Nothin' like a little race-baiting to shift units! A billboard on a high-traffic section of Sunset Boulevard.
Nothin' like a little race-baiting to shift units! A billboard on a high-traffic section of Sunset Boulevard.

Bigot-Baiting Billboard


Green Pharmaceuticals is savvy when it comes to creating buzz — the California-based maker of a throat spray for snoring treatment got a lot of attention when it paid a dude in Omaha more than $37,000 to temporarily tattoo an ad on his forehead. It also paid a Chicago man to run the New York marathon in pajamas boasting the name of its flagship product, SnoreStop.

Now Houston will be a beneficiary of its latest PR stunt: a company-described "controversial" billboard featuring a a U.S. soldier with his arm around his significant other, who happens to be a woman in a burqa. The tagline: "SnoreStop, keeping you together." The billboard debuted on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, and the company is eating up the supposed controversy.

"Dubbed the #betogether campaign, the billboard has generated some social media feedback from members of the military and the Muslim community in the first hours of the campaign," according to the company's press release. (The firm behind this campaign is apparently Los Angeles-based Pop Culture PR, which was behind the campaign to rename Sugar Land. The firm's founder, Darren Shuster, told us he "can't reveal yet" where in Houston the SnoreStop billboard will be located.)

The release also quotes company spokesperson Melody Devemark as saying, "As a snoring solution company, we're in the business of keeping people together. So we found the most polarized couple and thought, 'If we can keep them together, we can keep anybody together.'"

The company claims the man and woman on the billboard are an actual couple whose relationship was helped by SnoreStop. Which is fucking preposterous.

The press release also wears the bilious, xenophobic comments the company has allegedly received as a badge of honor, including "I guess she's supposed to be one of them peace-loving ones?" and "I'm not racist, but I feel like they're trying to shove this 'political correctness' thing down our throats."

The product itself — a supposedly "natural homeopathic" remedy for problem ­snoring whose 15 percent alcohol content is listed as an "inactive" ingredient — is basically an ­afterthought.

Company co-owner Christian de Rivel states in the release, "...[W]e are specifically and aggressively promoting diversity, equality and harmony." De Rivel states in a video on the company's site that nontraditional couples who have struggled to overcome intolerance shouldn't be further burdened by the oppression of snoring.

We call bullshit. The company is aggressively promoting promoting, and they're doing a bang-up job. Heck, we're writing about them. We're certainly in favor of provocative ideas, and we understand the art of using inflammatory or hyperbolic language to convey a grander idea; but this kind of exploitation for medicine-show tonic is simply risible. But hey, the stunt worked. Congrats, Green Pharmaceuticals and Pop Culture PR. Mission accomplished.

Spaced City

No Late Check-In
Frontier Airlines holds fast, declines to fly the tardy.

Margaret Downing

Forty-four minutes early was one minute too late for Michael Monroe Brown last week when he tried to fly the low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines back to Indianapolis from a business trip to Houston Tuesday.

The 22-year-old budding entrepreneur and recent Indiana University business major graduate says he arrived at the Frontier ticket counter at George Bush Intercontinental to find no one there. Employees at the nearby American Airways counter warned him that he was probably out of luck.

He got on the airport phone and tried to get someone to come to the counter, without success.

Frontier has a rule that passengers must be checked in by at least 45 minutes before any flight's departure — with or without luggage (Brown was without). As far as Brown could figure out, he said, Frontier takes its counter crew and uses them to handle the gate duties as well. So they had already left by the time he made it to the counter.

"The people at American told me it happens every day," a frustrated Brown said. Four other people — including a woman who arrived at the 40-minute mark — were also held off the same flight and told there wouldn't be a flight out till the next day, he said.

When he finally contacted Frontier, Brown said he was told it was his fault and Orbitz's fault (he booked his ticket through them) for not following the rules. To get out on Wednesday, he'd have to come up with another $100 for the change in flights, he said.

In between phone calls, Brown Googled customer complaints about Frontier and found he is far from alone in his experience. In fact, according to Mark Harden of the Denver Business Journal (where Frontier has its hub), Frontier had the highest complaint rate at the beginning of 2013.

A check by Hair Balls found the same thing. There were some compliments, but others talked of encountering unfriendly, overstretched Frontier staffs who were either getting passengers on a plane at the gate or loading baggage onto the plane.

Some samples:

"Not a stellar flight from PDX to IAH, but the return was truly horrid. We hit traffic, got lost and arrived with just 20 minutes to departure, but boarding passes and baggage fees receipts in hand because we knew we had to check baggage due to there extreme size and weight policies. There was no one at the counter. It turns out they close the counter 45 minutes before departure. Really? 2.5 hours later, around 20 people were waiting to check in. I had to pay $100 to rebook the next day and get a hotel." — October 23, 2013, by C Kidd

"My niece and her new husband were flying last Sunday, 10/6 from SLC to Denver and on to Cancun. They arrived at the ticket counter at 6.45 am for a 7.25 flight to Denver. Frontier has a policy that you have to check in at the ticket counter 45 minutes before your flight. No where on the printed ticket did it say that. When they arrived, the person at the ticket counter told them they were 5 minutes late so they would not let them check a bag or go through security. There were 6 other people in the same boat. When someone finally came back to the ticket counter 45 minutes later, they charged an extra $200 and were told to come back tomorrow. Frontier went out of their way to make sure people didn't get on their flight. We will never fly Frontier." — October 17, 2013, by G Knight

"arrived at the gate with 40 minutes until departure. They would not give me a boarding pass! Additionally the rude lady at the counter would not re-book me or put me on standby for another flight. I had to buy new same day tickets with Southwest Airlines. Worst of all, because I didn't make my outgoing flight, they cancelled my return flight." — September 25, 2013, by C Donnelley

Those of us who arrive at airports at least two hours before a flight probably can handle Frontier and its no-exceptions policy. For those inclined to run late, you might want to take another airline, even if it costs a bit more.


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