babe Ruth but not quite so that they could capitalize on his popularity.

So why is the story about Grover Cleveland's daughter not really plausible? Ruth Cleveland died of diptheria in 1904; her father left the White House in 1897. So, in effect, they say that they were naming a viable new product after the long-dead daughter of a former president? Really?

Back to the snooty candy shop in Madison. Bearing these two stories in mind, they either are flat out wrong (the apocryphal story about Ruth Cleveland) or mistaken (Babe Ruth never consented or was paid to promote the Baby Ruth Bar).

In either case, I can tell you what they are not: a place I would ever spend a plug nickel. Any place that in adverts talks to their customers like that deserves no business at all. Insulting your customer's intellect is just about the worst way to get their business.

Luckily, there is a Walgreen's next door where last time I checked, Baby Ruth bars (among others) were on sale three for a dollar...and they came from a pharmacy, so they are prescription strength Baby Ruth bars.

Nice try, though, snotty chocolatier. Just get your facts straight before you try to use them to make people feel stupid.

(Thanks to these sites for the Baby Ruth and Grover Cleveland info).


Matt Jenks said...

You could really stretch it if you were a certain assbag chocolatier and say "Well, what about Grover Cleveland Alexander? He played baseball!" Because you know those intolerable assholes haven't a clue about sports because they're "elite" and beyond "barbarism".

I share your disdain for such advertising. Yes, I'm sure they're chocolate is very good, but then, most chocolate is very good. Except Baby Ruths. I hate those fucking things.

Lost A Sock said...

"Prescription Strength Baby Ruth Bars" cracked me up. That's awesome.