You may already have seen the video.
“Abercrombie & Fitch is a terrible company,” intones the creator and star, Los Angeles writer Greg Karber. “Their CEO insists on only hiring attractive people, which is ironic because he looks like this.” (The video shows a still photo of Abercrombie CEO Mike Jeffries, whose face seems nearly disfigured by plastic surgery.)
In a week already roiling with debate over Jeffries’ retailing strategy to clothe only slender, “cool” people, Karber’s 2½-minute video has struck a nerve. Posted Monday, “Abercrombie & Fitch gets a brand readjustment #fitchthehomeless” had more than 4.3 million views on YouTube by Thursday morning. His Twitter feed has become a series of announcements about which TV show has booked him. (Not bad for a guy whose website features oddities like “koan of the day,” and a section on dogs killed by cops.)
In #fitchthehomeless, Karber goes on a mission to Goodwill, looking for Abercrombie clothes, then takes them to skid row, where he hands them out to people living on the sidewalks.
He doesn’t ask viewers to do that. Instead, he urges people to take all the Abercrombie clothes they’ve “mistakenly purchased,” and donate them to their local homeless shelter.
“Together,” he says, “we can make Abercrombie and Fitch the world’s No. 1 brand of homeless apparel.”
I applaud the urge to stick it to an obnoxious retailer, but this approach is off key, if not tone deaf. It comes close to mocking a group of people who have no dog in the fight.
After all, the goal is not to give Abercrombie-style cachet to people who are among society’s neediest. The unspoken “joke” in the video is that the homeless are irredeemably uncool. The goal is to rub Jeffries’ nose in his misguided thinking, to devalue his product.
Using homeless people to do that is a very uncool way to go.