Adventures in Selling Out
The Food Editor dallies on the dark side
By Ty Bannerman
Just a few months ago, two years into my career at the Alibi and right before I came on full time, I received an email that referred to me as a “key influencer.” I didn’t know what it meant then, and I don’t know what it means now, exactly, except that it’s an absurd term that I can’t imagine a human being using to refer to another human in pretty much any circumstance. Of course, I soon realized that a human being hadn’t used it; a publicist had.
That’s pretty mean, and not really true (most publicists are human beings; even the ones who don’t carry enough of our DNA to make them indistinguishable from, say, gubernatorial candidates). And, to be fair, publicists are an important part of any business that wants to make contact and establish relationships with the media. They send out press releases, they call up writers and set up interviews, and they work tirelessly on their client’s behalf to get the word out.
But there is an aspect of PR that’s a bit ... unsettling. Sometimes businesses will hold special events in order to profile a new product, or so you can meet the new chef or hear about all the great things going on at a national hotel chain. And sometimes there’s an open bar and free food and swag for you to take home.
Up until recently, I’ve avoided these events. I just don’t feel comfortable with the very obvious “wooing” that’s implicit in them. But then, about three months ago, a publicist sent me an email that promised an open bar and called me a “key influencer.” I decided then and there that I’d held out too long. I needed to know more about the media event world, and more importantly, I needed to know whether I really could be bought with a free goodie bag.
I decided then and there that I’d held out too long. I needed to know more about the media event world, and more importantly, I needed to know whether I really could be bought with a free goodie bag.
Event: Garduños patio opening at Hotel Albuquerque
At my very first press event, sponsored by Heritage Hotels and designed to inform the media about how awesome Heritage Hotels is, as well as introduce us to the Garduños patio area, things couldn’t have been more pleasant. The patio was truly lovely and the air cool. There were mariachis, hand-mixed margaritas (all you could drink, naturally), tacos, burritos, chips and salsa. A couple of publicists mingled around the area and chatted with reps from other media outlets (who shall remain nameless) about the hotel, about the restaurant, about other Heritage hotels in New Mexico and about how fabulous they all were. They did their jobs very well, in other words, and informed without pressuring. All in all, it was very relaxing, and I truly felt like some kind of key influencer. After my wife and I had hung out for a while and downed a margarita or two, one of the staff offered to give us a tour of Casa Esencia, an ancient adobe farmhouse that had been converted into a nightclub. Sad to say, I kind of felt like they’d ruined the place, but then, maybe I’m just old.
Other than the free food and drink (which were both top-of-the-line), the key swag was a goodie bag stuffed to the gills with awesomeness. Remember that briefcase in Pulp Fiction that glowed with a heavenly radiance whenever it was opened? Yeah, it was pretty much like that. Gift certificates to the restaurant, various bike tours in Old Town, VIP passes to Casa Esencia, a pile of coupons and even a mini-bottle of vodka. Anything else? Oh, just a free hotel room at any of the Heritage hotels. I felt dirty when I held the room voucher up, but it was a good kind of dirty.
Did they purchase my loyalty?
Um. Yes. As soon as I saw that hotel room certificate, I decided to renounce any morals I had and unabashedly support both Heritage Hotels and the good people at Garduños. Oh, sure, I’ve bad-mouthed Garduños many times in the past, but this bag of swag and the free margaritas opened my eyes to the error of my ways. Now I realize that nobody serves up Mexican like Garduños!™
Event: Never Hungover kickoff party
Seemingly overnight, little bottles of a more or less magical elixir have appeared beside drugstore registers all over the city and all over the country. Red and white vials about the size of one of those 5-hour Energy drinks, they carry the name “Never Hungover,” emblazoned in impact font and complete with a no-smoking-style slashes in the middle of the ‘o.’ The manufacturers claim that downing a few of these before an evening of binge drinking will eliminate, or at least reduce, your hangover.
My fellow Alibi writer Nora Hickey and I went to the spacious bar at El Pinto and met with home-grown magnate Phil Maloof (who departed for the “greener” pastures of Vegas after his ill-fated congressional run in the late ’90s), a genuinely affable fellow who told us all about the product’s myriad benefits. We were soon joined by Parrish Whitaker, the man who discovered the elixir’s miraculous anti-hangover properties sometime after his sister used it, he told me, to cure her lupus (!).
Phil Maloof’s company was pretty great, and he bought us a round of drinks while telling us about his time in Burque. The larger event wasn’t nearly as fun, being populated by liquor distributors of various kinds. Drinks were available, but we were only given a few tickets. There was plenty of Never Hungover, though, including some in cocktail form. It’s not bad; tastes a bit like Gatorade. As we left the event, I spotted a table piled high with goodie bags. Remembering the glories of the Heritage Hotels event, I greedily grabbed two on the way out. Disappointingly, they contained more Never Hungover, a sample packet of El Pinto’s salsa and two novelty, light-up shot glasses.
Did they purchase my loyalty?
Well, not completely. It takes more than a pair of shot glasses to purchase this journalist’s integrity. In fact, it takes at least a free hotel room. So I was a little disappointed. On the plus side, I quite enjoyed talking with Phil Maloof, and any party with free cocktails is a good party. As far as the product itself is concerned? Although editor-in-chief Carl Petersen heartily endorses it, I have to confess that I woke up with a slight, if possibly reduced, hangover.
Would you or your business like to tempt me with free things? Would you like to try and purchase my loyalty, perhaps even my love? Send me an email at Ty@alibi.com, and understand I’ll probably write an article like this about you.
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