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Opinion: Were Quake-Inspired Products in Good Taste?

Businesses shake a few bucks out of the earthquake. Is that OK?

So Tuesday night I went for Elevation Burger’s  “shake it off” special  — half-off of Elevation Burger milkshakes ordered post-earthquake at Germantown, Potomac or Falls Church, Va., locations until the end of the business day.

And I made that milkshake disappear very quickly.

But as shake levels steadily depleted, I couldn’t help but wonder whether some of my good karma had depleted a little, too. Or maybe I picked up decadence dings for getting chocolate ice cream, chocolate syrup and Oreo bits.

But, really, was it in good taste for businesses to offer earthquake-themed goods and discounts?  And was I complicit for partaking? Or are we on the East Coast overreacting to a baby quake? Do we all really need to “shake it off”?

To be clear, Elevation Burger wasn’t the only business touting post-quake deals.

A listing on eBay advertised a $16.99 “Limited Edition Commemorative” T-shirt with “I Survived The Virginia Earthquake” scrawled across the front in multiple fonts. According to the listing, the shirts were “designed in an exclusive partnership with a local artisan who experienced the quake firsthand.” 

The Bethesda Patch Tuesday night that Bethesda bars were whipping up earthquake-themed shots and drinks. In fact, the so-called “drink engineers” at Union Jack’s in Bethesda concocted a $4 “Earthquake” cocktail of whisky, orange juice and amaretto, accompanied by an “Aftershock” shot of Goldschläger with a touch of grenadine, the Bethesda Patch reported. D.C.’s Metromix also offered a lengthy list of where to find cocktails Tuesday that were shaken and not stirred.

Now, the official word from the U.S. Geological Survey was that a 5.8-magnitude earthquake occurred at 1:51 p.m. near Louisa and Mineral, Va., about 100 miles southwest of Washington, DC. It was a “shallow quake,” and shaking was recorded all along the Appalachians, from Georgia to New England, according to a press release the Geological Survey issued 6:43 p.m. Tuesday.

To put it in context, the strongest recorded earthquake to strike the East Coast was the 1886 Charleston, S.C., earthquake, which was about a magnitude 7.3, according to the USGS.

The effects of Tuesday's quake were felt regionally, nonetheless.

Government workers were evacuated from federal buildings. Some public places, such as libraries and schools, closed early.

Tuesday’s quake complicated cell phone usage for many Upcounty residents and snarled evening rush hour traffic for commuters — the Brunswick Line of the MARC Train wasn’t authorized to go faster than 10- to 15-miles an hour until 8:30 p.m., once according to an emailed passenger alert Patch received at 8:39 p.m. Tuesday. 

Thousands of commuters offload the MARC train at the Germantown stop daily, according to MTA officials.

It was a massive headache.

Ultimately, Montgomery County Police, firefighters, emergency workers and school administrators have said there were no quake-related injuries reported Tuesday and that property damage that occurred was minor.

Montgomery County government will operate just like normal on Wednesday — with the exception of Potomac Library, “due to some damage received during the earthquake,” county officials announced Tuesday in a press release.

But still, there’s something that doesn’t feel right about quake-inspired goods. Are businesses tout such wares opportunistic?

Or do we all need to lighten up?

Please post your opinions as comments below or email me, at tiffany.arnold@patch.com.

Phil Driveson August 24, 2011 at 07:52 PM
tsk tsk... monsters profiting from tragedy. (comment sponsored by: http://www.cafepress.com/survivedeastcoastquake)
Matthew Papuchis August 24, 2011 at 08:56 PM
In 2004, after President Reagan had died, I went downtown where they had the processional down Constitution Ave before he laid in state at the Capitol Rotunda. Amid the thousand of people there to show their American pride were dozens of street vendors with Reagan-inspired T-shirts, mugs, hats, posters - you name it, they had it. At first I thought it was in poor taste, but then I found it to be opportunistic and full of the entrepreneurial, capitalistic spirit Reagan himself adored so much!

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