Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Non-Urban Dictates, Tavis, Tom, and Other Tales of Urban Lore

[Tom Joyner, Tavis Smiley, and some random other dude I couldn't PhotoShop out]

Not a week, heck, not a day goes by that I don't get something fishy in my Inbox. And no, I'm not talking about "Enough is Enough!" hate mail, I'm talking about emails like this one, which AverageSisterInLaw (who helps me come up with about 75% of my post ideas) forwarded me just last week:

Tom Joyner wants this information to reach his listeners.....

You have probably heard of NUD as a result of the Tom Joyner morning show related to CompUSA. NUD is the acronym for a very subtle and little-known marketing term specifically directed toward people of color.

NUD stands for Non Urban Dictate. These three words essentially mean that a company is not interested in the Black consumer. A NUD label means that a company does not want their marketing and advertising materials placed in media that claim an urban audience(black folks)as their main target. There are legitimate reasons for companies not using urban radio. It may be that Blacks don’t index high in certain categories or that a company’s strategy is to market to the Black consumer down the road after they have established a strong position in their primary target.

But NUD usually means that a company is not interested in the Black consumer. Companies evade discrimination liability by embracing it as theory rather than policy.

As a service to Black consumers, the Urban Institute will list all companies that have a NUD policy. Armed with this information, we feel that Black consumers will be able to make informed buying decisions.

Companies with NUD policies:

a.. Starbucks
b.. Jos. A Bank
c.. CompUSA
d.. Weight Watchers
e.. Keebler
f.. Life Savers
g. Continental Airlines
h.. Northwest Airlines
i.. America West Airlines
j.. HBO - Apollo Series
k.. Paternal Importers
l.. Calico Corners
m.. OM Scott
n.. Pepperidge Farms
o.. Ethan Allen
p.. Busy Body Fitness
q.. Mondavi Wines
r.. Builders Square
s.. Don Pablo
t.. Lexus
u.. Aruba Tourism
v.. Ciba Vision
w.. Kindercare
x.. Grady Restaurant
y.. Eddie Bauer

Please forward this information on to any other consumer that you consider a friend and advise them to do likewise. Remember, we can’t act wisely unless we are informed wisely.
I've seen this email, or some variation of it floating around since, well, since I first got an email address, which means it's been awhile. Since I'm just skeptical by nature (I'm an engineer, so shoot me), I tend to not take (any?) everything at face value. But I can't lie and say that I haven't looked at Starbucks or the Ethan Allen store with a bit of an evil eye ever since. Not that I actually go in, or shop there of course, because well, Ethan Allen is pretty darn expensive furniture.

Even if these Non Urban Dictates are true, let's face it, on some level, all they are are marketing schemes. Period. Companies spend billions on data profiling to figure out the demographic of their ideal customers. Just like I wouldn't dream of shopping at Ethan Allen for the aforementioned reasons, they shouldn't waste precious marketing dollars targeting people like me. That's not racist, that's just plain smart business.

But then again, what black person do you know that doesn't like Lexuses? Heck, AverageMom drives one. So does AverageGrandma. And I see Lexus ads in every black magazine I open. There are Starbucks all over the black community. And name one Negro who hasn't had those Pepperidge Farms Goldfish crackers. So, something clearly doesn't add up.

Clearly, going on record and writing such things as "don't market to the ghettos" are obviously over the line, but in this Post-Texaco and Denny's day and age, I'd like to think people are at least a bit smarter than that.

Turns out I'm right. Sorta.

This morning on my commute, I heard black talk show host Joe "The Black Eagle" Madison (a guy whom I respect, but who is notorious for spreading half-baked info) spout off the same NUD email on the air, and I knew I had to get to the bottom of this. I whipped out the BBCurve, pulled up Google, and faster than you can say "hoax", this whole thing was proven untrue.
Urban Institute Not Involved with So-Called Non-Urban Dictate List

April 5, 2002, The Urban Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational organization, has been incorrectly cited in circulating e-mail and fax lists of companies with "non urban dictates," or N.U.D.s (NUDs). The email and fax incorrectly cite the Urban Institute as the organization that compiles or maintains the "NUD list."

The Urban Institute is not in any way associated with the purported research or with any supposed list of companies with NUDs, and never was. It has nonetheless been inundated with inquiries.

The Urban Institute was wrongfully credited with maintaining the "NUD list" four years ago, thanks to what is assumed to be a misspelling of Urban Insite-an organization that once claimed responsibility for the NUD list. Later iterations of the circulating email include the Urban Institute's address, phone number and Internet address. The fax version includes falsified Urban Institute letterhead.

As a response to numerous phone inquiries, the Urban Institute has dedicated a special phone line to explain the issue at (202) 261-5779.
Well how do ya' like that? The Urban Institute does indeed exist, but this email ain't real. Don't believe me? Call the number yourself. Go head, I'll be here when you get back.

This made me think about the other scores of chain emails that have made their way around the net that have similarly been revealed as BS. You know, like the one about the black market for kidneys. Or the Nigerians who want to send you millions of dollars if you just give them your bank account number. Or the one about Microsoft giving you money for forwarding emails (c'mon, you had to know that was BS). Denzel's massive donation to the Veteran's hospital? How about the ole' Oprah vs The Racist Tommy Hilfiger face off (which I even heard from the pulpit in church)? All forwarded billions of times. All hoaxes. All full of crap.

Chances are, 90% of such emails you get are fake. Completely. Some might ask exactly why this is a bad thing? What does it hurt? What's the problem if it IS fake? Who cares? Well, just ask Tavis Smiley and Tom Joyner, who believed a fax allegedly on CompUSA lettehead stating that the company CEO didn't and wouldn't advertise on black radio (namely, Joyner's show) because blacks didn't buy computers, back in the mid 90's. Smiley and Joyner used their considerable media clout to push for a boycott against CompUSA without bothering to fact check and substantiate such a dubious claim. Emails were forwarded. Letters were written. Calls to corporate were placed. People were mad. It was Drive-By Activism at it's finest. Heck, even I gave CompUSA the evil eye as I drove by the store.

Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, Smiley and Joyner dropped the boycott and were completely close-lipped about the whole thing. Later, it way revealed that CompUSA threatened both with a lawsuit for slander, and the fax was nothing more than drivel. While they later claimed victory on-air, Smiley lost his BET Tonight gig, and has been an infidel on public radio and TV ever since. Yes, I know, he hosts The Annual Soundbyte Olympics on C-Span4, but his influence has definitely withered. And we end up with Take The Cake in his former 11pm time slot. Yes, folks, these emails can cause trouble.

How do you spot a fake email?

1. If it sounds too good to be true, use your Negro Intuition and surmise that it probably is.
2. Research. Just Google the main keywords (ie: "non urban dictate") in the email and see what you get back.
3. Look for telltale signs like "forward this to everyone" and "this is not a hoax".
4. Watch out for overly EMPHATIC LANGUAGE WITH LOTS OF CAPS AND EXCLAMATION SIGNS!!!!! Real info isn't communicated that loudly.
5. Check sites like and which specialize in keeping lists of such urban legends.
6. Forward THIS message to everyone in your address book. The link is that little envelope below.

Whatever you do, think before you forward.

Information is power, but misinformation is just plain ignorance.

Ok, now you can go grab that mocha-chi latte with triple soy without guilt.

How To Spot an Email Hoax []

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