Bureaucracy Vs. Humour – Where to draw the line.

Today’s post isn’t about graphic design. It’s about something that has really, really bugged me. A lot.

A few days ago my friend’s friend (tenuous connection) listed an item on eBay as “A piece of cardboard shaped a bit like an iPhone 5 – USED” in an attempt to raise money for charity.

She tweeted the listing to Stephen Fry and he picked up on the idea and sent it viral. Within a matter of hours a piece of cardboard become worth £200, 000. A pretty impressive bit of fundraising!

Now I’m sure Stephen Fry’s input would have made a massive difference to the popularity of the listing but I also think that it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as successful without the humour involved.

Just reading the product details show an enormous amount of time, effort and witty thinking went into the listing with features including “No More Annoying Calls” and complete “Wireless Technology” Julia (the girl behind it all) cleverly tapped into the consumer’s thinking to make the listing a success.

However the item was removed shortly after it hit £200,000 for the use of ‘iPhone 5″ in the title.

Yes, you might say that £200,000 was a little excessive, but if someone has used their talents to entertain people enough to give her £200,000 for charity then for eBay to take it all away for no valid reason, is in my opinion pretty pathetic.

The picture was of a piece of cardboard, the title clearly showed it was cardboard and the description made it categorically obvious, so I really don’t understand the grounds that eBay acted on. Not one person viewing the item could have been under any misconception as to what they were bidding on and for them to effectively punish someone for being talented and funny seems to me to be completely the wrong way for our society to behave.

Julia re-listed the item as “A piece of cardboard shaped a bit like a popular phone” (which was incidentally also removed by eBay for having an external link) but all bids had been lost as well as the impact of the original item. Since then around 20 imitations have been listed but with no bids and her 3rd attempt at the listing is on just £26. (Good going but nowhere near in the region of the first!)

So where should companies like eBay draw the line? When should bureaucracy overrule humour and are our social values misplaced on this issue?

I think so. I think the world would be better if people could be funny and entertain us without these powers restricting and constraining us. If people were less afraid of having higher forces, powers or bureaucracies constantly breathing down their necks I think people would be more free to play with humour.

In almost every section of society there are bureaucratic rules and restrictions that people complain about daily – Teachers so afraid of being sued they have to limit outdoor games and watch every word they say in case it can be misconstrued, Advertisers so fearful of the ASA that ideas become diluted and ‘safe.’ Of course I understand that certain measures are necessary but surely now we can all see it’s gone too far?

The new listing can be found here or donations can be made here.

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3 thoughts on “Bureaucracy Vs. Humour – Where to draw the line.

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