From Owings Mills to Canton, they're everywhere. The owner of a Hampden sub shop takes your order with one. The clerk at a Fells Point home décor store hands you one to sign your credit slip. Check your pockets: You might have a couple.
They're the bail bonds pens. You know the ones—they're fuchsia and bright yellow—with "Big Boyz Bail Bonds" printed on the side, along with locations and numbers.
"Things happen. People are in the wrong place at the wrong time," says Ross Nochumowitz, a manager at Big Boyz, which his family owns. "The pens increase the chance of our name being brought up."
The company began giving away the pens a few years ago, a brainstorm of his mother. The colors were chosen to stand out and create an element of the unexpected—the feminine colors contrasting with the macho image of the bail bonds business.
Big Boyz buys 400,000 of them a year and distributes them to bars, restaurants, liquor stores, check-cashing places, law offices, and other businesses throughout Baltimore City and County, as well as Harford, Anne Arundel, and Howard counties. All Big Boyz employees carry boxes of the pens around to distribute wherever they go; in addition, a couple of employees do nothing but deliver them, Nochumowitz says.
Mel Barth, executive director of the National Association of Bail Enforcement Agents, is skeptical that flooding the marketplace with advertising giveaways pays off. "It's a waste of money," he says. "The people who get the pens have no interest in a bail bondsman. All you're doing is throwing them out in the wind."
But Nochumowitz explains that when his clients fill out an application that includes a question about where they heard about the company, many of them cite the pens.
The ballpoints remain especially popular at bars and restaurants in Towson, Canton, Fells Point, and Federal Hill, where bartenders frequently call if they need more.
"We probably call every two months," says Monica Sepulveda, a manager at Ryleigh's Oyster in Federal Hill. "Usually they come that afternoon."
"They're the only pens that work. They're fabulous," says Peter Schweizer, a bartender at Canton's Portside Tavern. "When I see them around town, I always know immediately what they are."