The ad was definitely not politically correct, but was it really discrimination?
According to the story Apartment ad campaign under fire for discrimination, the folks at the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center believe so.
The ad, which offered the apartment in question as a bachelor pad for “any single male looking to hook up” ran on Craigslist.com last year, where a Fair Housing Center staffer saw it and took offense.
Having had to search ads for apartments twice while living in this area, I have some insight into how advertising is done by companies like The Connor Group, which owns the guilty apartment, one of about 1900. I’ve various ads in various places with various descriptions, which all turned out to be for one apartment or apartment building’s apartments. None of the ads were inaccurate or misleading, yet none of them matched, either. Why is this? Having also worked in newspaper publishing, I have a little insight into that, as well: The ads are tailored to the venue. Sometime when you get the chance, pick up a few different magazines which all have some purpose in common (like women’s magazines) but are for different aspects of it (say, a copy of Sassy, a copy of Redbook, and a copy of Cosmo) and look at ads in them. You’ll find ads for the same products, but they won’t be the same ads. Each different ‘zine’s ads will be designed to appeal to the readers who will see it. For instance, you won’t see ads for hair products designed to “cover your gray” in Sassy, as it is intended for teens. Redbook won’t have ads for dye in outrageous colors or glittery make-up because it’s a magazine for moms. Cosmo’s ads will be done up to give the impression that the product either is glamorous and sexy, or will make the reader glamorous and sexy if she uses it.
Now, if Craigslist were the only place where a big property owner like The Connor Group chose to advertise an apartment, that would immediately make me leery of the rental. Frankly, if they’re so cheap they’re using Craigslist exclusively, then they’re either renting out cheap, crappy apartments or places in bad neighborhoods, and therefore don’t anticipate enough of a profit to merit better advertising (in which case maybe they’re doing women a favor by not marketing to us!) Still, if that is the case, then maybe further investigation is in order… but not a lawsuit, unless the investigation found that qualifying individuals were turned away from the rental on the basis of sex or family status.
If, on the other hand, the room was advertised in a similar manner to others I’ve seen, with different ads running in different publications emphasizing different things about the place, then I see no problem with the ad and I don’t think it warranted any action.
I do, however, see a problem with the lawsuit, which I think is frivolous. If the owners weren’t actively preventing women from renting the place, then they aren’t discriminating on the basis of sex. As for families, if it’s one room, under Ohio law, they can’t rent a one-bedroom apartment (the traditional bach’ pad) to families anyway, so it’s flat out stupid to sue them for not targeting families with an ad for that room. Why should they advertise an apartment to people who can’t legally rent it? Frankly, this at first looked to me like someone with chip-on-shoulder disease finding a reason to pitch-and-moan, but the last paragraph in the news story strikes me as a clue as to a more likely reason why the company is being targeted:
“The Connor Group began with three Dayton properties in 1991 and has grown to include more than 400 employees with properties in Atlanta, Dallas, Columbus and Cincinnati, according to its Web site. The company has $1 billion in assets, it said.”
Voila! I’ll bet you dimes to dollars, if it had been someone small, an individual advertising an over-the-garage apartment or part of a house as a bachelor pad, nothing would have been said.