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SHANE BROWN: My pirated T-shirts were plundered

SHANE BROWN: My pirated T-shirts were plundered

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Shane Brown, classified advertising and columnist.

Stupidity, thy name is Shane.

Sometimes I can't help but marvel over my own idiocy. This was one of those weeks.

I work in media -- specifically, in this very company's advertising department. Over the years, I've had a front row seat to product pitches, exclusive offers, and countless ways to drive consumer interest. By now, I should be well and fully jaded when it comes to most marketing efforts. Surely I could never fall prey to a sales pitch, right?

Wrong. Advertising works, people.

As regular readers know, I'm a music junkie. When I'm online, I'm usually talking about some band, listening to some band, or listening to someone else talk about some band. Therefore, it's no surprise that when Facebook's marketing algorithms look at my user profile, they immediately go, "Fish on the line. Serve this guy as many ads about music stuff as possible."

Every time I hop on social media, I'm bombarded with products for music geeks. Just today, I've seen ads for a tape dispenser shaped like a DJ turntable, an area rug that looks like a vinyl record, and custom lighting that pulses in rhythm to any music you play. If I bought every nerdy item pitched to me on Facebook, my house would be a tacky pulsating discotheque, but with cats.

Good thing, then, that I only buy SOME of it.

It started innocently enough. A few months ago, I got served an ad for a T-shirt company that made me chuckle. In the small ad, the company offered glimpses of two music T-shirts they were selling: one for Metallica, and one for The Carpenters. This is not exactly the kind of mash-up one normally sees in an ad. If you are a fan of both The Carpenters AND Metallica, you are officially VERY strange and we should probably be friends.

I HAD to check this company out, so I clicked the link. Immediately I was taken to a sketchy website that looked like it was thrown together in a hustle. Nothing fancy, just dozens and dozens of music-related T-shirts and click-buttons that said "BUY!" It was pure musical chaos. ABBA t-shirts next to Marilyn Manson t-shirts next to Garth Brooks, Megadeth, and Cher. They even had T-shirts from some of MY favorite bands. You know, those snooty indie bands that no one but record store clerks and that one irritating guy at your school listened to? I was that one irritating guy.

I knew this website was less than legit. There's no way some fly-by-night T-shirt company owned the rights to all these images. When I buy band merch, I like to make sure it goes to the band, not some seedy company somewhere in Cyber-third-world-istan. BUT it's not every day you run into someplace selling My Bloody Valentine T-shirts, either. And they even had them in Fat Newspaper Columnist size. It was too much to resist.

I ordered ONE shirt on a whim. I expected to be out $25 and have a cautionary tale to tell. Instead, my shirt arrived two weeks later, exactly as promised. The package came from China and had the oh-so-legit return address of "Joe Doe," but the T-shirt was there nonetheless, and it was shockingly decent quality.

I ordered another and it showed up, too. That's when I threw caution to the wind and placed an order for six of the coolest shirts they offered. Soon I would be the king of music-nerd fashion, even if it meant being a 50-year-old strutting around in a T-shirt better suited for a 20-something, except 20-somethings wouldn't know any of these bands.

The days ticked by. No shirts. "It's okay," I thought, "maybe there's a traffic jam in China somewhere. Have faith." As it turned out, I should have had more faith in the sketchy company and less faith in Rock Island.

A quick review of my security camera revealed that the package had, in fact, arrived. It lasted on my porch for approximately 30 minutes before some kid sauntered up and stole it. My pirated T-shirts got plundered by a porch pirate, and a stupid one at that.

The money I lost on the shirts was almost worth the comedy captured on my security cam, as the dude took almost six minutes attempting to look casual while failing repeatedly to do a sly reach-around, as if he were just learning the length of his own arms in real time. Eventually he just gave up and showed his face to the camera while running off with the package. I just REALLY wanna see the look on his face when he opened it up to find weird obscure T-shirts of bands no one's ever heard of before.

I almost felt embarrassed filing a police report over such a ridiculous purchase, but I did -- and the thief's picture is now being distributed to officers around town. The only thing more embarrassing than wasting money on a bootleg My Bloody Valentine T-shirt would be getting arrested for stealing one, so good luck, kid.

The officer suggested I write the company to see if they carried insurance and could possibly re-ship. I did -- and promptly received the following response: "Thanks you for contacting we! Much of happy to service of your shirts. The mail will be order delivery of very important! Please you for my patronage." I clearly can't say enough about Joe Doe's customer service -- mostly because I can't speak Joe Doe's language.

So, lesson learned. My days of ordering sketchy stuff from sketchy websites is done. Now, this OTHER website I just found that sells plaid flannel shirts in color combinations that match your favorite album covers? Well, that's just about the nerdiest thing I've ever seen -- and of course the shipment arrives tomorrow.





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