Observations of Fast-Food Gimmickry

Last night, I fell victim to ill-conceived fast-food gimmickry in the form of the Coca-Cola Freestyle® drink machine at a Wendy’s® restaurant near my home.

My foray into fast-food gimmickry began a few days earlier while driving by a just-opened Wendy’s® a few miles from my home.  It was then that I noticed the message on a brightly-colored banner positioned near the street in front of the restaurant:  “Over 100 Drink Flavors!”

After passing the restaurant several times during the days that followed, I finally succumbed to the less-than-subliminal pressure of that banner and went inside to buy a bag of burgers for my family AND to find out how the folks at Wendy’s® would fulfill their corporate promise of a plethora of drink flavors.

Once inside, I found the Coca-Cola Freestyle® drink machine shown in the photo at right.

Unlike the traditional self-serve set up featuring a half-dozen drink choices on each side of an ice delivery system, the new system features a sleek touchscreen via which customers can concoct a mixture of their own choosing from a full-scale menu of carbonated and non-carbonated drink options.

As something of a germaphobe, I couldn’t help but think about how many people might touch the touchscreen on the high-tech drink machine during a given day.  And how many had washed their hands — or not — before touching it?

That wasn’t an issue with the old-style fountain drink delivery systems that, when operated properly, allow one to push the side of his cup against a metal bars and cause ice and fluids to enter said cup and result in no direct contact between a customer’s hand and the machine.

And what about the lines?  Another problem I noticed with this system is that it serves only one customer at a time, kind of like the DMV.

During the five minutes or so that I waited for my carry-out food order to be prepared, I observed as many as three customers at a time waiting in line to use the high-tech, high-touch machine — and the evening rush of customers had not yet arrived.

In addition, I observed that the system had to be “fixed” — that is, a manager had to use a password to get into the machine’s control panel and make some sort of adjustments — at least once during those five minutes.  Customers waiting for the machine to be returned to working order had no other options as the one-hole wonder was, as far as I could see, the only customer-accessible drink-dispensing station in the restaurant.

What’s the solution for “Joe Customer” if fast-food restaurants like Wendy’s® stick with the new touch-screen machine, I suppose he can just call the restaurant months ahead of his next fast-food visit to schedule an appointment at the drink machine.

Wait!  That’s kind of like what they will have to do with ObamaCare.

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Coca-Cola Introduces New Cans for BBQ Season

Coca-Cola® is introducing a set of new can designs (shown below) just in time for summer barbecue season.

New Coke Cans 5-12-09

It appears, however, that no new Ramadan Coke can design is in the works.

Ramadan Coke

Hat tip:  Adrants

Postal Service Changes Raise Cash, Fight Hunger

The U.S. Postal Service expects to save more than $100 million annually through a series of cost-cutting steps, but a handful of other steps reportedly being taken by the agency during its economic crisis will raise both cash and eyebrows.

Eighty district offices will be closed, according to a recent news release.  In addition, more than 1,400 mail processing supervisor and management positions at nearly 400 facilities around the country are being eliminated and nearly 150,000 employees nationwide are being given the opportunity to take an early retirement.

According to an unidentified agency source, however, the agency is taking three other steps as follows:

  • The Postal Service will soon begin replacing its familiar red, white and blue outdoor mail receptacles with new coin-operated mailboxes.  In addition to paying for stamps, Postal Service customers will be required to deposit 25 cents into a slot in order to deposit a letter at a mailing location other than their home mailbox. So as not to confuse customers who wait until the last day to mail their tax returns, this program will not begin until April 16 and is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2009.
  • In order to lower printing and production costs and boost affinity program revenues, the Postal Service will no longer offer self-adhesive stamps or stamps pretreated with nasty-tasting moisture-activated adhesives.  Instead, customers will be able to choose from a variety of “Flavor-Lick” and “Fresh-Scent Spray” adhesives that capitalize upon unique marketing arrangements with several name-brand companies.  To date, the list of companies said to be partnering with the Postal Service on the “Flavor-Lick” initiative includes — but is not limited to — Coca-Cola®, Listerine® and Red Bull®.  A partial list of the companies said to be participating in the Fresh-Scent Spray” initiative includes — but is not limited to — Dolce&Gabbana®, Glade® and Yankee Candle®.
  • In an effort to help reduce world hunger, the Postal Service plans to phase out traditional wood-based paper envelopes.  In place of them, the agency will offer only envelopes made of rice paper after July 1.  Furthermore, the Postal Service has notified envelope manufacturers and customers alike that the agency will no longer deliver envelopes not made of rice paper after Dec. 31, 2009.

If the measures above are successful, many government watchdog agencies expect the Postal Service to implement several other ideas, many of which were reportedly submitted by third graders.

Atlanta Radio Appearance to Air This Afternoon

In a post five days ago, I promised to notify readers when details became available about an airtime for my recent guest appearance on The Jody Hice Show.  Here’s the update:

Dr. Jody Hice

Dr. Jody Hice

The pre-recorded program will air today at 2:30 p.m. Central on WRAF-FM 90.9 FM, a station in the Atlanta area (Coca-Cola’s backyard).  During the program, Dr. Jody Hice and I discuss several culture-related topics, including one that was the subject of a very popular recent post (i.e., the Muslim crescent moon and star symbol appearing on cans of Coca-Cola during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan).  If you miss it in real time, you can visit the show web site for a free podcast that should be up available by the end of this week.

UPDATE: Posting of the audio mentioned above has been delayed.  Check back soon for another update.

UPDATE #2 9/01/08 5:28 p.m. Central: It’s up and available now at WRAF-FM 90.9 FM.

Blogger to Appear on Atlanta Radio Show

Dr. Jody Hice

Dr. Jody Hice

Nine days ago, I published what turned out to be a very popular post about the Muslim crescent moon and star symbol appearing on cans of Coca-Cola during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan.  This afternoon, I will discuss that post with Dr. Jody Hice, host of  The Jody Hice Show which airs on WRAF-FM 90.9 in the Atlanta area (Coca-Cola’s backyard).  My appearance will be recorded today for broadcast next week.  As soon as more details become available, I’ll publish an update in this space.

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UPDATE 9-02-08:  The appearance mentioned above will air today at 2:30 p.m. Central.  For all the details, see Atlanta Radio Appearance to Air This Afternoon.

Listen to ‘Allman and Crane in the Morning’

It’s 12:20 a.m. Central, and I just received an e-mail from Jamie Allman, asking if I would appear as a guest on 97.1 FM Talk’s Allman & Crane in the Morning program at 7:45 a.m. Tuesday morning.  Specifically, he wants to discuss the “Ramadan Coke” post I wrote and published Monday afternoon.

Thanks to Michelle Malkin at Hot Air, that post is getting a lot of attention in the blogosphere.

Anyway, I told Jamie I would be glad to talk about the topic with him, so be sure to listen all morning — and especially at 7:45 a.m.

Important Note: If you live in the St. Louis area and want to listen live, tune in to 97.1 FM on your radio or listen via the web site.  If you can’t listen live, be sure to visit the web site and listen to the podcast.  If you don’t live in the St. Louis area and want to listen to the broadcast live or via podcast, visit the web site.

Hot Air Site Picks Up Ramadan Coke Story

Click on graphic to read my post about "Ramadan Coke"

For the first time since I began publishing this blog almost three years ago, Michelle Malkin’s Hot Air site has linked to one of my posts.

As shown in the graphic at right, a link to my post, Will Cross Adorn Coca-Cola Cans This Christmas?, appeared at the top of the Hot Air home page this evening under the headline, Finally: Ramadan Coke. The permanent link to my post on the Hot Air site can be found here.

Thanks for the help, Michelle!