Should I support flyer distribution?
August 8, 2012 6:06 AM   Subscribe

Should I take the flyer/free newspaper offered to me in the street? I am torn between helping the guy get home sooner, and not supporting an environmentally harmful practice.
posted by Dragonness to Religion & Philosophy (15 answers total)
Yes, you should. Then you can reuse or recycle it, which is better than it hitting a landfill if someone else throws it in the trash. They've already been printed, and as they're free you are not offering material support for it - although as someone who's passed out my share of flyers I don't see it as the most horrible ecological practice you can do.
posted by graymouser at 6:15 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nope. Not your problem. If it's aggressive, just say, "No thank you" and keep walking.

I don't know why businesses do this. Does it result in more customers?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:23 AM on August 8, 2012

I would refuse it. I think the more that people take them, the more they will produce. If they see it is not a viable way of advertising, maybe they will move to other methods.

I'm more likely to read a sandwich board, or look at one of those wacky Dancing Windsock Men.
posted by wrnealis at 6:30 AM on August 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

Don't take it. It is my dear hope that all of us who care about the environment and see this practice as problematic will refuse to take them and that with diminishing returns the practice will be curtailed (or, at the very least, fewer will be printed). I know it is a long shot, but really all we can do is what we can do like refusing bags for single items, reusing paper as scrap, etc.
posted by Pineapplicious at 6:31 AM on August 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you take it it only encourages the practice. Unless you actually want what is being given out don't take it, someone else getting home early isn't your problem.

I tend to avoid flyers as it's advertising I don't get anything out of, unlike (for example) internet or television adverts that subsidise content that I want. If we discouraged advertising that gives us no benefit (including billboards and bus adverts) the advertising money would have to go to supporting things we actually like which would probably make it a slightly better world, although you may disagree.
posted by purplemonkeydishwasher at 6:32 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's unlikely that a supervillain has told them they have 2 hours to get rid of all the flyers or their family goes into the acid bath. I think it's simplest to believe that the flyer-dispenser has decided that standing out in the street all day is worth whatever they're paid.

That said, if you want to get them home sooner, ask for the rest of their stack and then go put it in the recycling bin.

"When someone hands you a flyer, it’s like they’re saying 'here, you throw this away'." - Mitch Hedberg
posted by dubold at 6:33 AM on August 8, 2012 [6 favorites]

Refuse them! Ideally, the person handing them out will return to their business after 6 hours with 100% of the flyers with which they began the day. They're not going to stand there on the street all night.
posted by cranberrymonger at 6:34 AM on August 8, 2012

I don't take them because I don't want them, period.

I'm guessing the success rate has to do with the service offered -- I bet food takeout/delivery probably does okay with flyering.
posted by sm1tten at 6:48 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Most of the flyer people I knew (in fact, my first job ever was handing out flyers) work by the hour, so getting the guy home sooner is neither particularly noble goal, nor that workable as they probably just go refill on flyers/papers when they run out.

Unless a business is really on the skids, it wouldn't make sense to send the dude home after they run out of flyers/papers as they're paid next-to-nothing, and flyers are cheap to print. Usually, the company will just estimate the largest amount of street traffic and base the hours on that.
posted by griphus at 7:06 AM on August 8, 2012 [7 favorites]

I will only make a trade. I take their flyer, they take something from me like my read newspaper or the first flyer I took.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:19 AM on August 8, 2012

I would take the third path, which is to just stop worrying about it and do whatever your first impulse is. Personally I don't take flyers because they're just trash to me, and I get annoyed when I find them on my car. If I wanted to take one for whatever reason (can't imagine why) I would do so. The cost/benefit of taking or not taking flyers is so small and in any case so nearly balanced that it really doesn't matter which one you do.

One thing that helps me in these difficult but ultimately trivial situations is to remember a piece of advice that I found here on Ask Metafilter some time ago, and which I can't remember the source of or else I'd quote it. I'll paraphrase: the more difficulty you are having deciding between two options, the less it matters which path you take. If one option were significantly better than the other (given the information at hand) then the choice would be obvious. When the choice is unclear it becomes unimportant, and you should merely do whatever your immediate preference is and save yourself the stress and worry.

I have been trying to remind myself recently that after a certain point, the cost of making optimal choices (in terms of stress, worry, and delay) becomes greater than the cost of making the sub-optimal choice. Some things literally aren't worth worrying about. I would suggest that this is one of those things.
posted by Scientist at 9:46 AM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Even if it would get them sent home sooner--and I agree with griphus that it likely wouldn't--they're paid by the hour and hourly employees in those kinds of marginal, low-paying jobs usually (but not always) are doing them because they need the money.

If they go home sooner they get paid less. That is a bad thing for them. Also, frankly, unless they're right in front of their boss, they'd just go throw a stack away if they really wanted to get out of there (which is another reason why they're paid by the hour--being paid by the flyer is a bit of a perverse incentive if there's no direct supervision).
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:11 PM on August 8, 2012

Oh, that reminds me:

I don't know why businesses do this. Does it result in more customers?

Flyers are really cheap to print. At the very cheapest end, you can print it four times on an regular sized piece of paper, and cut it in four sections; even at five cents a page, you're paying almost under a cent per flyer. The going rate for a flyer guy (at least in front of the tattoo shop I worked across the street from in 2006) is five bucks an hour, cash. Hiring a guy to hand out flyers for eight-hours, and assuming he hands out, say, 1000 flyers, that just cost you a whopping $52.50.

So the monetary investment is pretty low compared to, say, taking a tiny ad out in the paper -- companies that hire flyer dudes are usually not making billboard money -- and (depending on your markup, obviously) if even a handful people of the thousand to whom he distribute flyers actually go and buy something, you've made your money back.
posted by griphus at 12:23 PM on August 8, 2012

(Handing out free newspapers is a totally different, ad-driven thing that I can't really explain.)
posted by griphus at 12:24 PM on August 8, 2012

DON'T take them.....especially if they're handing out the flyer/card right in front of the store. A popup winter coat store has been pulling this on my block for the past few years and the people they hire are as bad as aggressive beggars and charity muggers. Most of the cards wind up on the sidewalk.
posted by brujita at 3:57 PM on August 8, 2012

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