Trolley Conductors Do Not Appreciate Being Told They Have "A Face Like A Halibut"

The conductors of Boston’s Green Line trolleys aren’t exactly amused by a new ad campaign for Legal Sea Foods that accuses them of having faces like a halibut, says the Boston Globe. The campaign features “fresh fish,” that toss out hilarious insults such as: “Hey lady, I’ve seen smaller noses on a swordfish,” and, “This trolley gets around more than your sister.” Har, har, har. Most of the ads are fairly innocuous, but one has the trolley conductors seeing red. It reads: “This conductor has a face like a halibut.”

“You can’t take everything personally,” said Deana Cruthird, 31, at Kenmore station.

And, besides, said Russell Sweet, 48, “There are plenty of other things to be offended about.”

But that’s not the view of Stephan G. MacDougall, president of the Boston Carmen’s Union, who fielded 40 phone calls from Green Line workers incensed by the ads.

“To say they are angered and offended is to put it lightly,” MacDougall said. “I will tell you this: If they don’t come down, we will not drive those trains.”

MacDougall said he likes Legal Sea Foods, and cannot understand why the company and the T could not have anticipated a backlash to the ads.

“Who the hell wants to say they have a face like a fish?” he said. “I happen to like to eat fish, and I like seafood, and I like going fishing, but I don’t want anybody saying that I or any of my members look like a fish.”

The ad agency doesn’t see anything wrong with making fun of trolley conductors. They told the Globe that they rejected one idea that was a bit much, so obviously they’re not like, insensitive

The ads were designed by the New York ad agency DeVito/Verdi, which vetoed one idea as too crass: “This trolley is a lot like your mother. Anyone with a couple of bucks can get a ride.”

“So it’s not like we’re insensitive,” said Ellis Verdi, president of the agency.

Seems like they rejected the only funny one.

Hook, line, or stinker? [Boston Globe] (Thanks, Kevin!)
(Photo: 100%`?afe)


Edit Your Comment

  1. madrigal says:

    I thought these ads were very funny the first time I saw them. They are better than the Sleepy’s ads and the Nesquick ads. These keep me entertained as I wait at Arlington for an E train to come during my morning commute. I get to read them as I see several B, C, and D trains come by.

  2. RudeandRude says:

    ridiculous. this country is turning into a bunch of whining babies. Do these people really think everyone is that stupid that we’re really going to link trolley conductors to fish face for the rest of existence?

    I really hope legal seafoods stands up to these people. The days of pandering to small niche protest groups needs to stop.

    This is just pathetic.

  3. I think much like pastrami is the most sensual of the smoked meats, halibut is the most sensual of the right eye flounders.

    It’s way better than those leftie eyed flounders.

  4. MeOhMy says:

    Man, I thought beantowners had thicker skin than that!

  5. “This conductor has a face like a halibut.”

    I’m still trying to figure out the joke. Am I just slow, or is this some Boston thing?

  6. donopolis says:

    Yes, I, a professional Trolley Conductor am personally offended, and truly believe this statement to be about me. Even though I know that it was placed randomly upon my trolley.

    These people need to get a grip and their Union Rep needs to tell them to Man up.


  7. @Troy F.: “Union” trumps “logic” every time.

  8. HeartBurnKid says:

    So it’s OK for the campaign to insult the riders, and their families, but not the conductors apparently.

    Double standard on line 1… double standard on line 1.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Well, most of them do look like a halibut.

    I’m boycotting Legal, though, not because of this, but because my wife’s aunt ate there last year and there were cockroaches crawling around on the floor under her chair.

  10. SBR249 says:

    The whole ad campaign is a little overboard and tasteless, especially the crude sexual jokes.

    Some of those jokes are stuff that I would only say jokingly to close friends who I know won’t be offended and even then only rarely if at all. I certainly won’t go up to random people and say that which is in essence what the ads do. I would have to side with the conductors on this one, these ads are crude and offensive.

  11. Rippleeffect says:

    This country is just way too sensitive and easily offended now. Between this and the Ford dealership, people just need to lighten up.

    No one looks at those ads and sees absolute truth. You should only be offended if its true. (not in all cases i know since you can be offended at a lie)

    I’m going no where with this apparently… back to work wiping harddrives I guess.

  12. redhelix says:

    Tell you what, green line drivers: I’ll stand behind you in protesting this assault on your dignity after you all stop crashing the trains and getting people killed.

  13. Carabell says:

    It’s not a Boston thing, it’s just stupid

  14. bovinekid says:

    @CaptainSemantics: Yeah, I don’t get it either.

  15. HeartBurnKid says:

    @Rippleeffect: If you ask me, there’s light-years of difference between this (cartoon fish throwing out jokey “insults” that come out of a kindergarten joke book) and the Kieffe & Sons thing (a business actually telling people to “sit down and shut up” if they don’t agree with said business’s political views). The first is harmless fun, the second pisses me off and makes sure that I never buy from them.

    Oh, and on the Kieffe thing, I’ve already convinced my brother not to go to them for the Escape hybrid he’s been checking out. Score one for the godless.

  16. BStu says:

    @redhelix: I’d note that it was a green line driver who was killed in that crash, so I’m not sure its worth the crass opportunism to make a point here.

    That said, the drivers are being whiny. They are being paid. I, on the other hand, am a paying customer and that hasn’t stopped the MBTA from selling ads that make fun of their riders. THAT is something worth getting upset about. I’ve seen one at least once a year that mocks train or bus riders for being shmucks, poor, or fat or some combination there-of. I don’t recall the Carmen’s union rising to my defense when their bus had a billboard pointing at the riders and insulting them, so I think they can find somewhat to get over themselves now. They are being paid to put up with this. The real controversy is when the sell ad space to mock their paying customers.

  17. cyclade says:

    @redhelix: Exactly.

    Isn’t it in Boston where the subways and trolleys actually have two “drivers” – one in the front car actually driving, and other riding along in the center car and collecting a paycheck?

    Not for nothin’, but when exactly did this concept of public sector “unions” come into being – and why’s it still seen as valid? Modern civil service laws would seem to protect individual employees from any sort of discrimination and/or political retribution that may have existed under spoils systems back in the era of the whalebone corset and handlebar moustache. Times are tough and we’ve got to get back to basics, trimming uneccessary public sector spending to focus on making sure our schools work, brigdes get fixed, and there are enough cops to arrest the bad guys. These “unions” are killing the Northeastern states with their high wages, health care deals, and absurd pension liability.

  18. Rippleeffect says:

    @HeartBurnKid: I think the difference for you was that you weren’t offened a the halibut since it doesn’t apply to you, but you were since you fall in the “godless” crowd the Ford ad was speaking directly to you. You took offense (though imo I think you really shouldn’t need be) Since when is being told to sit down and shutup a horrible insult?

    Sounds like what mom would yell when ya would unbuckle in the bad seat of the car.

  19. Trai_Dep says:

    I think we’ll need actual pictures of trolley conductors, with actual pictures of ocean fish. In a Hot Or Not format.
    Let the people decide!

  20. Wow, what a bunch of pansies…

  21. donopolis says:


    I agree that the whole ad campaign is in poor taste, but that is not what the conductors or their union leader is complaining about…If they were saying this whole line of ads is simply offensive, and off-putting to the majority of our riders, I’d be right with them…They are complaining about it on a personal level.


  22. cmdrsass says:

    The only thing worth getting upset over in all of this is the ridiculous salary and pension benefits these carmen receive and their utter lack of professionalism.

  23. joeflow44 says:

    I think the ads are pretty funny, however I’m not a trolley conductor.

  24. donopolis says:


    You genuinely don’t see the difference between Telling a group that they have no right to speak, and throwing out a crass likening to a fish? The aforementioned radio add was an outright attack on a group of people not a bad attempt at humor.


  25. JasonKeiderling says:

    @Rippleeffect: No, you missed the point of why people are so offended by the Ford thing as opposed to the halibut. The Halibut is a joke. The Ford thing is the most pure form of hatred and malice possible. The owners of that Ford dealership HATE a group of people enough to take out a paid radio ad just to insult them in any way they can. If there was a billboard that jokingly poked fun at people who work in the computer field, you probably wouldn’t be very upset. If someone took out a billboard that was nothing but text stating what a complete idiot they think you personally are (using your real name), that would be comparable to the Ford fiasco and would probably get you upset.

  26. Rippleeffect says:

    @JasonKeiderling: No, I think I did get it. As you said it was a joke, but the Ford joke was kinda funny when I first heard it, kinda like shock value. As in, “Did they just say what i thought they said? hehe.” Unlike many around here, I don’t take the media very seriously in their statements. The goal is to get your attention no matter how, and I think they did their jobs.

    And jokes are made all the time about nerds and geeks in the computer field, yet I’m not offended even though I am one. You are correct there.

    And to your last sentence; isn’t that what was printed on the side of the trolley car too? Something about “This conductor has a face like a halibut”? Seems more directed to a specific person than the general nature of the Ford ad.

    I can’t fault anyone for thinking the ads were funny. Jokes are usually at the expense of someone else. Isn’t that what the majority of “funny” standup is? Yet the vast majority of people laugh along.
    Of course, in looking at the jokes, they wouldn’t really induce a hard laughter, but maybe a light chuckle. Seems to be doing its joke of getting everyone’s attention in the direction of their product.

  27. Parting says:

    That is very bad taste. Not good marketing, since teens (the main age group that finds this funny) DO NOT COOK.

    I’d ”fire” this marketing company, for the simple reason that it doesn’t market to company’s customers.

    It’s simply DUMB, more than insulting. I don’t reward dumb companies with my business. I want REALLY FUNNY ads, please.

  28. HeartBurnKid says:

    @Rippleeffect: OK, let’s say I insult you in two ways:

    “Screw you, you’re not allowed to talk. Every right-thinking person agrees with me, and you’re just some deviant who’s trying to corrupt kids.”


    “Your face looks like a fish.”

    Which one would actually offend you? Because, personally, if somebody posted a sign that said “Atheist IT guys from California have faces like halibuts,” I wouldn’t even blink an eye.

  29. HeartBurnKid says:

    @Victo: That is very bad taste. Not good marketing, since teens (the main age group that finds this funny) DO NOT COOK.

    It’s a restaurant. They cater to people who “DO NOT COOK”.

  30. Parting says:

    @HeartBurnKid: ooops, my mistake, misread.

    However, I wouldn’t want to go to a restaurant that’s full of teens :'(

    Overally, it’s non-issue. Proving that union workers have waay too much time on their hands.

  31. @MeSoHornsby: Better on the floor than in her food.

  32. Rippleeffect says:

    @HeartBurnKid: But this is what the left does to the right every day. Left feels that the right is just a bunch of biggots, intolerant, greedy, selfish, closed minded, dumb, unintelligent, racist, arrogant bunch of West Virginians that won’t vote for a black person for President.

    While some points may be true, they are pretty equally true of both view points. I do think that the Ford ad was a revolt over the garbage that got tossed his way over how he views the world.

    The moment that a lefty attacks a right over his belief, that lefty is being just as intolerant as the right.

    BTW, I can’t even take offense to the first insult since I know its not true. Which is why I laugh at both the Ford ad and the Halibut ad. The Ford ad’s number are way off, and its hard to take him seriously on it.

    On a seperate note,
    And wth is up with the proposed ban on beach bonfires in Seattle due to fears they contribute to global warning?

  33. tmed says:

    So there is an ad written to insult me, and I feel insulted and complain, and that’s out of line for ME?

    Stupidity rules the day again.

  34. Shadowman615 says:

    The ads aren’t making fun of all conductors; it’s sort of a joke about some random non-existent conductor somewhere. That’s going a bit overboard to get all riled up about that.

    @Rippleeffect: The people at the Ford dealership were certainly not making a joke. They even clarified later in their non-apology that they were stating their actual beliefs. And it wasn’t only the “godless” who were offended by it. The ad specified “non-Christians,” which covers a lot more folks than just atheists.

  35. JasonKeiderling says:

    @Rippleeffect: We’re right and you’re wrong so just sit down and shut up! lol

  36. Rippleeffect says:

    @JasonKeiderling: Thanks for being open minded and tolerant. =P

  37. consumerman10 says:

    I hear the halibut are pretty miffed about this too…

  38. SpdRacer says:

    We have a dealership here that just started running an ad campaign (radio) that features what I would suppose to be a man of Arab decent thanking us American’s for buying big gas guzzling SUV’s so his family can have their solid gold toilet replaced. Except that it isn’t a Middle Eastern accent the man is speaking with more of an Indian one (no, not American Indian either). It has been running for like two weeks down here and no one seems to care that the ad is not only stupid, it is blatantly racist.

  39. homerjay says:

    @Troy F.: Please don’t call us Beantowners. In fact, just pull the term Beantown right out of your vocabulary right now.

  40. Rippleeffect says:

    @SpdRacer: If it wasn’t an Indian accent I think it would be humorous. He doesn’t sound like Apu does he?

  41. JasonKeiderling says:

    @SpdRacer: I’m a little iffy on that ad being blatantly racist. Racism is when you make a statement that is based on an untrue stereotype. For example, “The average Irishman drinks more alcohol than the average American” is ractist. “The average Black man drinks more Orange soda than the average White Man” may be true and is simply a marketing demographic. On the same note, saying that Middle Easterners benefit financially from US customers purchasing gasoline is completely true. There are good reasons why Americans (or anyone else) should want to reduce foreign spending to strengthen the dollar. Maybe I’m missing something.

  42. HeartBurnKid says:

    @Rippleeffect: So, do you really think that the left thinks that all Republicans live in West Virginia, or did you just decide to insult West Virginians? Pot, Kettle, et. al.

    But you are correct, that when somebody on the left attacks somebody on the right and says that they don’t have a right to speak due to their beliefs, they are just as wrong and offensive as Kieffe & Sons was. And if I ever find out about such an incident, I’ll be sure to not patronize the establishment and to alert The Consumerist. But first-grade jokes are in no way equivalent to such attacks.

  43. MeOhMy says:

    @homerjay: I guess I offended your delicate Beantowner sensibilities! Sorry :-( Next time I am in Beantown I will take you to Jake Ivory’s and buy you a Sam Cherry Wheat and let you make fun of Philadelphia sports teams for a full hour just to show there’s no hard Beantown feelings between us.

  44. Rippleeffect says:

    @HeartBurnKid: No, that was a reference to the WV remark last month. IE. Cheney and the incest joke. Most people laughed except those in WV of course.

  45. majikfox says:

    These ads are the perfect compliment for the liquor ads posted all over the insides of the cars that all the kids get to look at every day to and from school.

  46. homerjay says:

    @Troy F.: i’d appreciate that. :)

  47. Dunnos says:

    To those who don’t really understand the joke, there are two parts to it:

    1) You have the setup line “This trolley gets around more than your sister”

    2) Then the punch line is always: “We have fresh fish, real fresh”.

    In Boston the word “fresh” is the same thing as a smartass, wise guy, or jokester.

  48. says:

    @Troy F.: hell no. wasps are offended by everything.

  49. MeOhMy says: As a WASP, I find this statement offensive. Consider yourself boycotted unless you meet me and Homerjay at Jake Ivory’s. Leave your “man card” home.

  50. homerjay says: Don’t make me slap you with my dueling glove.

  51. Dustbunny says:

    The trolley conductors are offended just for the halibut? Sounds fishy.

    Thank you, I’ll be here all week.

  52. azntg says:

    Travelling to Boston a few times annually, I definitely notice the “inflammatory” ads that seems to be a tad bit too common there on the T and on TV (as opposed to what I tend to see here in New York City). Not too surprised that it’ll eventually wear off on somebody.

    On a slightly off topic note: Man, I love the Bostonians, although I can’t help but root against their teams for various reasons.

    For me, the characteristic Bostonian (and vicinity) style is playing dirty and rowdy (metaphorically, though sometimes literally), but surprisingly enough, almost always the first to get shocked and/or offended at anything . That’ll be my caricacture of them for the time being.

  53. pileofmonkeycrap says:

    “This conductor has a face like a halibut…..and an ass like a whale.”

  54. avenger339 says:

    So conductors are worked up that someone made a (non-offensive) joke about them? I guess this is a big deal, considering how no one has ever made fun of any other profession, especially NOT lawyers.

  55. darkryd says:

    People need thicker skins.

    Do you really think they’re trying to insult you? Cmon.

  56. Jakuub says:

    @avenger339: True, but Lawyers don’t have some guy paying an ad agency to put lawyer jokes on the walls of their offices. I’m guessing they’d take issue with that. Not that these Halibut Faced dudes are in the right, just saying that your analogy isn’t terribly apt.