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Smoker’s cough! Our columnist test drives the new ‘Williamsburg’ Camels

The Brooklyn Paper

R.J. Reynolds just started selling the “Williamsburg” version of its Camel cigarettes — and I don’t know whether to be offended as a smoker, a Williamsburger or a human being.

As a smoker, I’m pissed that the “Williamsburg” cigarettes are exactly the same as normal Camels. And I know — I’ve long been loyal, though now begrudgingly, to the Camel brand.

As a Brooklynite, I’m repulsed that some marketing guy in Raleigh thinks that Williamsburg is “about last call, a sloppy kiss goodbye and a solo saunter to a rock show in an abandoned building. It’s where a tree grows.”

That’s just cringe-worthy, as if Camel marketers went to the Wikipedia, looked up “hipster,” and then hired my grandfather to design a cigarette box.

Worse, as a resident of Planet Earth, I’m just disgusted by my fellow citizens, who have been throwing away good money on Big Tobacco’s latest come-on: Bodega owners across Williamsburg and Greenpoint say that they’re selling out of the gimmicky smokes as soon as they’re stocked.

People who once would rather fight than switch are grabbing the pack with their neighborhood’s name.

“I smoke Marlboro, but whenever I see the Williamsburg [Camels] I buy it,” said Abdo Hussein, a worker at God Bless Deli in Greenpoint. “I live in the neighborhood, so it’s cool to have. We’re selling out of them quick.”

One reason, of course, is that R.J. Reynolds is selling its Williamsburg, Seattle and Austin packs at a dollar off the normal price.

This creates a dilemma right out of the old Jewish joke about free ham. As a hipster, I’m aware of how Camel is trying to make a buck off my club-going, cooler-than-cool, lightly gentrifying ways. But as a hipster, I’m also perpetually broke, so I’d smoke shoe polish if it would save me a dollar per pack.

But here’s the kicker — reps said that they don’t even distribute the Williamsburg pack heavily in Williamsburg. Bodega workers on Bedford and Manhattan avenues said that they’re running out of the neighborhood pack the same day that they’re dropped off.

Heck, one woman even walks into the N 7 Market on Bedford Avenue and N. Seventh Street every single day to see if any Williamsburg packs arrived, a cashier said. When the packs are around, she buys every single one.

What better way to get people to buy an annoying product than to make them think it’s a limited-time offer that’s flying off the shelves?

But all it means is that R.J. Reynolds is having the last laugh — all the way to the bank.

“The pack is kinda stupid, but they [R.J. Reynolds] definitely know how to sell smokes,” said neighborhood resident Tyler Pearson, who coughed up $10.79 for a pack.

He had a point, I had to go out and buy a Williamsburg box myself. For research purposes, of course.

Reader Feedback

Jamie from Flatbush says:
"What better way to get people to buy an annoying product than to make them think it’s a limited-time offer that’s flying off the shelves?"

Maybe you could have it contain a highly addictive drug like nicotine?
Jan. 20, 2011, 9:43 am
Al from Park Slope says:
Jaime, not really any different than a swedish vodka company named Absolut who's Brooklyn Vodka is now part of their regular vodka line up. There were originally supposed to be only 50,000 bottles or something like that.
Jan. 20, 2011, 10:33 am
Dave from Clinton Hill says:
Williamsburg has become a complete parody of what it used to be, makes sense something like this would happen.
Jan. 20, 2011, 11:51 am
Rowena from Brownsville says:
In the Ville we roll our own.
Jan. 20, 2011, 1:02 pm
Joey from Clinton Hills says:
who smokes in this day and age? tools, I guess.
Jan. 20, 2011, 1:19 pm
We Want a Walmart in Williamsburg from 11211 says:
Feh! Fongool! Fuhgeddaboudit!

What Williamsburg wants is a Walmart!
http://walmart-williamsburg.blogspot.com/
Jan. 20, 2011, 5:55 pm
common sense from bay ridge says:
I thought hipsters only smoked weed?
Jan. 20, 2011, 7:56 pm
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
a hipster poseur for a hipster poseur place. what's the big deal.
Jan. 20, 2011, 8:54 pm
MYOFB from Manhattan, hipster scum says:
Kvetching about the marketing choices of a product designed to addict and then kill you, in a "community newspaper" owned by Rupert Murdoch: let's hear it for 2011 as the year that not just hipsters but hipness in general collapses under the weight of its own contradictions.
Jan. 21, 2011, 7:56 am
Pete from Shavano Park TX says:
Gee... I guess one of the oldest marketing gimmicks of all time finally lands on Tobacco Road. Took a while.

Coke, various beer makers, auto makers, watch makers, etc., etc., pioneered "designer labels," "limited special editions" and gawd knows what else "collectible," years ago.

None of their contents was anything different than their "good old plain label" products. Yes, it is marketing.

It's good old fashioned American ingenuity at work!

And then there's "brand extension" but those are modified products, not "collectibles."
Jan. 21, 2011, 8:05 am
missme from greenpernt says:
tools who smoke deserve this.
Jan. 21, 2011, 5:51 pm

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