Virgin Trains' Lazy Avocado PR Stunt Is The Last Thing Young People Need

Photo: Shutterstock
The belief that all millennials are obsessed with avocados is one of the most bizarrely persistent myths of our age. By this point, the creamy fruit has become a lazy way for out-of-touch older journalists, commentators and marketers to talk down to young people – because if we're taking time to enjoy the odd brunch outside the comforts of our shoebox flat (and potentially Instagramming it in the process), our concerns aren't worth taking seriously, right?
Last year, our so-called penchant was used to blame us for the recent global, generational shifts in the property market, with the Australian millionaire and luxury property developer Tim Gurner telling us that our spending habits are holding us back from being able to buy our own homes – rather than an ill-fated combination of stagnant wages and spiralling house prices in the big cities in which we'd like to live.
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“When I was trying to buy my first home, I wasn’t buying smashed avocado for $19 and four coffees at $4 each," he lectured, before the world pointed out that, er, even if we stopped buying avocado toast it would still take many of us centuries to be able to afford a home, as things stand. Young people were, unsurprisingly, bloodthirsty in their retorts.
And then there was the cringeworthy gaffe from Time magazine, which insisted that "hold my avocado" was a real phrase that human millennials were actually using. The response to the article online was scathing, with young people mocking and criticising the publication for making light of the difficult economic hand they've been dealt.
Given the intensity of these worldwide avocado-based blunders – and how recent they were – the latest PR stunt from Virgin Trains is amazingly bad. In light of the high demand for the 26-30 Millennial Railcard which went on sale yesterday, the train company is offering millennials a third off their rail fares if they "present an avocado" at the station when buying their ticket. "And after buying their tickets...[the fruit] can be enjoyed as a healthy snack!" the company quipped.
"Did you miss out on the chance to get your hands on the 26-30 railcard? Fear not!" reads a statement on its website. "After such high demand, we wanted to make sure that the 'Millennial Railcard' was available to anyone who wanted it. Introducing the #avocard, our very own temporary railcard."
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Yes, really, the #avocard

Yes, really, the #avocard. And to top off the oh-so-millennial avocado reference and hashtag, they've garnished their announcement tweet with an avocado emoji. So trendy, modern and original.
The idea may have been well intentioned and any discount these days is to be welcomed, but not only is referencing avocados when talking to young people condescending, irrelevant and lazy, the discount barely puts a dent in the cost of a train ticket. Like the millennial railcard, between 4.30am-10am Monday to Friday it can only be used on fares costing at least £12, and doesn't include advance fares.
So when you consider the astronomical costs of UK rail travel – £338 for an anytime standard return trip from London to Manchester, anyone? – and the recent January price hike and public protests over shabby service, the gesture looks like nothing more than a PR stunt designed to piss off cash-strapped young people. What's more, the discount only lasts a week, until midnight on 20th March.
Virgin Trains is known among passengers for its faux cutesy, patronising way of speaking to customers – toilet signs in its carriages famously advise against flushing "old phones, unpaid bills, junk mail, your ex's sweater, hopes, dreams or goldfish" down the loo – and if its future marketing continues in this vein, it's only a matter of time before we can expect a #Snowflake campaign offering us safe spaces in which to get offended about the news and social issues.
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