Friday, March 13, 2009

Identity Theft...Chicago Style

Big noise from Chicago - the biggest big-shouldered building in the city is undergoing a name change.

That's right - the Sears Tower will now be called the Willis Tower, named for the London-based insurance company that is taking over much of the space. With three towers named in honor of insurance companies (Aon, John Hancock and Willis), the hog-butcher to the world apparently has found its new millennial niche as an insurance broker.

The Sears Tower has been an icon in the city since it opened its doors in 1973. At that time, it was the World's Tallest Building - a fitting home for one of the world's largest retailers. It gave us something to brag about in those years of drought among our sports teams. We may not have had world champions in our midst, but we had the biggest damn building in the world.

For the last decade or so, the Sears Tower has had to be content to be known as the tallest building in North America. Asia went crazy in the '90s and tried building structures that touched the sky. So now Chicago's muscular tower is just the third tallest building on earth (though, if I understand correctly, it remains the world's tallest structure, if you count the height of its antennas.)

Now this indignity - its name - that of a Chicago-area retail giant - will be replaced by that of a foppish English insurance company. Once Sears Roebuck & Company stood tall and mighty in this land. But not lately. Certainly not since 1993, when it slunk to the low-rise buildings it now inhabits in the 'burbs. Like so many other city dwellers, it fled the urban for the suburban - trading its signature tower for a spacious campus in Hoffman Estates.

Of course, Chicagoans are not happy with the identity switch from Sears to Willis - even though Sears moved out of the building more than 15 years ago. We like our locals to remain here in name, if not in fact. Macy's is still, for some consumers, an unacceptable alternative since it erased the Marshall Field's identity from the retail universe.

And proud Chicagoans are sharing their feelings about this on Facebook. Today there are more almost 20,000 members of the "People Against the Sears Tower Name Change" group. They're asking people to go to a website - www.itsthesearstower.com - and sign a petition against Willis.

And that's just one of more than a dozen groups on Facebook devoted to protesting the Sears Tower name change.

Seems odd to care so deeply for the name of a building most people never visit. Contrast this with the outrage expressed on Facebook over the cost of living in Chicago - its 10.25 percent sales tax gives the city the highest sales tax in the nation.

The FB group "Food is Food, Damn It! End Chicago's Unfair Food Tax!" has 12 members.

And the "DALEY!: STOP WASTING MY F*#&ING MONEY ON YOUR CRONY BULLSHIT!" group has attracted 52 members.

In some cases, it seems as if we care more about the name of things than the things themselves....

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