Remember when banks gave customers a gift after opening a new account or "Judy," the iconic Time-Life operator, enticed new subscribers with a nifty telephone? That a Cape Coral, Fla. roofing contractor is offering an 'incentive' is nothing new, but the gift is arguably more avant-garde: an AR-15 rifle.
Roof EZ, a residential and commercial firm that opened for business shortly before Hurricane Ian devastated communities along Florida's Gulf coast, including its headquartered city, launched a promotion for November offering a frozen turkey and an AR-15 assault rifle with the purchase of a new roof.
Called "Roof and Gobble," the promotion has achieved its objective on several levels, according to Jason Polly, one of Roof EZ's three principals, with business up this month three-fold compared to the same time last year.
"So right around this time every month, we average about one [roof] a day in sales," Polly said. "So, right now, we're about three a day in sales."
Just two days after the promotion launched, NBC News reported the Cape Coral business had sold eight roofs and received approximately 50 inquiries about the giveaway. Polly told NBC that in an average month, the company sells 30-50 roofs, but he anticipates the promotion will push that number closer to between 60 and 100 sales this November.
Given the fault lines developed over 'easy access' to semiautomatic weapons that continue besieging the country, the company said it made sure to check with its attorneys before moving forward with the promotion.
Lawyers gave Roof EZ the green light, and in the two weeks since it began, Polly said the response has been a mixed bag regarding consumer sentiment, but the positive has eclipsed those voicing concern with the 'gift.'
"We checked with our lawyers, and everything has been done to Florida standards and federal guidelines," Polly explained. "[P]eople have to go and get their own background checks; we never actually touch a gun … they go in and fill out their background checks, and we just pay the bill."
Florida enacted a new concealed weapon law, known as "Permitless Carry," which went into effect on July 1, 2023. The law allows eligible U.S. citizens to carry a concealed firearm without a permit or the requirement to complete a training course.
The revised law, Florida State Statute 790, states that "…anyone age 18 years of age or older [may] own or possess a handgun, rifle or shotgun." However, you must be 21 years or older to purchase one of those three types of guns or ammunition.
Anyone who buys a roof during the promotion must wait until after the job is completed to pick up the gun, Polly told NBC. An AR-15 costs anywhere from $300 to upward of $1,500; Polly said the model being offered, in partnership with an area retailer, is valued at $700.
The fault lines around guns, Polly said, have led some to offer their opinions in fairly unabashed terms, but he said the overall response has been more positive. The idea, while not 'original,' was also more a lark than done by intent. However, the company has been pleased with the response so far.
"All publicity is good publicity in the contractor game, you know," Polly said. "[Mostly] individuals are pushing back; we're getting letters in the mail saying they wish they could stick that AR-15 [in a body part] and pull the trigger, we're getting death threats, but it is what it is."
The AR-15 semiautomatic rifle is quite popular among Americans. As has been widely reported, the semiautomatic rifle is often the weapon of choice used in many of the country's deadliest mass shootings, including the 2018 killing spree at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
Polly told NBC he hopes the gun store, which also operates a shooting range, will provide shooting training free to anyone who gets the weapon through the promotion. He added that the promotion is about fundamental constitutional rights.
Guns as 'Giveaways'
A local ABC affiliate in Pensacola, Fla., WEAR, picked up the story almost immediately, catching the original Facebook post touting the promotion, which declared, "Introducing our "Roof & Gobble" special! Buy a roof from us this November, and we'll throw in a FREE turkey to roast on that brand new roof! Plus, because we're feeling extra generous, we'll even toss in an AR-15!"
Facebook reportedly removed the post, so RooF EZ created another version the following day:
"Someone must've reported our post … but don't worry, the November special 'Roof and Gobble' is still going!!!" the company posted in a new ad posted to its Facebook page. "NOVEMBER SALE," it reads. "FREE AR-15 & TURKEY WITH THE PURCHASE OF A BRAND NEW ROOF!"
The AR-15 text and image of the rifle are now slightly blurred. Since then, the story has caught fire, and several comments on the contractor's Facebook page leave little to the imagination of how some commentators feel about the giveaway.
Discussing its novelty, Polly acknowledged the idea of giving away a gun is not new, referencing an orthodontics practice in North Carolina that, he said, seized upon the idea following Roof EZ's announcement.
Called "Grins and Glocks," the promotion at Gladwell Orthodontics in Wake Forest, N.C., ran for two days last week, Nov. 8-9, and offered either a free Glock 19 or gun range membership to some Invisalign patients.
Orthodontists aren't the only ones jumping on the bandwagon. Inspired by Polly's promotion, Arctic Air Conditioning, an HVAC company in Loris, S.C., is also offering a promotion where customers receive an AR-15 with the purchase of an air-conditioning unit.
"I kind of followed somebody on TikTok, you know. We've seen a little bit of promoting with a similar thing. I believe it was a roofing company, [and I] thought it was a great idea, so the next day I was like 'Alright, let me implement this," Tyler Wigner, owner of Arctic Air Conditioning, told ABC affiliate WBTW.
Much like Polly, Loris has run into his fair share of supporters and detractors, but the effectiveness of the promotion, he says, is working. Loris claims to have gone from two quotes per month to 20 quotes per day.
"Nobody's going to share my post if I'm saying 'I'll give you an air conditioner and a duct cleaning,'" he said. "Nobody's going to share that post, but if you're [offering an] air conditioner and AR-15, everybody in the world is sharing that."
There was even a Facebook post shared on Nov. 5 from William Stewart, an account executive with the business training program REVOLT, who held a one-day promotion where anyone buying $5,000 worth of tickets for the ROOFcon event, held Nov. 9-11, would receive a $1,000 Bass Pro Shops gift card that recipients could use "toward the purchase of a New Gun or anything else from the store."
While the decision to throw in an AR-15 to the mix was Polly's, he, too, acknowledged the idea had been out there before Roof EZ decided to move forward.
"I actually saw this idea; a company actually did it in Alabama," Polly told a reporter at WBBH in Fort Myers. "I figured, hey, we're in Florida; this is the most Florida thing you can do … Let's do it."