The members of Dover Youth to Youth decided to take on Spencer Gifts in the Fox Run Mall in the spring of 1998 after students had noticed that the store was selling merchandise that promoted drug use and glorified getting “stoned”.
The students decided that the sale of these items such as hats, shirts, jewelry, and posters sent a message that drug use was no big deal and undercut Y2Y’s drug prevention message. The first step in the effort was for the students to see if they could purchase these items without a parent. Several members went to the mall and made a variety of purchases. It was so easy that they brought a 9-year-old girl to the mall and even she was able to buy the merchandise without a parent.
One T-shirt had the slogan:
Thank God It’s Fry-day – Nothing but a High Day
A hat had the slogan:
Marijuana – at least it’s not crack
The purchases were mounted on display boards and the students decided that they wanted to go to the media with the issue. A committee of Y2Y students was formed.
The company responded to the students with a letter that defended their merchandise as nostalgia and protesting that they had a right to sell it and were doing nothing wrong.
The committee continued to meet during the summer and considered a variety options. The students decided to go to the mall and protest. Six student volunteers went to the mall and brought the 3 large display boards with the samples mounted on them. They attached large messages that said “Spencer Gifts Glorifies Drug Use” and “Spencer Gifts sold us this”.
The students went through the mall quietly, allowing shoppers to see the display boards and ask questions. Shortly after their arrival a Foster’s reporter took a picture of the students. Attracted by the flash, a store clerk called security and a guard quickly found the students. When he figured out what the kids were doing he advised them that they would have to get rid of the display or leave the mall altogether. Total time in the mall before being thrown out: 9 minutes.
The students wrote a letter to the Mall manager asking for permission to return and continue the protest. Predictably, they replied that they could not allow the students to return and further declined to put the refusal or reasons in writing because “those things have a way of turning back up.”
Following the initial protest, Spencer’s Gifts reduced, and for a while seemed to eliminate, the offending items. But as time went on the products came back as bad as ever.
Over the years, Youth to Youth continued to periodically monitor the store and attempt to purchase products (usually successfully). They also continued to speak to parents and the public about stores like Spencer Gifts and the products they sell. This included creating a short Spencer Gifts video and placing it on YouTube.
Youth 2 Youth decided to renew their efforts to get Spencer Gifts to restrict the sale of these products. The students decided to propose an ordinance in the Town of Newington at a press conference held March 13, 2007.
The proposed ordinance placed certain restrictions on all stores in the town of Newington that sell merchandise that promotes or glorifies the use of marijuana or any other illegal drug.
For the purposes of this ordinance, merchandise that encourages, promotes, or glorifies the use and/or abuse of marijuana or any other illegal drug includes: clothing, jewelry, toys, posters, household items or other products:
The ordinance states that stores may not sell this type of merchandise to anyone under the age of 18. Furthermore, if stores wish to continue to offer this type of merchandise for sale they must comply with one or two provisions.
The Town of Newington responded to Youth to Youth after reviewing the proposal. The Town declined to take any action on the proposed ordinance because they felt that it would interfere with the merchant’s free speech rights.
Youth to Youth has continued to conduct checks at the store and contact the manager when a young student is able to buy offensive drug promoting merchandise. This often happens during the annual summer Advocacy Camp.