Advertising Has Invaded Fortune Cookies

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Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; and the days when fortune cookies were untouched by the long arm of the advertising industry are over.


The New York Post reports that, in Chinese restaurants across New York City and around the country, ads for companies like Capital One and Dentyne are appearing on the back of fortune cookie fortunes. This serves as incontrovertible proof that, as a country, we have lost the plot and have started breaking down our most basic norms. Everyone knows the back of fortune cookies fortunes are for lottery numbers (or, as I thought as a child, a string of numbers that looked fun together) or for Chinese translations of basic English words. That’s it.

Fortune cookie fortunes are meant to be fun and wind up stuck in between the pages of a notebook, only to be uncovered years later and spark a fleeting moment of delight. That that sacred bond—between a fortune cookie and its receiver—could be violated by an ad for a credit card company is disconcerting and alarming. The media company responsible for this—Open Fortune, whose website is just a landing page with an email form—has been selling the fortunes at a “subsidized” cost or giving them away for free to restaurants, according to the Post, which tells me the restaurant owners are not to blame here; they merely need to stay in business, and lowering costs makes logical sense. No, I hold Open Fortune solely responsible for this, and think they are terrible.

I do not care that the ads may be written with “tonality” in mind:

For example, one fortune reads: “Some things will be more obvious than others,“ only to reveal an ad for Dentyne Ice gum on the back that reads, “Four people offered you gum today, hint?”

I hate it and I wish this would stop. Americans deserve better.


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