“Drivers can [sic] $100 a day!”

February 22, 2008

From Jim Metrock:

Bus Radio is continuing their efforts to put cash (actually American Express gift cards) in bus drivers’ pockets. For fifteen days in February, Bus Radio is offering drivers a chance to win a $100 American Express gift card each day.

This should be a serious concern to school administrators and school board members. It should be an even more serious concern for parents.

Like the last contest Bus Radio aimed at drivers, this one requires drivers to listen closely to the insipid "Mat and Lucia Show" AS THEY DRIVE THEIR BUS. Surely most parents do not want the driver of their child’s bus to be distracted like this. Parents and school officials want drivers to pay attention to the road and their driving, and to deliver children safely to school in the morning and to home in the afternoon.

Dangling $100 or $500 in front of a driver to make them loyal Bus Radio listeners is UNSAFE.

Bus Radio has always directed a portion of their content at bus drivers. That is why they want speakers placed in the bus so the driver can hear all the contests aimed at them.

The reason Bus Radio wants to give a financial benefit to drivers is simple: If drivers feel good about Bus Radio because they received a gift card from the school vendor, then they are more likely to play Bus Radio’s show for the captive audience of riders and the advertisers’ messages will be heard and then Bus Radio will receive a steady stream of ad revenue.

The driver is the gatekeeper to Bus Radio’s profits. This is a huge problem for school administrators. Drivers are usually government employees. If they receive a benefit from a school vendor they probably are in violation of local guidelines and even more likely to violate state ethics laws. Transportation directors of school districts don’t want to be constantly worrying about Bus Radio inappropriately dealing with the district’s drivers.

Imagine this situation: The Acme Brussels Sprouts Company supplies Brussels sprouts to the Washington County School District. Acme’ president Ms. Ima Gointogag wants more sales to the schools. It seems the schools are placing very few orders. Acme’s president comes up with an idea. An Acme representative will randomly visit Washington County school cafeterias for fifteen days and IF they find that Brussels sprouts are being served to children, THEN the Acme representative will immediately award the "Cafeteria Lady" an American Express gift card.

For fifteen days guess what the kids are probably going to be fed? It’s going be "Beef tips and Brussels sprouts, Grilled chicken and Brussels sprouts, Hot Dogs and Brussels sprouts…" Like the mythical Acme firm, Bus Radio is a school vendor. Bus Radio’s "product" is RADIO CONTENT. This content is consumed by LISTENING. The more LISTENING by young bus riders, the more advertising they will hear and the more ad revenue for Bus Radio. (Bus Radio’s technology "spys" on the kids and the company knows whether the show is being played and at what volume. This is passed on to advertisers.) Students are served what the cafeteria workers prepare for them. Young bus riders listen to what their driver turns on for them.

Bus Radio is trying to buy the loyalty of school bus drivers – pure and simple. This has to end before there is an accident.

As you can see below three drivers from three different states have won $500 gift cards from Bus Radio. Obligation will contact the state ethics commissions in Minnesota, Maryland, and Georgia. Whether or not this endeavor is ruled "unethical" or not, this type of contest is repugnant and undermines the safety of schoolchildren.