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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Burning Man Central Is ... Orchard Supply Hardware?

Posted By on Tue, Aug 17, 2010 at 3:05 PM

click to enlarge Pick one of these babies up at OSH!
  • Pick one of these babies up at OSH!
Your ears did not deceive you. Orchard Supply Hardware, the place best known for its ads about "bringing you timeless value since 1931," has now labeled itself Burning Man Central.

A series of radio spots for the San Jose-based chain advertise OSH as just the place to stock up on supplies for Burning Man -- really, I can buy one of these there? -- and burners are not amused.

"At Orchard Supply Hardware, we like to help people make the most of what they have," reads the ad, which aired from August 12 to 15. "One of the ways is, We Pay the Sales Tax Weekend, which happens to be this weekend! Just in time to finish your Burning Man project."

A number of displeased e-mails were sent among Burning Man insiders in the wake of this ad, says one mid-ranged Burning Man volunteer. While Burning Man "endorses no particular products or services, we can't exactly stop people from acknowledging that Burning Man happens," says the volunteer. "That said, I think a fair amount of nausea is induced any time commercial culture rubs up against Burning Man culture and purrs."

Worse than that, however: When OSH begins advertising itself as the place to be for Burning Man, isn't that like finding out you're on the same drugs as your parents? Isn't this a jump-the-shark moment?

click to enlarge Will they be impressed when you talk about how much dinero you saved at OSH?
  • Will they be impressed when you talk about how much dinero you saved at OSH?
"Look, people have been saying Burning Man has jumped the shark for more than 10 years," retorts the volunteer -- who emphasizes that he is not an authorized Burning Man spokesperson. "They said that when more than 500 people showed up and when more than 10,000 did. They said it jumped the shark when you had to start obeying a speed limit or when you couldn't bring firearms."

Meanwhile, OSH's marketing director, Rick Saunders, says feedback about the Burning Man ad has been minimal -- though folks within the company "liked it."

Not everybody was privy to the same OSH-As-Burning-Man-Central theme, however. The manager of the chain's South San Francisco store, when asked about Burning Man, paused and replied "Burning Man?" as if someone had suggested his store reenact the final moments of Jeanne d'Arc.  

Perhaps thinking he was on the phone with a lunatic encouraging the fiery death of heretics, the store manager made a suggestion no Burner ever would: "You're going to need to call corporate."

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" is a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly, which he has written for since 2007. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers... more


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