Catalog's Drinking Games Draw Ire
Jul. 24, 1998
NEW YORK (AP) _ Abercrombie & Fitch's latest magazine-catalog shows not only the trendiest clothes college students can wear at this fall's hottest back-to-school party, but how to get drunk.
The catalog's drinking games, complete with recipes for libations like a ``Woo-Woo'' and a ``Brain Hemorrhage,'' have outraged groups that say the retailer has no business encouraging something that many of its customers aren't even old enough to do.
Even the company admits it went too far in the two-page article in A&F Quarterly titled ``Drinking 101'' that gives directions for ``creative drinking'' that students can substitute for the ``standard beer binge.''
Its recipes include a mixture of vodka, peach schnapps and cranberry juice known as a ``Woo-Woo'' and a combination of strawberry or peach schnapps, Bailey's Irish Cream and grenadine called a ``Brain Hemorrhage.'' An accompanying circular chart that has photos of the 10 drinks in shot glasses can be used with a spinner for drinking games, the article says.
``In retrospect, the company feels that it should have initially provided balance in that story,'' Lonnie Fogel, an Abercrombie & Fitch spokesman, said from corporate headquarters in the Columbus, Ohio, suburb of Reynoldsburg.
That balance would have included disclaimers about the dangers and responsibilities of drinking, he said. In response to the criticism, the company now is putting stickers on catalogs still in stores with a message advising responsible drinking.
But that's not enough to satisfy Dallas-based Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which has asked Abercrombie to discontinue distribution of the 215-page catalog, issue a letter of apology to everyone who received it, and devote at least one page in the next four issues to underage drinking and drinking and driving.
``This catalog is an abomination,'' MADD President Karolyn Nunnallee said Friday. ``They are a company that is in a position to influence, and whether or not they are making a profit they have a responsibility and that responsibility is not to promote unsafe behavior.''
Also upset is the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a public interest group in Washington, D.C., which urged the company to recall the remaining copies of the catalog and create a new college course, ``Corporate Responsibility 101.''
``The Abercrombie & Fitch promotion callously exploits a college drinking culture that is dangerously out of control,'' the group said in a statement.
The catalog features photos of muscled, sometimes shirtless men often accompanied by fresh-faced women of natural beauty, all in Abercrombie fashions. There also are articles on travel, book and film reviews, advice for heading back to school and other topics, including a story on streaking on college campuses. Circulation of the catalog, available in the retailer's 165 stores and by subscription for $10 a year, is about 1 million per issue.
``The quarterly aims to be a chronicler of the American college experience today,'' Fogel said.
And that experience for some includes alcohol, he said.
``The use of alcohol is some small part of the college experience,'' Fogel said. ``That topic would fall in the range of a legitimate editorial of a magazine like this.''
The company's stock fell 75 cents to $46.50 in trading on the New York Stock Exchange after an article about the catalog appeared in Friday's Wall Street Journal.
The company, which has been as big a hit with Wall Street as it has been with young people since The Limited Inc. sold Abercrombie & Fitch in May in a stock offering, has made concessions.
Fogel said the catalog has been pulled from stores until copies can be affixed with a sticker that says in part, ``We don't want to lose anybody to thoughtlessness and stupidity. For some, part of college life includes partying and drinking _ be smart and be responsible.''
Subscribers will be sent a post card with the same message, which also is posted on the company's World Wide Web site.
The steps, which will cost about $200,000, are inadequate, said Nunnallee, who also was troubled by a picture that she says shows young people unsafely crowded into a Volkswagen convertible.
``Every parent should be outraged, and so should students,'' she said.