Derogatory Anti-Tourist Bumper Stickers Stir Controversy in New Jersey

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First it was Bennies, then Shoobies. Now there's another derogatory nickname for summer tourists who visit the Jersey shore: FOOTs.

It's an acronym for "Out Of Towners" preceded by an obscenity. Bumper stickers appeared recently on a few cars at Brigantine City Hall with the slogan "I Ain't No FOOT." That prompted memos reminding city workers about appropriate behavior.

Many locals have long resented summer visitors, blaming them for noise, trash and traffic, while overlooking the added revenue they bring. In northern shore towns, they're called Bennies (an acronym for "Bayonne, Elizabeth, Newark and New York" or variations thereof.) In the south, "Shoobies" refers to the days when New Yorkers and Philadelphians packed their lunch in shoe boxes for trips to the shore.

"We need to get the damn Shoobies off their cell phones and stop texting so we can drive," said Brigantine resident Joe Kilroy, sipping a beer at the American Legion Hall a few hours before it was to host its annual "Shoobie Tuesday" party, commemorating the end-of-summer reverse migration of tourists.

But Marc Daniels, owner of a tourist-oriented gift store that sells beach chairs, pails and shovels to vacationing families, takes quite a different view.

"I think (the bumper stickers) are disgusting," he said. "If it weren't for tourism, we wouldn't have any local businesses. People need to realize that tourists help pay the bills here.

"People from Philadelphia or New York come here and spend money," he said. "Then I can go and buy gas at the local station, and the gas station guy can buy groceries for his family. Why on Earth would you not want tourists?"

The bumper stickers are a new spin on an old attitude at the shore. In Monmouth and ocean counties, black-and-white bumper stickers demanding "Bennies Go Home" are plastered on lamp poles, road signs, public benches and elsewhere. A road leading from Belmar to the Garden State Parkway commonly has a large wooden sign posted next to the pavement on Labor Day weekend bidding the Bennies goodbye and rejoicing that the locals "have our shore back."

Daniels said that with the economy continuing to struggle, making tourists feel unwelcome is one of the most self-destructive things a shore community can do.

"Our business is down this year," he said. "I'm selling $5 T-shirts and $10 sweat shirts. That's most of my business."

The $30 beach chairs at his shop were not moving nearly as quickly.

Yet despite his disdain for their driving skills, Kilroy recognizes the economic benefit of Shoobies.

"They are good for business," he acknowledged. "They spend a lot of money down here."