Carotene Craziness- A Social Experiment


On July 12th, 2005 a man named Kyle MacDonald traded one red paper clip with a coworker for her fish-shaped pen. A series of trades later over the course of a year and he eventually was able to trade for a house.

You can read all about his trades on his blog (he's even written a book about it) at We thought this was a great idea and decided to see how far we could trade in just one afternoon.

Kyle wished us luck- but apparently not enough. Watch the video below:


May 15th, 2008 was international Panic Buy Carrots day ( in which hundreds of thousands of people pledged to buy lots of carrots just because. On Saturday, May 17th in the early afternoon Zach, Nick, and James met at government center with over a hundred of these carrots and bushels of determination.


We apparently had some beginners luck as the first man Zach (aka "Master Beta Carotene") spoke to traded a plum for one of our carrots. Certainly a trade up in the flavor department but still a perishable- in fact it perished seconds later down Zach's throat.


Nick was able to convince the folks at Godiva to trade chocolates for carrots (an even better trade-up). James then traded his chocolate for a couple markers and a highlighter- clearly a poor decision on his part but now he has the writing utensils to commit that to paper.


This was about as far as our trading could go unfortunately. With still nearly a hundred carrots weighing us down we agreed to start giving away as many as we could.

Free food! Should be easy right? Not so much. Reactions covered the entire gamut from sincerest gratitude to absolute horror. Thankfully we were able to unload quite a few to the employees at a number of the clothing retailers surrounding Quincy Market.


Can you spot the carrot in the picture below?


Surprisingly the most successful shops for carrot taking were the high end clothing/handbag retailers. We assumed that for the gorgeous, thin sales people our carrots appeared as a bountiful harvest. Or maybe they presumed it was the newest fad from the west coast? Who can say? They can't- their mouths are full of carrot.

Free Carrot!

James, posing as a "stalk trader", pronounced to random strangers the smart investment move it would be to accept our carrots as the rising costs of commodoties in the market could mean these free carrots today could be worth real money tomorrow. This didn't seem to convince anybody.

We unloaded carrots any way we could. Unsure if selling the carrots would give us more cred than handing them out, Nick stood in the crowd and shouted "Free carrots! One dollar! Get your free carrots for a dollar!" ...that didn't seem to work either.


At one point James passed a living statue in front of a cash-donation bucket. While he didn't have cash on him he pointed to the bucket and said "carrot?" The statue politely nodded and accepted our carroty cash substitute.


One of the area's best street performers (Tobin Renwick from The Flash- was also nice enough to juggle our carrots.


At the same time Nick was encouraging public safety by campaigning against jaywalking with the "caution-orange" color that carrots naturally imbue; holding the carrots in an X fashion until the crosswalk sign declared it was safe to cross- a few took carrots in the process.





Woman asks if she can have a free carrot:


Hence woman receives free carrot:

Things turned sour however when Nick tried to trade carrots for a souvenir from a vendor stand. Clearly bothered by the ridiculousness of the request the vendor (who was actually trying to charge for something more ridiculous than free carrots- hats that look like lobsters) began complaining to others in the area for some time after he left.


When she heard from others he had been in the area passing out carrots to a lot of people she became furious. When she saw him later she ran up to him and accosted him, demanding to know what our diabolical plan of carroty terrorism was. She then noticed our hidden camera guy and pointed to him with one arm while holding Nick's with her other. She shouted to the other vendor clerks, "HE'S IN ON IT TOO!". Nick broke free of the newly forming Crap-Gifts Militia and he and the cameraman became lost to the crowd.

With a number of carrots still in tow it was unclear exactly how we would manage to get rid of them in a non-wasteful manner. Thankfully James came upon a street lined with horse drawn carriages. Horses love carrots! There goes a dozen right there- James also left some extras in the buggy for one of the operators who was taking a nap.


After a bit more exploring we came upon a friendly chap heading the Ghosts & Gravestones haunted city tour booth ( who was more than willing to accept our many carrots upon informing him they were "haunted carrots". That was the last of them! While we didn't get a house and James lost his perfectly good chocolate we did gain something- the useful knowledge that some people are absolutely terrified of free produce.

It's a scary new world out there, Christopher Columbus.