Scene's Distribution Boxes are Disappearing from Downtown

click to enlarge An empty Scene box in Tremont. - Sam Allard / Scene
Sam Allard / Scene
An empty Scene box in Tremont.
Two weeks ago, Scene distribution boxes began disappearing from downtown Cleveland. As of Wednesday, a total of 26 were unaccounted for.

In late-night heists, unknown thieves have absconded with batches of 10, eight and eight. These are the familiar white boxes with red or blue Scene signage (and occasionally other decorative stickers).

Those that have been taken were either in standalone locations or grouped alongside the Plain Dealer and Employee Guide boxes on Euclid Avenue and other prominent locations in the central business district. Downtown Cleveland is far and away Scene's densest distribution hub, trailed by Lakewood and Cleveland Heights.

Scene's circulation director, Don Kriss — Scene's longest tenured employee, incidentally — is in hot pursuit, but the boxes have proven elusive.

Kriss initially hypothesized that this might be the work of scrappers. The boxes are weighted with bricks so they don't topple in the wind, and weigh about 150-160 lbs. Once the bricks are removed, though, the boxes are only about 50 lbs. each. The current scrap value is about $.06 per pound, or $3 per box, according to Kriss.  That's not tremendous value, even for small-time crooks.

Besides, Kriss said he has visited an estimated 8-10 local scrap yards and not one of them reported receiving the boxes. He also said that scrappers would be more inclined to steal the Plain Dealer boxes: they're heavier and include a latching mechanism which would net a higher price at the scrap yard.

Kriss theorized that, if not the work of scrappers this might be the work of another print publication in a nearby city looking to augment its distribution on the cheap. The boxes cost about $300 new. Could it be some upstart magazine in Columbus, Pittsburgh, Akron? Again, this beggars belief.

A third theory — equally beyond the pale, perhaps — is that the boxes are being removed by a party or parties unhappy with Scene's coverage. The first the editorial department learned of the missing boxes, in fact, was when Kriss asked us if we'd "[upset] the Mayor."

"That's certainly possible," we admitted, reflecting for a moment on our coverage of Public Square, the secretive Quicken Loans Arena money grab, and Frank Jackson's unprecedented fourth-term aspirations.

Kriss said he's gotten very little traction at City Hall, even after the third batch of boxes was taken — his impression was that he was being intentionally ignored. Only yesterday did a Cleveland police officer respond to his multiple reports.

In addition to our feisty news coverage of late, Scene is also the most meticulous chronicler of local live music happenings and remains the most popular local source for news and reviews on the food scene — great content, in other words, for tourists looking for free information about stuff to do in the city.

We'll update when we find out more.  But until then, we apologize for the thousands of downtown employees and guests who are going without their weekly dose of news, entertainment and humor.

If you see anything unusual, or know anything about our missing boxes' whereabouts, contact Don Kriss at [email protected] / (216) 802-7208.

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Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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