Legal Sea Foods CEO Offers Sarcastic "Apology" To Offended Trolley Conductors

A few days ago we mentioned a controversy that was going on in Boston after some trolley conductors objected to an advertising campaign for Legal Sea Foods “fresh fish.” The controversial ad reads, “This conductor has a face like a halibut.” Now Legal Sea Food’s CEO has decided to strike back against the offended conductors with a sarcastic “apology.”

“We should have never, ever said, ‘This conductor has a face like a halibut,’ when the truth is, most conductors don’t look anything at all like halibuts,” Berkowitz says in the new radio advertisement, produced by the New York ad agency DeVito/Verdi. “Some look more like groupers or flounders. I’ve even seen a few who closely resemble catfish. And there’s one conductor on the Green Line that looks remarkably like a hammerhead shark. So we feel very badly about this mischaracterization, and we won’t let it happen again.”

Is this war?

“We don’t think his fish is as fresh as he is,” said Stephan MacDougall, president of the Boston Carmen’s Union, which represents operators working for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. “He’s misguided and misdirected. He is suffering from elitism and needs to do some self-examination.”

MacDougall says the he’s encouraging his union’s members, members of other unions, and working-class families to boycott Legal Sea Foods. Fight!

Legal Sea Foods chief offers MBTA operators a sort of fishy apology [Boston Globe]

(Photo: Ben + Sam )


Edit Your Comment

  1. Brain.wav says:

    Oooohh… Elitism! Oh noes!

    Some people need to learn to take a joke.

  2. Bagels says:

    Do any of these trolley conductors even know what a halibut face looks like? Because I’ll admit I don’t, and I’ve been eating halibut for years. It’s great.

  3. donopolis says:

    I think this is a perfect response to what should have been a non-issue to begin with…I would like an explanation as to how this is elitist.


  4. amyschiff says:

    it MUST be war if you pull the elitist card

  5. NoWin says:

    The MBTA carmen cant afford to eat at Legal (pricey tourist trap, especially Chestnut Hill), so no harm done….

  6. boss_lady says:

    Not to blame the ‘victim,’ here, but there are full groups of people that are objectified, misrepresented, and have negative stereotypes reinforced about their race/culture/gender/sexual orientation, etc. every single day, so this seems kind of… silly.

  7. cmdrsass says:

    I’m glad he’s tweaking the union – bunch of whiners. Does anyone have to remind them that advertising helps support their bloated salaries and pension?

  8. nweaver says:

    You can’t take a joke if you have a face like a flounder.

  9. WarOtter - I went to Japan and all I got was this tumor. says:

    This whole story definitely deserves a face/palm.

    Good for this guy for not being bullied by this politically correct bull shenanigans.

  10. Holy crap

    I’ve SEEN the one that looks like a Hammerhead Shark!!

    Seriously though … for once I don’t think it’s the CEO of the corporation that has elitism issues.

    For gods sake appreciate some originality in the advertising shoved down our communal eyes once in a while.

  11. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    Clearly they’re upset because Legal Sea Food isn’t “taking it seriously”

  12. Sounds like somebody has an inferiority complex. Lighten up Francis.

  13. AD8BC says:

    That’s funny. And warranted.

    I need to go to eat there. Just because of this.

  14. Gopher bond says:

    Eh, I don’t think I’d like someone to slap a sign on my work desk that says, “This paper pusher looks like a babboon’s ass.”

    I’d rip it down and punch the guy who tried to put it back up. So I guess I see their point.

  15. humphrmi says:

    Stephan, you are in more dire need of a blowjob than any white man in history.

  16. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

    I think the response they gave is perfect. Though its sad that there are people who can’t take a joke and have to drag everything/everyone down. The original ad made me giggle. The response made me laugh out loud. They’d get my business, if I was a local.

  17. RothRandom says:

    Oh snap, son.

  18. SkokieGuy says:

    Unfunny and / or insulting animal names.

    Ass / donkey / baboon / warthog / ape / weasel

    Funny animal names

    Halibut / dingo / titmouse / platypuss / flounder / wiener dog / garter snake

    I recommend contact your congressman and having Senate hearings about the offensive use of picean species to create humilation and degration of others. This was clearly the intent of Legal Seafood, as opposed to other darker, nefarious reasons, such as advertising, publicity and light-hearted humor.

  19. GMFish says:

    “Some people need to learn to take a joke.”

    And companies have to learn that you don’t get sales by ridiculing and pissing off potential customers. That’s the great thing about this country, you’re free to compare a trolley conductor to a fish, and that trolley conductor is free to tell you and your business to go to hell.

  20. eightfifteen says:

    After a while, those conductors are going to look like a horses backside. Is that better?

  21. humorbot says:

    Halibut are flatfish. Their eyes start out on opposite sides of their body (like, say, salmon) but one migrates to the other side (ultimately the top) of the fish as it matures. So yeah, when you pull one out of the water they’re pretty fugly.

    Still, I’d be flattered. Especially if I was the conductor who resembled the hammerhead shark.

  22. avenger339 says:

    I would probably cry from laughing too hard if someone called me a hammerhead shark.

    I thought the original ad was kinda lame, but this response made the whole thing incredible. Oh, and calling the CEO elitiest? Please.

  23. SkokieGuy says:

    @GMFish: So what is appropriate subject for humor? Basically it is probably possible to find something offensive about virtually any possible humorous story or joke.

    From a children’s joke site:

    Why did the atoms cross the road?
    A: It was time to split!

    Insensitive because splitting atoms lead to nuclear weapons and the bombing of Hiroshima.

    Q: What do you do when your chair breaks?
    A: Call a Chairman.


    Q: Why do Eskimos wash their clothes in tide?
    A: Because it’s too cold out tide!

    Geographically insensitive. Eskimos live in places that are not always cold year-round.

    Q: What is the biggest pencil in the world?
    A: Pennsylvania.

    Mocks a city.

    Q: Why did the boy blush when he opened the fridge?
    A: He saw the salad dressing!

    Sexual innuendo

  24. Angryrider says:

    I am sick and tired of “elitism.” It always comes off as childish name-calling, which isn’t very adult at all. Obama is an elitist, so is Clinton and McCain, heck anybody that holds a pretty damn good job is an elitist. Why? Because THEY ARE SUPERIOR TO YOU. Just because that guy holds a degree in dentistry means that he can do a better job of fixing some other guy’s teeth than YOU!

    Phew… This really does boil down to a childish fight.
    CEO: Youse guys look like fish.
    UP: You’re a stinky fish face.
    CEO: No you are!
    UP: You are!

  25. GamblesAC2 says:

    If anything the whiny conductors Union just makes me want to eat at Legal Seafood even more. it seems sevral workers in that feild need a couch and quick…anyone willing to donate?

  26. arl84 says:

    wah wah wah…

  27. Anonymous says:

    Oh, man, some people need to grow a thicker skin…
    or scales.

  28. NatelysWhoresKidSister says:

    I love how this has become an ad hominem argument over insults.

    That said, can someone please explain to me why insulting my sister will make me want to eat dinner at Legal? I mean, I love Legal, I missed it something fierce when I moved out of Boston and every time I’m through Logan, I buy up a gallon of chowder just to piss off everyone else on my flight. But seriously– did anyone see those ads and decide a delicious pecan-crusted halibut was exactly what they needed right that second?

  29. unohoo says:

    @SkokieGuy wrote:
    Q: What is the biggest pencil in the world?
    A: Pennsylvania.

    Sorry for being overly picky, but Pennsylvania is a state–much bigger insult. *LOL*

  30. unohoo says:

    I ate at Legal many years ago and I thought it was nothing special and over priced. The CEO’s cleverly getting more bang for his advertising dollar.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Some people need to grow thicker skin…
    or scales.

  32. MercuryPDX says:

    Wow! I want to move to Boston. Apparently there’s nothing better to do that bitch at each other and name call.

  33. donopolis says:

    Well, I think the original ads were fairly unfunny and odd…but the thought of someone really getting their feeling hurt by one is so sill that they became funny, and the response to the offense taken was even better…

    All it takes is a moments thought to guess that these signs were placed randomly on the cars, obviously not a personal attack…and the idea that the union leader got more than one complaint paints a picture of a pretty insecure group of conductors.

    I call BS…I am curious just how many complaints they have really received.


  34. BStu says:

    @GMFish: Yeah. See the issue here is that Legal Seafood wasn’t free to say a conductor’s face looked like a halibut. The carmen’s union started threatening to go on strike over the ads and they got pulled. If they threatened a boycott, your point would be valid. They didn’t. They threatened to shut down public transportation in a major urban center and as such got their way.

    They are paid employees of the transit system. They can suck it up and deal with an ad campaign like this. I don’t see ads getting pulled that insult CUSTOMERS of the train system. No, when CONSUMERS are insulted, its okay with the employees and employers alike. Attacking CUSTOMERS isn’t a problem with any of them. Seems like insulting CONSUMERS might be a bigger issue at this site, rather than crying over employees who don’t want to be subjected to the withering insults of a photograph of a dead fish.

  35. jpdanzig says:

    As a copywriter with several decades of experience, I have to agree that Berkowitz pulled a real boner here. Why insult a whole profession of hard-working transit workers? Is Legal Seafood that desperate for publicity and/or business? I have liked the Legal Seafood campaign on the radio — until the Berkowitz spot came on in which he lies about his fishing prowess. Someone at the client or agency has a tin ear for maintaining brand equity. I’d suggest Berkowitz might be the guy — and I’d also guess it will be a cold day in Hell before he’ll ever ride public transit any way…

  36. malvones says:

    A one-off joke was fine, but now they really do come off as pricks. Also, they need to hire a new ad agency.

  37. SkokieGuy says:

    @BStu: Actually he IS free to say that. Are you aware of any anti-halibut law that protects transit workers?

    And I’m unable to make sense of your argument about differences between CUSTOMERS CONSUMERS and EMPLOYEES.

    Transit workers are certainly employees, but they are also consumers, just like everyone else and customers or potential customers, just like everyone else who saw the ad.

    Basically, as long as Legal Seafood wasn’t insulting a protected class with racial, sexual or similar comments, he can do as he wishes. Those offended are free not to eat at Legal Seafood, but that should be the logical end of all this.

  38. SkokieGuy says:

    Everyone says this was an insult. It was an humor.

    We all have seen the ads. The guy’s dressed as a pirate and working in a seafood joint because he didn’t check his credit……

    Basically that commercial makes clear that being a waiter in a theme type chain diner is a horrible sucky job that any smart person (who checked their credit report) would somehow avoid.

    Why aren’t all the waiters at Legal Seafood and all waiters everywhere protesting and threatening to strike?

    Perhaps, because they realize the commercial is using humor to get our attention.

  39. drharris says:

    @jpdanzig – They didn’t insult a whole profession, they said “this conductor looks like a halibut”. It was an insult to a single person, who just happened to be in that profession. Granted, they all probably look a little ganked up, and considering their response, they all probably look like ugly fish. That’s what I surmise from this situation, at least.

    It wasn’t funny until now, when I applaud the CEO by responding with a much funnier joke. Good on him for not giving in to the PC craze. Luckily for him, these idiots probably can’t afford his seafood anyway.

  40. SahuaritaSam says:

    Having caught many halibut in my life, saying a conductor looks anything like a halibut is pretty harsh. Halibut’s eyeballs migrate from one side of their body to the other as they grow older. That should say enough.

  41. sean77 says:


  42. Gopher bond says:

    OK, let’s say your boss gives you t-shirts to wear for the next 12 months that says “I may have Genital Warts” as part of an ad deal he struck with Valtrex.

    That would suck and its the same deal with the ads on a trolley.

    I can see that I’m the kind of guy that might say, “Whatever, as long as you still pay me to come in late and leave early.” but I can understand some people might be like, “Oh yeah, why don’t you cram it?”

  43. Kirk Douglas says:

    I don’t give a hoot about what you think.

  44. haoshufu says:

    So conductors all look like fish?

  45. JollyJumjuck says:

    For cod’s sake, the ad was made just for the halibut. Those conductors should adopt a stance of a-tuna-mattata instead of koi-ing about it.

  46. kingofmars says:

    While I don’t think it was a big deal initially, the CEO continuing to insult offended union members is a dumb idea. I’ve eaten at legal seafood before, and found it bland and over priced. I’m in a union and I don’t have any problem not eating there until they make a full apology.

  47. NatelysWhoresKidSister says:


    You mean the one on Route 9? I went to Pine Manor many years ago and I have never, ever seen a tourist there. Why would a tourist be in Chestnut Hill? There are hills but no real chestnuts. Is the birthplace of Barbara Walters now an attraction of some sort?

    (I did once see Julia Child at that Star Market, though.)

  48. bobfromboston says:

    @NoWin: With overtime I bet a lot of MBTA drivers make as much as many of the people posting here.

  49. bobfromboston says:

    @SkokieGuy: Did you really spend all that time composing that pointless, irrelevant comment?

  50. Elcheecho says:

    honestly though, i haven’t thought about Legal for months. I think i’ll mosey on down there this weekend and have a bite, their soup is soooo good. Thanks Steve!

  51. Anto103 says:

    I love when companies have a sense of humour.

  52. strathmeyer says:

    “He is suffering from elitism and needs to do some self-examination.”

    Sounds like human elitism to me? Why are these conductors insulting these poor fish?

  53. spinachdip says:

    @Angryrider: Elitist as a pejorative, along with the general anti-intellectuallism in modern American discourse, bugs the shit out of me.

    Plus, cultured people say “ëlitist”, with an ümlaut.

  54. jonworld says:

    @MercuryPDX: Lived there for 10 years; that’s pretty much the case.

  55. weakdome says:

    @CaptainCynic: ha. it was funny BOTH times you said it.

  56. spinachdip says:

    @weakdome: But it’ll be even funnier the third time. It’s the rule of three. Come on, CaptainCynic!

  57. I actually think MTA drivers look worse than fish. They should feel complimented by the fish comparison.

  58. coold8 says:

    This sarcastic legal sea food guy makes me want to eat his seafood. This is pretty f’in funny if you ask me.

  59. saltmine says:

    @NoWin: You’re kidding, right? MBTA conductors are extremely well paid. There’s a reason you have to know someone to become one.

  60. el-brazo-onofre says:

    But what about the halibut? How do they feel being compared to conductors?

  61. gliscameria says:


    Seriously. I’ve never heard of this place, and never would have if it wasn’t for this ‘war’. Way to go conductors, are they getting a piece of this or what?

  62. geoffhazel says:


    Snap. Pennsylvania a city? Bwa ha ha ha!

    Considering it was written by a school administrator, it once again shows your tax dollars at work — or hardly working.

  63. sauceistheboss says:

    This is the perfect post to blame the “victim”.

  64. mikelotus says:

    @Bagels: This is Boston, they know that the halibut may be or is the ugliest fish on earth. Its like being told your mother shaved your head and had you walk ass backwards. For a company based in Boston, that had in the past generated much good will, this is pretty stupid. Most trolley drivers are great people that instead of slamming the door when you run to the train or keeping it shut while you get rained on, will open the door if there is room (unless another trolley is right behind). So all you know it alls that have never lived in the best city in America, stifle yourselves.

  65. azntg says:

    I think I’ll step by Legal the next time I’m in Boston. Clam chowder happens to be my favorite soup. Gotta see how they do them.

    The ones in the NY Metro Area are way too far for me for a routine stop.

  66. SBR249 says:

    After reading some of these comments, I wonder when manners and social decorum suddenly became political correctness. Call me old-fashioned but I certainly wouldn’t appreciate being the butt of a halibut joke like that no matter how humorous it is and I’m sure those conductors feel the same way.

  67. mythago says:

    “Politically correct” is an excuse to bash on anyone who gets in the way of somebody acting like an asshat.

  68. dieman says:

    Sadly, last time we were in boston we had problems finding any good seafood anyhow. Stellas in Minneapolis beat out most of the lobster,etc that we found.

    There /is/ an amazing italian/seafood place on the sliver line over near what i think was a courthouse. Freaking amazing stuff. Hole in the wall too. Less than 10 tables, the matri’di was freaking out when we came (they had a huge crowd in the offseason, didn’t expect it) but the owner was a class act and even gave us some free wine and dessert for putting up with the wait for our food. The food was completely worth it.


    Anyhow, we also went to Summer Shack, which was pretty good for me but my wife got an overcooked lobster.

  69. garbagehead says:

    conductor should have complained to his company for posting the add. nuff said

  70. MrMold says:

    I plan to run ads pointing out that blog posters are all pederasts. Funny. I’ll even include your pictures, names, email adresses, home phone, and street adress. What, you feel slighted. You overpaid wimps. It’s only a joke. Get a spine.

  71. vastrightwing says:

    Where’s the victim here? The media. Look at all the priceless advertising Legal is getting. Who’s their ad agency? I need to hire them.

  72. freejazz38 says:

    Who gives a crap? I don’t eat seafood and the trolley operator DO look like Halibut

  73. NoWin says:

    @AngelasAshtray: That corridor has changed over the past years (or I’m just getting old and jaded). With the massive condo-complex built at the Natick Mall, and the new’ish Natick Collection, Chestnut Hill has had to compete harder for traffic, well, with foot traffic, as car traffic is NEVER an issue in Boston ;-)

    I’ve seen those darned Tourist buses there, and they ain’t just doin’ a pickup and drop-off, so a few charter companies are now using it as a day-trip.

    I swear the Legal prices where always the highest there, and that’s where they might send chefs to train.

    I actually thought the adverts where kinda “Bostonian”, but it didn’t help that the MBTA had a carman killed in a weird Green Line collision the week before. Now my wife doesn’t want me to use Riverside anymore.

  74. jpdanzig says:


    Dr., I’m referring to Berkowitz’s second comment, in which he says how much other conductors look like other types of fish. Now what kind of a pig does Berkowitz look like?

  75. stillkarenann says:

    This reminds me of the South Park episode where the parents boycott over Terrance and Phillip — the network president making a statement…


  76. Consumerific says:

    The MBTA should have just told CEO of Legal Seafood taht he looks like a caboose and been done with it. Hopefully Legal Seafood will give MMBTA’s MacDougall a free lunch or have an MBTA contest giving out gift certificates tot eh MBTA employee who looks most like a fish. This could be fun with MBTA riders voting for who looks most like a mermaid, etc… Anyway this free PR should halp Legal Seafood’s bottom line and introduce more people to some great fish.

  77. GrandizerGo says:

    @NoWin: Mostly true, but like most public transportation employees, I bet they get ASKED MANY times where is a good place to eat…
    Wanna bet Legal’s is not the first answer given???

  78. GrandizerGo says:

    @MercuryPDX: Sorry we don;t need you here, we are already full…
    Check back later for any vacancies…

  79. girly says:

    Corporations seem to be lauded for ‘high profits’, but somehow it’s disgusting if an individual tries negotiate?

    A group of indivuduals banding together for negotiating power seems pretty smart to me.

    It’s not like they are super rich! Are they?! I’d be shocked.

    Some union jobs are cushy to be sure, but it seems to me that outside of unions the more people get paid the more it’s based on something other than actual value.

  80. girly says:

    I think these trolley guys should have had more of a sense of humor (way more) but seeing as they were offended, I think the huge mistake made here was that the ad company or the seafood company made no attempt to show they were laughing with them, not at them.

    They could have directed some of that fish-humor inward in an apology. Maybe they could have even expanded the campaign.

  81. HeartBurnKid says:

    I wish I had a Legal Sea Foods in my area. I would so eat there. They have both balls and a sense of humor.

  82. TheRealAbsurdist says:

    But did he ever return
    No, he never returned
    And his fate is still unlearned
    He may ride forever
    ‘Neath the streets of Boston
    He’s the man who never returned.

    BREAKING: MBTA sues the Kingston Trio…

  83. wesrubix says:

    @brainwav: I know. It’s Boston. We love a good laugh, especially if it’s making fun of a driver. Regardless of the vehicle.