Popped open a copy of USA Today in between flights yesterday, and what should I find but another full-page ad for the ‘Amish miracle heater’.

I was hoping to avoid the heater issue as it’s been covered enough elsewhere, but looks like there is a lot of fresh reporting just out.  Good Amish heater analysis at consumeraffairs.com as well as a Philly Fox News report from yesterday.

A post in the LA Times business blog explains that the company which produces the mantles, based in Canton, Ohio, gets the heat-unit parts from China.  The wood bits come from Amish producers, located nearby (though the definition of what makes a business ‘Amish’ is another point of contention).

The first ad, around since at least early last year, was borderline at best.  Apparently these are ‘real Amish people’, but ones that agreed to be pictured if the photos “focus on the quality of the product.”

But the second, which has been run in Rolling Stone magazine, takes ‘mind-boggling’ light-years further.  A pair of nude women on a bed, gazing at an Amish mantle, complete with a bottle of champagne and two glasses.  Ouch.

The first ad was toeing if not crossing the line.  But hard to imagine an Amish producer giving explicit agreement for the second.  And if it did, that’s a business that’s really run itself off the rails.

Hard to think of anything more offensive to typical Amish sensibilities.  Or a bigger disconnect between the marketing of a product and the reality.

Needless to say, this type of thing is exactly what the average Amish business owner does not want to be associated with.  Scanning opinion a bit, I just spoke with an Amish entrepreneur who predictably expressed disgust at the whole idea.  Another Amish friend commented that ‘this thing is so fake it doesn’t even raise my ire.’  Though some Amish furniture shops have apparently been involved in a limited fashion (providing the woodwork that houses the electric heating unit), the company that makes the heater, “Heat Surge”, is not an Amish one.

The Amish ‘brand’ is one of the strengths of Amish businesses and this has to be tarnishing it, and on a national scale.

But probably not permanently–I have to give the average consumer more credit-for-brains than that.  Though it’s not the kind of thing that most Amish business owners would want more of.