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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Post # 180 - Sonic and Their Crappy Beverage Carrier - 3/28/11

Dear Sonic,

As a father of two, my whole family loves your drive-thru.  So many options, and drink selctions.  Here’s my beef.  Your beverage carrier is, by definition, a device to carry beverages.  Can we all agree that this includes keeping them “upright?” 

Your carrier has a serious design flaw.  You see, the walls only extend down so far, and the folks who designed the carrier neglected the most important people—the children.  After all, they are our future.

My kids’ cups, when placed in one of your beverage carriers, roll around on their sides like some sort of messed up pinball game.  Liquid seeping out, dampening the weight-bearing sides and floors, creating a weak area when I decide to pick the whole thing up.  Heavy “large” cups fall through the damp, weakened cardboard.  Was this the intent?

Why don’t you redesign your cardboard carrier with the cardboard extending down further to prevent the kids’ cup from tipping?  If you upset the kids now, when I’m dead and gone and they’re taking their kids out for delicious drive-thru, they’ll point at Sonic and say “that’s the place with the lousy drinks that Grandpa used to take us to.”

Just a suggestion.  Feel free to act on it, or to toss it gently into the heaping pile of other ideas.  If you’d like me to redesign it, I’ve got the time.



PS - My son is upset that you took away his apple slushies, and I’m missing the Island Fire Burger, but otherwise, we like the options that you place before us.
Date: Tue, 29 Mar 2011 -0400
Subject: Sonic Drive-In Report # 1135043585

Dear Jerry:

Thank you for contacting Sonic Drive-In. We have forwarded your request to the appropriate department. If you have any further inquiries or suggestions in the future, please share them with us. Our goal is to continuously improve the Sonic Drive-In experience and to keep you as regular guest.

Sonic Drive-In
Customer Service Manager
Subject: RE: Sonic Drive-In Report # 1135043585
Date: Tue, 29 Mar 2011 10:39:53 -0400

Dear Sonic Drive-in,

What are the odds that your name would so seamlessly align with your occupation?  If this is a sore spot with you (i.e. teasing from coworkers), I apologize.

Look, don't take this the wrong way, but your note seems a bit formish.  It seems like it could've been written by any company that produces any widget, for any consumer.  I expect, nay, demand better.

I pointed out a design flaw, a major annoyance.  If I experienced this, how many other, similar "parent with kids" consumers also experienced this?  How many did you lose because of this, and not even know it?  How many more do you stand to lose, all because you decided to save three cents in material, per beverage carrier.  How much lost revenue did I just save you?  Think about it.

Passionate people like me take valuable time out of our days-- family time, to to help companies like you, because we care.  We care about people just like us.  When I close my eyes at night, I like to think that big companies care and appreciate my time and effort.

And then I get a form letter.

Maybe I was hasty in judging.  Was someone from the Sonic Beverage Carrier Design Team planning on following up?  If they have a sample they would like me to evaluate, I would be happy to do so.


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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Post # 179 - Photo Submission To The Tonight Show - 3/10/11

While in Arizona, I noticed two signs at a rest stop that made me laugh.  They seemed to contradict one another.  I decided to contact Jay Leno.

Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2011 10:50 PM
To: The Tonight Show (NBCUniversal)
Subject: Feedback

Hello Jay,

I'm from Detroit, visiting my family in Phoenix. Today, heading up to the Grand Canyon, we stopped at a rest stop 50 miles south of Flagstaff.

I took a photo of two signs, side by side. The first sign reads "<---- Pet Exercise Area." The second sign, three inches away, reads "No pets in this area."

If you're interested, I can send the photo. It's pretty funny. Thanks--love the show.

Subject: RE: Feedback
Date: Thu, 17 Mar 2011 17:11:01 -0700

Hi Jerry,

Thank you for your e-mail.

Here is the address for "Headlines" (including photos) submissions:
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
3000 West Alameda Ave.
Burbank CA

If you'd like to e-mail the item, or send us a link to a website posting, our e-mail address is:

All submissions will be passed along to our team of writers for consideration.

Thanks again for writing, and for your interest in The Tonight Show with Jay Leno!

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
Viewer Relations
Subject: RE: Feedback
Date: Thu, 17 Mar 2011 23:07:09 -0400

Dear Tonight Show Feedback,

As stated below, I have a funny photo, taken at a rest stop on I-17, 50 miles south of Flagstaff, AZ.

The photo, attached, depicts two contradicting signs--one claiming that the pet excercise area is to the left, and the other stating that no pets are allowed.  There were plenty of baffled people and pets!

Keep up the good work.  I most enjoy the funny last names of couples getting married!



PS - if you decide to use the photo, can you let me know so I can notify the rest of the Herman tribe?

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Post #178 - Girl Scouts: Do You Care That Keebler Is Selling You Out? 3/1/01

I recently contacted Keebler regarding their lower cost knock-off versions of Thin Mints, Tagalongs, and Samoas that are available everywhere year-round.  They never responded.  A reader suggested that I contact the Girl Scouts regarding this relationship.  Good idea!
Dear Girl Scouts,

I’ve been a big fan of your cookies for my entire life.

Every spring, everyone scrambled to find a local Girl Scout to place the big order.  As a paperboy, I always heard whispered tales of Mrs. Fredricks, who stashed them in her basement chest freezer, in order to have uninterrupted cookie supplies year-round. 

Based on Mrs. Fredericks’ treatment of her paperboy, I would assume that she was buying, not out of obligation to Scouting, not out of fondness for her local Girl Scout, but out of pure fondness of Thin Mints and Tagalongs.

Recently, I noticed something odd.  Keebler had “knock-off” versions of Thin Mints (Grass Hoppers), Samoas (Coconut Dreams), and Tagalongs (Peanut Butter filled chocolate cookies).  These packages had more cookies, and cost almost half of what Girl Scout cookies cost.  This concerns me.

I realize Keebler produces Girl Scout Cookies.  I asked Keebler for more info about this relationship, with no reply.  I had always assumed that you give Keebler a contract, recipes, the specifications, the quantities, and the delivery dates, and they come back with cookies. 

I view Girl Scout Cookie patrons as one of three categories (with some admitted overlap, of course):  1) Family, friends, coworkers of Girl Scouts, who feel obligated.  2) People who are passionate about scouting, who feel obligated.  3) People who absolutely love Girl Scout Cookies (which is a big percentage).  Category three contains the folks, who in days past, would have filled their chest freezer.  Now, why would they if a) they don’t feel obligated and b) they can buy the Keebler knock-off version year round?

Keebler is cutting into the Girl Scouts’ proceeds by having these knock-off versions.  They aren’t exact—the Grasshopper is sweeter and chocolatier than the Thin Mint.  The ingredients, fat, sugar, carb contents are all slightly different.  Does this bother the Girl Scouts?  Does Keebler provide some secret donation in exchange for this?   I guess I’m wondering if this bothers you.

Any information and clarification that you can provide is greatly appreciated.


Subject: RE: From GSUSA Web Site: Girl Scout Cookies
Fri, 4 Mar 2011 -0500

Thank you for your message to Girl Scouts of the USA. We appreciate your interest in GS Cookies and all your kind words. We are aware of the vast array of cookie products available on the retail market for
consumers however the Girl Scout Cookie program is so much more than the actual cookies.
The activity of selling cookies is directly related to our purpose of helping all girls realize their full potential and become strong, confident, and resourceful citizens.
Girl Scouts learn life skills and are able to realize their goals-and they have fun! Customers get a great product and get to support girls in their own community.  All of the proceeds support Girl Scouting in the local community.
Through the Girl Scout Cookie Program girls develop five essential skills: Goal setting, Decision making,Money management, People skills,Business ethics

Many successful business women today say they got their start selling Girl Scout Cookies. During cookie activities, girls are members of a team working towards a common goal, with each girl striving to do her
best. Every local troop/group is encouraged to set realistic goals, such as planning field trips and community service projects, to accomplish during the year. The money earned from cookie activities helps the
troop/group achieve its goals.
All of the proceeds-every penny-from a local council's cookie activities remains in the area where the cookies are sold. This revenue is used to benefit girls, some of it directly by remaining in the Girl Scout
troop/group treasury and some of it indirectly by subsidizing the cost of providing the Girl Scout program in the local area.
Money from Girl Scout Cookies helps local councils: Recruit and train volunteer adults to work with girls.
Provide the financial assistance needed to make Girl Scouting available for all girls. Improve and maintain camp and other activity sites. Keep event/camp fees for all members to a minimum. Sponsor special events and projects.

Each local council sets the price per box, based on its needs and knowledge of the local market. The price per box may vary from one council to another and from one year to the next. Today's prices reflect
the current cost of purchasing cookies from a licensed baker, the increased cost of ingredients, and the realities of providing Girl Scout activities in an ever-changing economic environment. Amounts going to
girls are set by the council's board of directors. The cookie vendors pay a licensing fee to Girl Scouts of the
USA per box produced, which in turn returns to local councils in the form of assistance and resources
from GSUSA.
I do hope this information is helpful. Best wishes and thanks again for contacting Girl Scouts.
Rosa, Information Specialist,
Girl Scouts of the
My reponse, sent 3/5/11:


As a former Boy Scout, I understand the tent posts of your organization, and appreciate you taking the time to explain.  I understand that Girl Scouting is much more than cookies and fundraising.  I know a Girl Scout.  She’s great.  She sold over 100 boxes to friends, relatives, friends of relatives, friends of friends, coworkers of relatives, neighbors, customers of relatives, kind folks at the grocery store, and so on. 

 I’m overwhelmed by the generosity of people who buy these—people with Celiac who can’t eat them.  People on diets, who won’t eat them.  People with diabetes, who shouldn’t eat them.  People who don’t even like them.

At the end of her effort, she was short of her troop’s individual goal by 15 boxes.  Guess who bought those 15 boxes?   

I was glad to do it.  I love the cookies.  But as I was writing that check, I couldn’t help but think—how much less “special” Santa Claus might be to a young child, if someone named “Harold” gave that young child gifts every Wednesday.  In this case, Girl Scouts is Santa.  Cookie Season is Christmas Season, and “Harold” is Keebler.  Cookie season isn’t as special because “Harold” is cutting the anticipation, and the “what’ll I do when I run out” aftermath.  “Wednesday’ll be here again soon.”

As part of a disagreement with a friend, I bought some of these knock-offs for a blind test.  I must admit, the cashier gave me a dirty look as I handed her my Grasshoppers and Coconut Delights.  I was embarrassed—I felt downright slimy.

On the surface, they look similar.  The ingredients are different enough, and the Thin Mint version tastes different enough.  The Samoa version tastes very similar, but is round.  At the end of my blind trial, I determined that these cookies, while inferior, would cure my Girl Scout cookie craving.

It sounds like Keebler is a little like Fight Club, and we all know what Rule #1 is about Fight Club.  So you buy cookies from Keebler.  And as thanks to you, they turn around and make a knock-off version.  Apparently, you’re not able to comment.  Maybe you don’t want to because the long arm of a massive corporation packs a whollop.

It’s disappointing to me.   Keep up all the good work with the Girl Scouts.

Thanks for responding,

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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Post # 177 - McDonalds McBites - 5/1/2011

Dear McDonalds,

I’m dissatisfied with my recent purchase, your McBites, which are the McAnswer to KFC’s Popcorn Chicken.  It is my understanding that you’re test marketing these here in the Detroit area.  In a way, then, I’m a super hero, simultaneously a) helping you “get it right” before you go nationwide, and b) saving billions and billions of people from having a miserable experience. 

The chicken is tasty.    My complaint is sauce to chicken ratio.  With my son’s $.99 four piece, 2.3 ounce McNuggets, he gets the same amount of sauce, and it’s more sauce than he could ever use.  I feel the Catholic guilt, throwing half of it out. 

With my $2.99 regular size six ounce McBites, I get the very same 28 gram sauce cup.  This is great, for the first three or four ounces.  Then, no more sauce.  Just chicken.  Chicken by itself is great, if you’re expecting it.  Chicken by itself, after the sauce is all gone, is pure loneliness.  Look—I’m not Mr. Go-Crazy Dipper.  I saw the end coming, and started dipping less and less, to make it last. 

You need to provide more sauce.  Maybe one sauce for the snack size, two sauces for regular, and three for your jumbo size.  Think about it.  Let me know when it’s fixed, and I’ll be back.   



P.S. - Also, why not add some others—teriyaki, maybe a garlic parmesan, and a super hot one.  Not a “fast food” hot sauce, but a “wow—that really had some kick to it” hot.
From: McDonalds.Customer Care
Date: Tue, 3 May 2011
Subject: Message from McDonald's USA

Hello Jerry:

Thank you for contacting McDonald's. We always enjoy hearing from our valued customers, and I'm sorry you're disappointed in our test product, Chicken McBites.

To add variety to our menu, different McDonald's restaurants offer products for a limited time only throughout the year. Since these products are subject to change, your comments are especially appreciated and will be shared with our Menu Management department.

Again, thank you for sharing your feedback on this product with us. Your trust and satisfaction are important to us. We hope we have the opportunity to serve you soon under the Golden Arches.
McDonald's Customer Response Center

To: McDonald's Customer Care
Subject: RE: Message from McDonald's USA
Date: Tue, 3 May 2011


Thank you for taking up my cause and standing in unity with me.

When you attend the next "All McHands on Deck" with the coffee and bagels and dry erase boards, and you're aggressively making my point (because we're right), mention this:

1) The baker who sells a half-frosted cake doesn't have to bake for very long.

2) The pizzeria that only sauces half of their pies doesn't have to worry about repeat business.

3) The bike manufacturer who only uses half of his fasteners, may experience some negative word of mouth advertising.

Don't cut corners with your customers.  Don't take your customers for granted.  And always use the freshest ingredients.


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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Post # 176 - Lowes and Their Big Identity Theft Riddle

I sent this on 3/20/2011.
Dear Lowes,

Imagine a thief, evading all of the security measures and reaching the big vault at Fort Knox.  The big one!  The only thing that stands between this thief and trillions of dollars is a combination, to be entered via keypad, onto a LED screen.

Imagine, after hours, days, months, the stumped thief cracking the 16 digit code, only for the safe to prompt him for one last safety measure—one last means to stop him.  Maybe it’s a codeword.  Maybe a second combination.  Perhaps a riddle.  Maybe a phone number to call a second party to activate something.

The prompt asks the thief for the last four digits.  The very last four that he just entered, as part of the original 16.

In my example, Lowes is Fort Knox.  My personal finances and your inventory comprise the contents of the vault.  My credit card number is the combination.  You’re asking someone-- someone smart enough to get a hold of my credit card and buy some 2 x 4’s and drywall with it—to flip the card over, read the last four numbers, and enter them?

That’s your big screening method?  Seriously?

Am I missing something?  Why else would we be prompted to enter this?

I’ve seen other places where the cashier asks to see I.D.  I’ve been prompted to enter my zip code.  Each of these is a better identity theft filter than "flip the card over and enter a few digits."

I must say, I’m a little disappointed.  You’re an enabler.


Replied On 3/21/2011 11:01:37 AM
Hello Jerry,

I apologize for the inconvenience this has caused. I have forwarded your concerns to the appropriate department to be further reviewed.

If there is anything else I can do, please let me know.

Thank you,

Cherisse H.
Lowe's Customer Care
Subject: RE: Other Question/Comment
Date: Sun, 17 Apr 2011 11:54:46 -0400

Dear Cherisse,

It's been a month.  I am just following up.  How is the appropriate department's investigation going?  Are they following some leads?  Is this a cold case?

Just curious.


Date: Mon, 18 Apr 2011 -0400
Subject: Other Question/Comment


I understand your email has been reviewed. Please allow them to possibly consider your suggestion during any policy updates or changes.

If there is anything else I can do for you, please let me know.
Thank you,

Cherisse H.
Lowe's Customer Care
Subject: RE: Other Question/Comment
Mon, 18 Apr 2011 -0400

Thank you, Cherisse.

When they reviewed my email, did they discuss why they make us enter the last four digits on our credit card in the first place?  Did anyone stand up and storm out of the boardroom?  Because that individual, Cherisse, would be the culprit, the one who authored this policy.  That individual, Cherisse, is where I would direct the next phase of your investigation.

Maybe he or she has an "in" with the folks who supply the touch screen keypads-- the very keypads that millions of loyal customers enter their last four from the fronts of their credit cards each and every day.  Maybe this added wear and tear on these touch screens leads to more frequent replacement, a bigger profit for the touchs creen manufacturer, and a nice fat under the table bag of silver coins for "Lenny Lastfour."

Think about it.  Why else would we be typing in this info?

How long before we use retina scans?  That actually makes sense.

Thanks for your help in this investigation!

Subject: Incident #EIT000004136501 Other Question/CommentReplied On 4/19/2011

Subject: RE: Incident #EIT000004136501 Other Question/Comment
Date: Tue, 19 Apr 2011 22:25:33 -0400

Hello Barbara,

What happened to Cherisse?  Hopefully this case didn't get to her.  Hopefully I didn't say anything to upset her.

There's something fishy about all of this.  If loyal customer notes are submitted to management, and there's no feedback loop for the loyal customer, that doesn't create a warm, fuzzy reinforcement loop for the customer to feel comfortable returning to the store.  These causal loops are spinning out of control, Barbara!  They're creating a vortex.

A big vortex, Barbara.



Hello Jerry,

Thank you for your comments. They have been added to the notes for management. These comments are used in making policy revisions, but they are not responded to individually.

Please let me know if there's anything else I can do for you.

Thank you,

Barbara L.
Lowe's Customer Care
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