A company that markets its long-tailed work T-shirts as a remedy for “plumber’s butt” announced a promotion to coincide with last month’s Kitchen/Bath Industry Show in Chicago. On a busy city sidewalk outside the K/BIS headquarters hotel, passersby could check their backside skin exposure with an “exposure meter,” a contraption made to resemble a 4-foot-high pipe wrench.

If the company’s original plans had come about, these measurements would not have taken place on a sidewalk on an unseasonably warm morning in mid-April. They would have occurred in PM’s booth on the trade show floor at K/BIS.

Let me tell you why we decided to take a pass on participating in this promotion. Before I do, I should tell you why we considered it in the first place.

Representatives of the T-shirt maker visited PM’s office a few months ago to ask us to partner with them. They’re pleasant people who brought samples of the T-shirts, which seem well-made, and we shared a few laughs during our meeting as we discussed their promotion.

While I enjoy a good joke, I must admit that jokes about plumber’s butt rate pretty low on my personal “humor meter.” I rank them close to Polish jokes.

What hooked me about the promotion is that the company would donate a percentage of its T-shirt sales between April 16 and 25 to a Chicago charitable program that provides free plumbing service to needy senior citizens. Each year, the charity does about 40 jobs that involve 150 or so volunteers from the sponsoring plumbers organization, which has a good deal of clout in the city.

Less appealing to me was the company’s promise that the promotion would drive traffic to PM’s booth and increase our own exposure at K/BIS. As it turns out, our booth’s out-of-the way location at the lightly attended show made this pitch a nonissue.

What made me and PM’s other editors uncomfortable was that the promotion seemed so out of character with what we try to do each month to raise the level of the plumbing industry. While not taking ourselves too seriously, we do publish feature stories each month about successful plumbing contractors and columns from experts who advise you on how to improve your business operations.

In this month’s issue, where we cover our industry’s trade associations and best practices groups, it’s particularly fitting to make this point. Despite their differences, these organizations devote much of their energy to helping their members increase the level of their customer service and overall professionalism.

In fact, I asked new Executive Vice President Gerry Kennedy whether he viewed groups such as PSI and Nexstar as competitive or complementary to his PHCC-National Association. He replied: “Anytime you see an organization that tries to raise the bar, you don’t see it as a competitor. If we look at collaborative efforts to raise consumer perceptions of the industry, the cumulative effect will help all of us in the industry.”

The long-tailed T-shirt promotion, harmless as it was, struck us as the kind of exposure that wouldn’t exactly raise consumer perceptions of the industry. PM didn’t need to be a part of it.

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