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Arby's Reuben

Call it a tacky PR stunt, or a good way to get a whole lot of free lunches, but Arby’s is offering coupons for a free Reuben sandwich to an entire town – on one condition. The town has to rename itself “Reubenville”. For real.

“March is all about the Reuben sandwich for Arby’s,” the fast-food restaurant announced today in a news release. So it’s rewarding the first U.S. community to rename itself “Reubenville” for the month of March, with 5,000 coupons for a free Reuben sandwich.

And don’t think Arby’s will just take your word for it. Submissions must include an official city council proclamation declaring the city’s renaming, plus a picture of the city limit sign altered to read “Reubenville”. The first community to provide the proper documentation to [email protected] will get the coupons. Then it’s up to city leaders to sort out exactly who ends up with all the free sandwiches.

If the idea seems a little beneath your city, it could be worse. At least they’re not asking anyone to rename their community “Arbyville”. Or, for that matter, “SugarDaddie.com.” The town of Sugar Land, Texas last week rejected a decidedly less seemly offer, to rename itself after the dating website that connects rich older men with younger women. The $4.65 million offer was more lucrative than 5,000 free Reuben sandwiches, but the mayor dismissed it, saying his city is not for sale.

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Clark, Texas was, though. You may remember back in 2005, when the tiny town of 55 households renamed itself DISH (in all capital letters), in exchange for 10 years of free DISH Network satellite service. Halfway, Oregon became “Half.com” in 2000, in a deal with the internet retailer that was swallowed up by eBay less than a year later.

Cooler heads prevailed in Biggs, California, when it rejected an offer to change its name to “Got Milk?” in 2003.

But of course the most famous, and long-lasting, PR-stunt city name change of all occurred in Hot Springs, New Mexico. And the name stuck, even though there are far fewer residents around these days who remember their town’s namesake. In 1950, Hot Springs became Truth or Consequences, named after the radio (and later TV) show, after host Ralph Edwards promised to broadcast the show from the first town to adopt the name. Long after the show went off the air, Edwards continued to visit every year until shortly before his death in 2005.

Kind of makes the quest to find “Reubenville” seem not quite as colorful a story in comparison. But then Ralph Edwards never offered anyone a few thousand coupons for a free sandwich.

(Update: read about the winner here: “Want Free Arby’s Coupons? One Town Can’t Give Them Away”).

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