The coffee cup sleeve is an ad for Brandon's Bail Bonds.
"You have to come up with new and unique ideas," owner Brandon Drake said. "Everybody does the flashlights, matchbooks, coasters, stuff like that."
That might work with your ordinary knave, ruffian, skel and other criminal element.
"With this economy, we're finding a lot of decent folks are making bad decisions, such as kiting checks," Drake said. "There's a whole new market needing a service of this kind. What better way than coffee?"
It also gets in the hands of potential cosigners to take liability for the bond. "Folks who are employed," he said. "That's usually who goes to the coffee stands."
Coffee cup ads are an economical way for businesses to tout their brand. Drake said he paid $100 per 1,300 recycled cardboard sleeves with his logo and slogan: "If the Devil made you do it, I'll get you through it."
He supplied sleeves to about six stands in Snohomish County, including 13 Buffalos Coffee Company on Rucker Avenue near his agency in downtown Everett.
For Buffalos owner Elizabeth LaCasse, the free sleeves are a perk.
"Anything to offset costs these days is great," she said. "It probably saves me $25 a week."
Still, she's selective. She previously took sleeves from firefighters promoting CPR but turned down a sketchy repair business. Her best supplier was a casino's coupon worth $10, but that ended when some entreprenuerial types started selling the sleeves for $5 each in the casino parking lot.
Drake and his staff frequent LaCasse's stand. "Otherwise I might have been kind of iffy about throwing a bail bonds out there: 'Hey, we serve coffee and we know people who will get you out of jail,'" she said.
The sleeve isn't a get-out-of-jail-free card. It's not even good for $10 off. Bail bonding is cut-throat business.
"This industry has a touch of evil to it because you're dealing with money and everybody wants a piece of the pie," Drake said.
He got entangled in one of his cases in 2011 when he accepted a riding mower as bail collateral, and it turned out to have been stolen, according to court papers.
Drake has an active state license as a bail bondsman, as do a few dozen other agents in Snohomish County.
Courts and state law dictate the protocol and procedure, so it comes down to marketing to set one bail bondsman apart from the next. Bail bond offices often use garish signs and catchy slogans to stand out.
Jail Sucks Bail Bonds, a statewide company with an office in Everett, has a becausejailsucks.com domain with merchandise that includes "My grandma was Inmate of the Month" T-shirts.
Drake's shirts have to be earned. "We used to do punch cards: Four bails and you get a free T-shirt," he said.
He didn't get any business from the first week of coffee sleeve promotion, but he's optimistic. "I can't imagine something can't come out of it," Drake said.
You never know, though. It could backfire.
"Maybe it will make people think twice," said Buffalos barista Serenity Lundquist.
Andrea Brown; 425-339-3443; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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