Mellow Pages' 50k ExxonMobil "Prank" [Updated]
This morning we informed you of a seemingly heroic decision by Bushwick's beloved library, Mellow Pages, to reject a supposed $50,000 donation from ExxonMobile
This morning we informed you of a seemingly heroic decision by Bushwick's beloved library, Mellow Pages, to reject a supposed $50,000 donation from ExxonMobile. In October 2013, Mellow Pages announced an Ingie Gogo campaign, soliciting donations from their supporters to raise $20,000 to run the library. However, Jacob Perkins and Matt Nelson, the founders of the library, were only able to raise a little over $5,000, which they fully received. Nine days ago, the library members received an email from the founders, in which they informed them that they have received a $50,000 donation offer from ExxonMobil. Considering the corporation's reputation, Mellow Pages asked for the advice of their members. They later wrote on Fanzine:
Some weeks ago a strange email appeared in our inbox. The nature of the email, unlikely as it was, seemed positive, honest and well-intentioned. A genuine opportunity. The only problem was the reputation of the sender: ExxonMobil Corporation. The moral dilemma that played out within our discussions seemed almost too large to handle, and far too private. The details: ExxonMobil offering support to the tune of 10x our recent IndieGoGo campaign’s funds (which was both generous and intuitive in its representation of what our own community could contribute) seemed like a no-brainer offer that most people or small organizations would accept gladly, silently. We weren’t so sure, though.
This publicly discussed dilemma caused many of you to wonder about the morality of accepting such a donation, as evidenced by the plethora of comments on Fanzine as well as on the Mellow Pages Facebook page. However, it's now come to light that the donation was never offered. Today, Richard Keil, Senior Media Relations Adviser from ExxonMobil Corporation emailed us:
We have no record of any interaction whatsoever with this library, and the first we have heard of this matter is through media inquiries. ExxonMobil Corporation has a long and proud tradition of supporting a wide range of worthy charitable causes, and the funding scenario the library’s officials describe in no way comports with the open and transparent way we handle our charitable and philanthropic giving.
Richard Keil of ExxonMobil also added that he authorizes Mellow Pages "to release to you whatever email they say they have."
We reached out to Mellow Pages by email and phone for a comment or explanation of the situation, but so far we have not received any answer. To be honest, the whole matter seemed pretty fishy right from the start. ExxonMobile's Giving Guidelines clearly state that they never give unsolicited donations, and a small Brooklyn library would seem outside of their charitable focus (they are focusing on education of women and girls in math and science in third world countries). Strangely, the library already "rebranded" itself on their Facebook and Twitter. They even changed their Twitter name to Exxon Mobile Pages, and a bio included the line: "We are funded with generosity by ExxonMobil." Leaving aside that it's not standard practice for a beneficiary of a charitable donation to be forced to rebrand, why would Mellow Pages do all this before they even accepted the money?
And haven't we seen this storyline before? Do you remember when allegedly Kanye West's PR firm emailed them that Kanye would make an appearance and shoot a music video at the library? We all showed up dressed to impress, and yes, we had fun, but obviously Kanye never showed up...
Maybe Jake and Matt are hoping to write a bestseller book on the topic of public pranks. Or maybe they were hoping to use the sympathies of the public (they received over 180 likes on their Facebook status announcing that they are declining the donation) to raise the missing $15,000. I don't know, and while it is kind of cute, it also on the edge of reckless PR, toying with the loyalty of their followers who were genuinely trying to help, and who even contributed to their campaign...
While we're trying to reach Matt and Jacob, International Business Times wrote this.
UPDATE: Mellow Pages admitted in an interview for Brokelyn that indeed the whole ExxonMobil thing was a stunt, "a piece of performance art" with the intention to get a "deep pocket donor" in order to rescue their library.