As seen in Trump resigns; squeezed out of White House, 7-Eleven sometimes sells items of dubious taste. For example, stores recently offered the Trump Squeeze Ball. The mushy, squishy head can be contorted into various and disgusting poses.
Recently, Long Ass Cables have sprouted at 7-Elevens around town, prominently displayed near the door and behind the checkout counter. The 10 foot cables are for Micro-USB, Lightning and Type-C connectors.
As seen in the photo (from the 7-Eleven on Elmwood and Clinton), the display is meant to be mildly provocative and supposedly clever. The eye is first drawn to the word “ASS,” a mild profanity or vulgarity made more colorful as “LONG ASS.” Upon closer inspection, the viewer realizes “ASS” does not refer to the human buttocks, but rather to the company logo, a donkey or ass (Equus africanus asinus).
The supposed cleverness or pun or double entendre is that the vulgar term is represented (or disguised) as the animal ass, hence not a profanity. Personally, I find the brand name — Long Ass — to be tacky and in poor taste and the humor to be juvenile, much like how adolescents pretend to refer to a female dog when using the word bitch.
At the same time, I wondered, is it acceptable for 7-Eleven to display the product? I consulted the owner at the Monroe 7-Eleven near 490, a police officer from the Neighborhood Service Center in the Village Gate and Alex White, a small business owner (Boldos Armory).
The 7-Eleven owner explained that corporate pre-approves displays and then sends to him. So, 7-Eleven lawyers must have determined the way ASS is used is legal. The owner believed the use of the word ASSH*LE — which is much more vulgar than ass — is not permitted. A store could probably not use a slogan like “Don’t an be an ass [imbecile], buy a cable” as ass could be considered short for ASSH*LE.
How about if there was no masking image of the donkey and just the slangy/borderline profane slogan, LONG ASS CABLE? The owner wasn’t sure. How about if instead of an animal, the display used an image of a human buttocks? The owner believed that display would be highly problematic, adding, “that’s why we have the donkey.”
Still curious as to what constitutes offensive or possibly illegal advertising, I consulted an officer at the Neighborhood Service Center on Goodman. The officer responded quickly, calling me back after he had spoken with the “powers that be.”
First, the officer reported — as expected — that the 7-Eleven advertisement was permissible. The officer was told that store advertising can not be pornographic, can not have obvious curse words like FU*K or promote any illegal activity or product. Whether ass, when referring to human anatomy, is an offensive word — especially in a public place where children are allowed — the officer wasn’t sure. Interestingly, the officer added that advertising can not contain clear bias of any kind.
As to how offenses are handled, the officer said first a complaint needs to be made to authorities. An inspector is sent out and, if the advertising is deemed offensive, a warning is given. If the warning is not heeded, fines are levied.
Then I spoke with Alex White at his Monroe Avenue store. Active in small business issues, Alex has been on the Rochester sign committee that regulates various commercial signs or attractions, like barber poles.
Alex mostly agreed with the officer’s characterizations and approved of the inspecting and fining process. Alex does think the statutes are vague on what words are blatant curse words, although FU*K probably is. Alex agrees that obvious bias can definitely be offensive, but difficult to define and/or prove.
Alex pointed me to the New York State Municpal Control of Signs handbook. Indeed, the section on commercial signage (in which the 7-Eleven display could be considered) is vague on offensive language. Pornographic signs are clearly prohibited, for example, a sign outside a strip club that simulates sexual activity. It would be an interesting test case if the 7- Eleven display used a human buttocks and not a donkey. Would that be obscene or just vulgar?
NOTE: According to the New York Post article, 2HOT 2HANDLE for NY – DMV’s weird list of banned license-plate words includes sex, drugs and god, ASS cannot be used on a NY license plate.
In the Fusilli Jerry episode of Seinfeld, Kramer accidentally receives a license plate reading ASSMAN. Apparently, the writer’s are taking poetic license (pardon the pun) as New York State probably wouldn’t allow such a plate.