Markets in everything: putting the homeless to work

by on September 26, 2005 at 6:44 am in Economics | Permalink

It is called Bumvertising

Bumvertising™, or the use of sign holding vagrants to advertise, is a development of PokerFaceBook.com’s
most recent advertising campaign. Homeless men are able to provide a
valuable and tangible service to a company, while receiving an
additional revenue stream in combination with their normal donations
from begging.

Here is a photo gallery of ads.  Here is the company’s "economic analysis" of the practice.  Here is some nasty language directed against the founders.  And it seems you pay the bums with barter:

Through his own effort and the assistance of his marketing team, Mr.
Rogovy developed signs and accumulated the resources that most bums
would find attractive. Money, sandwiches, chips, apples, water, and
other beverages have all been dispensed in order to compensate the
homeless in the Seattle Bumvertising™ campaign.

I have no direct information on how real this practice is, or if it violates minimum wage laws, but the web site appears legitimate.  Thanks to Curt Gardner for the pointer.  Comments are open if you know more.

Blog Jones September 26, 2005 at 8:01 am

We get these all the time here in Spartanburg, SC. It started with a shoe company that was shutting down; we drove by and saw this homeless guy with a sign advertising their close-out sale. It was actually kind of sad, as if they were so down on their luck that they couldn’t afford any regular advertising.

Now the practice has spread so that whenever a store closes down, like our Winn-Dixie did recently, we know because there’s a bum outside telling us.

Actually, though, ours get their own dedicated signs, instead of taking a website to their own signs. It’s almost like a stack of three smallish yard signs held together with a long stick. These guys get paid (presumably minimum wage) to hold the sign out by the road.

It’s a neat gimmick, I guess. And it doesn’t hurt the bums any.

John P. September 26, 2005 at 9:19 am

And don’t forget the Seinfeld episode in which Kramer and Newman try to hire homeless men to pull rickshaws in Manhattan. The script is here: http://www.stanthecaddy.com/the-bookstore-script.html

Blar September 26, 2005 at 11:09 am

What I want to know is what they mean by these “other beverages” that have been “dispensed in order to compensate the homeless.” A euphemism?

maurile September 26, 2005 at 1:44 pm

Here’s a link to the Daily Show’s coverage of this entrepreneurial way to help the less fortunate:

http://www.comedycentral.com/shows/the_daily_show/videos/dan_bakkedahl/index.jhtml

Click on “Face for Rent.”

Scott September 26, 2005 at 9:30 pm

It’s real. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer did a piece on the guy two weeks ago.

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/240452_bumvertising13.html

Gigahertz Inc. September 30, 2005 at 11:59 am

I don’t think there is anything wrong with hiring homeless people to advertise on the street if that is what that homeless person choses to do. I would prefer to see the business give the person a new wardrobe of clothes to wear and some food, maybe even rent a cheap hotel room for the person so they have a place to sleep (once they get their pay, they can maintain their own rent). Once a homeless person can establish a residency address (actual mailing address), they can apply for welfare (some states offer bonus start-up funds to help buy a bed, clothes, bedding/towels, cleaners, food, work boots, winter coats, etc) for some extra assistance to better your living conditions.

I have been homeless a few times after open heart surgery (have since self-taught myself new technologies to adapt as my ex-occupation of construction work was too much stress on my heart), see my Homeless Search Engine on
http://www.SpareSomeChange.com

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