The Hightower Report

Kill car alarms!; taxpayer-built facilities get corporate names


KILLING CAR ALARMS

Murder is not anything I could ever commit, but there are a few individuals whose obituaries I could read without feeling terribly sad.

I must admit, however, that one thing does induce murderous thoughts in my otherwise gentle head: car alarms. Like a demon screeching from the deepest reaches of hell, these satanic devices whoop, beep, razz, whine, and irritate in the most intrusive way, shattering the civility of entire neighborhoods and jangling even the calmest of souls. They seem programmed specifically to go off in the wee hours of morning, rudely awakening families for blocks around in an act of urban harassment.

Car alarms are sold in the name of theft protection, but that's a joke. An independent survey of 73 million insurance claims for robbery of vehicles reveals that cars with alarms "show no overall reduction in theft losses." Why? Two reasons.

First, nearly all of the whoop-whooping is due to false alarms caused by a passing motorcycle, a thump by a cat, or simply because the damn thing decides on its own to interrupt our peace and tranquility. They go off so often that most of us always assume it's a false alarm -- an insurance company found that fewer than 1% of people would call the cops because of a blaring car alarm.

Second, it's rare to hear an alarm when the car is actually being stolen, because real thieves can easily deactivate the devices in only seconds. As one expert puts it: "Car alarms work about as well as fuzzy dice at deterring theft."

Far from deterring crime, they often cause it, as irate neighbors go out in their jammies to puncture tires, sledgehammer hoods, and even shoot the offending vehicles. Plus, all of this is unnecessary, since there are engine immobilizers consisting of blessedly silent computer chips that can prevent nearly all auto thievery.

To help kill screeching car alarms, call Transportation Alternatives: 212/629-8080.


AD CREEP

When you hear a highly paid athlete say about a new contract, "It's not about the money" -- you can bet it's about the money. Likewise, when you hear a corporate chieftain say about a new advertising campaign, "It's not meant to be intrusive" -- you can bet it's meant to be very intrusive.

Indeed, the very idea of advertisers is to intrude into your head, doing whatever it takes to get there and plant a brand name like some alien pod of commercialization. Take the exec who made the "not intrusive" assertion. He's a Toyota honcho, and he's just ponied up $100 million for branding rights to the basketball stadium in Houston.

That means that this taxpayer-built facility will now be called the Toyota Center, it'll be covered inside and out with Toyota's logo and ads, its lounge will be named Lexus Lounge, its parking garage will be named for Toyota's Tundra trucks, it will have Toyota vehicles positioned prominently throughout the arena, and there'll be a Toyota sales office at the games, staffed with sales reps hawking the cars. But at least it's "not meant to be intrusive."

Then there's the brand-new public monorail system in Las Vegas. Its naming rights are being sold to corporations that'll plaster the place with their logos and ads -- as though they own it.

First to buy into this monorail was Nextel, the phone huckster. For $50 million, you'll have one of the system's trains covered with its corporate colors, name, logo, and other promos. One of the monorail's train stops will be named the Nextel station, complete with a store, and a "Nexpert bar" staffed with employees promoting products. Yet, Nextel's VP for marketing says: "I'm sensitive to the issue of overcommercialization."

Yeah, like a hog is sensitive to overeating. You want sensitive? The ad agency peddling the people's monorail says it doesn't see the system as transportation, but as "transpertainment."

Take me now, Lord, I've lived too long.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

car alarms, Transportation Alternatives, advertising, branding rights, naming rights, Toyota Center, Houston, monorail, Las Vegas, Nextel

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