Advertising Makes a Difference

Several years ago I saw an advertisement on a bench at a bus stop.  It said “Without Advertising, a Terrible Thing Happens . . . Nothing.”  The bench itself was an advertisement for advertising space.

So – advertising happens all over the place, everywhere, all of the time.  Some of it happens on billboards.  Sometimes farmers park trucks in their fields with a whole assortment of advertisements.  In the old days, Burma-Shave developed a creative advertising scheme with a series of billboards posted along highways.  (“Burma‑Shave was an American brand of brushless shaving cream, famous for its advertising gimmick of posting humorous rhyming poems on small, sequential, highway‑billboard signs” – from Wikipedia).  These days a lot of advertising is done electronically over the internet, over radio, and on television.  But there’s also a lot that happens through printed media or advertisements.

Sometimes readers expect advertising.  For example, when we pick up a newspaper, we expect to see advertisements.  When we access some websites, we may also expect to see advertisements

But other times, consumers don’t expect – or at least, they don’t want – advertisements.  I’ve heard more than one person complain about receiving calls from telemarketers – or “cold” calls – at home.  Seems like these calls typically come just when you’re sitting down to dinner. The marketing can be very effective, since it penetrates all the way through someone’s house straight to their kitchen.  But when a homeowner or renter is just putting the finishing touches on dinner, or hustling to get out the door for a concert, or hearing about their son or daughter’s day at school, then they may expect that the call they receive is from a friend or relative – and not a telemarketer.  As a result, there can be an expectation that isn’t met – or a disappointment or an unpleasant surprise – that can generate some feelings of frustration by the person receiving the call.

I don’t usually have a problem with telemarketers.  After all, they are people too.  Since they’ve violated my expectation by calling to sell me something when I’m expecting instead to hear from a friend or relative, I figure turn-about is fair play, and I violate a bit of their expectation.  Instead of getting angry, or short-tempered, or yelling at them, I ask them where they are from, or ask them some completely unrelated questions, or get them to laugh.  It generally takes them off guard.  They don’t know what to do.  It’s thirty seconds of indoor sport.  And then I thank them for calling and politely excuse myself.

I’ve occasionally gone to ball games and found a flyer, or handbill, on my windshield when I’ve come out to my car after the game.  And I’ve also found fliers on my windshield when I’ve parked at a retail business or mall.  But I don’t think I’ve ever received a handbill or flyer at my hotel room when I’ve stayed in a hotel.

And if you think about it, a big hotel has many rooms close together – so it could be ripe territory for distributing handbills by slipping them under the doors of the rooms.  But in California, such activity can be illegal pursuant to statute.  Section 17210 of the California Business and Professions Code defines a “handbill” as “any tangible commercial solicitation to guests of the hotel urging that they patronize any commercial enterprise.” And the section defines “hotel” to mean any “hotel, motel, bed and breakfast inn, or other similar transient lodging establishment” (but it excludes certain “residential” hotels.”)

The code section states that a person who “deposits, places, throws, scatters, casts, or otherwise distributes any handbill to any individual guest room (including placement underneath any guest room door, or placement on a doorknob) is liable for “unfair competition” if the innkeeper has objected to such handbill distribution (either orally or by posting signs at certain locations).

However –  handbill distribution to a guest room is not prohibited if the guest has requested or approved the distribution of the handbill to that guest.

So – next time you’re staying in a California motel, just know that you can approve handbill distribution at your room in advance, and that you can thereafter properly receive handbills.   Figuring out how to do this is another story.

The motel handbill distribution law has other provisions not discussed here.  Persons considering distributing handbills at hotels, or innkeepers with handbill questions, should consult competent legal counsel.

Copyright 2017 ROBERT B. JACOBS