‘The Office’: Bob Vance’s Shameless Self Promotion Makes Perfect Sense to Eagle-Eyed Fans

If you’re an avid fan of The Office, you’ve probably spent a good amount of time reading fan theories. Like many other popular television shows, eagle-eyed fans spot subtle character habits or story patterns that may indicate unspoken aspects of the show.

Prevalent theories include all the employees suffering from radon poisoning and Kevin Malone’s company embezzlement — but a certain theory made a lot of sense to fans.

The American version of The Office is a fictional, mockumentary-style remake of the original hit from the U.K. The story focuses on the day-to-day life of employees at Dunder Mifflin Paper Company in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The camera crew captures every aspect of the company’s operations, including the employees’ personal lives.

Who is Bob Vance of Vance Refrigeration?

Rick Scarry as Minister, Bobby Ray Shafer as Bob Vance, Phyllis Smith as Phyllis Lapin on NBC’s The Office | Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank

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True The Office enthusiasts can’t hear this character’s name without thinking “Vance Refrigeration.”

Bob Vance is featured in 24 episodes, including the finale, and makes his first appearance in the season 2 episode “Christmas Party” as Phyllis Lapin’s boyfriend. When Phyllis introduces Bob to three of her coworkers, Bob shakes each of their hands and repeats the greeting “Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration” – prompting Ryan Howard’s hilarious line: “What line of work you in, Bob?”

Following his initial appearance, the recurring character’s title was referenced numerous times, such as Vance Refrigeration providing the grand prize in ‘Casino Night’ and when he sent lavish gifts to his future wife, Phyllis, in ‘Valentine’s Day’ and signed the card “Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration.” In ‘The Office’ season 2 DVD commentary, writer Mike Schur said the introduction “Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration” is based on a friend of his, Hayes MacArthur, who always introduced himself “Hayes MacArthur, Chicago Illinois.”

The fictional company gained so much fan recognition that Vance Refrigeration t-shirts are still sold years after the show’s finale.

Is Bob a proud business-owner or clever entrepreneur?

When it began, most fans just considered Bob’s introduction to be a character quirk. But as viewers heard his title repeated throughout the series, some wondered whether Bob Vance saw the opportunity to promote his business, Vance Refrigeration. Reddit user Savvy_knee noticed the trend and theorized: “Bob isn’t marketing to the people at Dunder Mifflin. He’s marketing to the cameras [to get] free television advertisement.”

The theory spread quickly and resonated with many viewers. One fan stated: “How has it been this long before I realized this! I just thought he was a crazy character, but this makes so much sense given it’s a documentary.”

Fans are split on Bob’s true intentions

It can be easy for viewers to overlook that employees of Dunder Mifflin, and those they associate with, know the documentary is being filmed. Characters often interact with the unseen crew, such as Jim’s subtle looks to camera, Michael’s blatant bragging, and the many one-on-one talking heads.

Another fan explained: “You often forget about the cameraperson’s influence in the office, probably because there are tons of times when the cameraperson could help them or they get a juicy secret, like Dwight and Angela having an affair.” That being said, Bob Vance may have realized that future viewers of the documentary might provide his company some business.

Some dissenting fans believe Bob Vance is just a quirky business owner; one comment reads, “Bob is just very proud of himself and buys into the idea that he’s a local celebrity. That’s the joke.” Another adding “The whole point of the joke is that he’s not a celebrity to anyone outside of the building. It undermines the great writing of the show to invent a legitimate degree of fame for him.”

Some subtle character choices are deliberate, while others are only noticed by the most perceptive eagle-eyed fans. The majority of ‘The Office’ fan theories will never be confirmed or denied. In this case, every viewer has the opportunity to decipher the intentions and inner thoughts of ‘Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration’.