Mayor Menino hasn’t been shy about taking on private companies over their public conduct. First it was Nike and its “Dope” and “Get High” t-shirts; then it was Chick-fil-A over its position on gay marriage. This week, it was about vibrators. Trojan, a company best known for condoms, is promoting a line of sex toys, using a guerrilla marketing campaign that involves handing them out on public streets. A giveaway in New York caused a traffic jam in the Flatiron District. Now, marketers are looking into Boston locations, and recently asked about City Hall Plaza. This prompted a Menino aide to issue a sharply worded letter, warning that “many families and children” traverse the plaza.
In this case, unlike with Chick-fil-A, Menino immediately acknowledged the constraints on his power; the letter to Trojan’s marketers notes that City Hall has no legal authority to deny the request. To give away a legal product in an open public space — something that happens regularly in front of City Hall — a company merely needs a permit, which comes with a small fee. The city can’t require, for instance, that the giveaway be at night.