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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Post# 265 - AAA: Insure My Stunt Jumping Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile! - 4/13/1998

Another contribution by Herman Letters Staffer, Larry Barnowski, sent via mail 4/13/1998.

Hey-Hey-Hey-Triple A,

I have a special situation for which I need some insurance information.

As a stunt driver, I have worked with the best.  My stunts have been used in movies and also television shows like the Dukes of Hazzard.  I laugh in the face of death, and have many perilous “jumps” in my past.   

Last summer, I bought an old (1976) Oscar Meyer Weinermobile.  I intend to drive this vehicle around as my primary mode of transportation for a little while.  Because I haven’t driven in a few years, I have no insurance, and thus, am searching for a good company with a good policy.  I need the best possible coverage with the lowest deductible.

I am looking for a ballpark estimate on a six-month (do you have a three-month?) insurance policy for a ’76 Oscar Meyer Weinermobile with no body rust, brand new tires, which I intend to drive approximately 10 miles per day.  I will be the only driver, and I have no previous points.  I am 40 years old, and have 20/20 vision.  If you need any other information, let me know.

I need this policy quickly, as I am planning a week-long trip to Death Valley, and must be there by 10 AM on July 4th.  Worry not, the Weiner Mobile will be transported on a trailer, along with my crew of six, and also the television people.  Once I arrive in Death Valley, I intend to drive the vehicle around—perhaps run a few errands.

One other question—how much would you cover if the vehicle were “totaled” in a bizarre “Act-of-God-Type”” collision?  Just wondering.

Shopping for Insurance in Case of an Occurrence,

AAA Response, dated 4/17/1998:

Dear Larry,

I am sorry but AAA Michigan does not insure vehivles of this type.  Thank you for considering us for your insurance needs.  Please feel free to contact us when you purchase a more standard type of automobile for a possible quote.

Thanks again for your interest in AAA Michigan.


Reid Larson
Sales and Service Manager
Member Service Center - Insurance
Larry's response, sent 4/19/1998

Dear Mr. Larson,

I appreciate your prompt response to my inquiry.  I can understand your reasoning for not covering my vehicle.  I have found an insurance provider who handles special cases such as Weinermobiles, Good Humor Trucks, etc.

I believe I have found a “more standard type” automobile in the form of a 1984 Black Dodge Charger.  It has two doors, no visible rust, and 63,000 miles.  I intend to drive this vehicle about ten miles per day, while out visiting a 100 yard wide stretch of the Rio Grande in Diablo Canyon.  My associates will cart the Charger out to Arizona for me via trailer, so that I may enjoy it over Labor Day Weekend.

I am looking for three ballpark estimates (best case, worst case and middle of the road) on collision coverage from the month of August forward.  What is the minimum term of coverage (three months would be perfect)? 

Also, I intend to paint flames on the front quarter panels and doors “Dare Devil Larry” on the rear quarter panels.  Will this affect my rates?  Will it lower my rates if I wear a helmet (I intend to)?

In any case, I would appreciate any information that you could provide regarding my situation. 

I Wish to Insure My Charger For Sure,

Larry Barnowski
AAA Response, dated 4/22/1998:

Dear Mr. Barnowski,

To get a quote and possible insurance you will need to visit any AAA office and see an agent.  The agent will review with you the remaining information needed to give you a quote and make sure you are eligible for AAA insurance.

Thanks again for your interest in AAA Michigan.

Reid Larson
Sales and Service Manager
Larry's response, sent 4/27/98:

Dear Mr. Larson,

I appreciate all the assistance that you have provided.  I will contact my local agent soon.
However, I have another question.  This time, I am interested in taking out a life insurance policy through AAA. 

 My question is this: would driving while wearing a crash helmet, in a vehicle equipped with roll-bars and safety nets lower my premium? 

Also, who, at AAA handles sponsorships?  If I had knowledge of an upcoming, nationally televised event at Death Valley on July 4th at 10 AM (Pacific time), who would I contact?  I can’t give out the specifics, but it involves a Weinermobile, a ramp, and a 100 yard long “lake of mustard.”   Let me know.

Seeking Coverage,

Larry Barnowski

P.S. Did you used to play hockey for the Detroit Red Wings?

No Reply

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Post# 264 - Heinz and Marvin the Mayo Man

I sent this to Heinz on 6/10/2011:

Dear Heinz,

I love Mayonnaise.  Let me be specific.  I love your Mayonnaise.  It makes me so flipping happy when it covers my sandwich.  When it dresses up my pot roast.  When it provides that extra oomph to my salmon.  I feel like I owe you.  And I’ve been paying you back.  Allow me to explain.

I’ve created a character, who is gaining momentum at local high school basketball, volleyball, and hockey games.  I dress up in a white uni-tard with a big “M” logo.  I have a 5 gallon homer bucket strapped to my back, with a 3/8 tube that runs through my sleeve to my index finger.  The bucket is filled with Heinz mayonnaise.

I run around putting your mayonnaise on fans’ frankfurters—it looks like it’s oozing from my fingertip.  At first, people stare.  You see, society hasn’t yet embraced the “May-oh-dawg.”  Well, it’s time, my friends.  And the early results are positive.

They call me “Marvin the May-Oh Man.”  At halftime, and during time-outs, I run out and do a dance and scream “Let’s May-Oh-Nize This Place All Up In Here!”

The crowd gets pumped.  The kids, moms and dads are eating May-oh-dawgs like they’re going out of style.  At the end of each event, I have a stiff back, and a mostly-empty homer bucket.  And a full heart.

Here’s my question.  I’ve been buying the packets and filling the bucket, one at a time.  It takes roughly three full evenings to refill the bucket.  Do you sell your Mayonnaise in five gallon buckets?   This would really make things easier.  Also—does your “Light” Mayonnaise weigh less?  I’m just thinking of my ailing back.

Let's face it--you're in second place in the mayo race to those weasels at Hellmann's.  That's as good as last place.  Let's together do something about this!

Any information that you can provide is greatly appreciated.  Also, know that I’m keeping the Heinz name out of it, unless you want to strike up an endorsement deal and dress me up as you see fit.


Marvin (Jerry)

Subject: In Response to your Website Comments - Ref # 003395378A HEINZ/JNEEL
Date: Tue, 14 Jun 2011 11:05:48 -0400

June 14, 2011
Dear Jerry,

Thank you for visiting our web site.

We appreciate your interest, however, these products are only supplied to the foodservice trade and are not available for retail sale.

Heinz is unable to conduct direct sales to individuals. However, you may wish to contact a foodservice distributor in your area who may be willing to sell the product to you by the case on a cash-and-carry basis.

Additionally, there is an Internet Food service wholesaler (not affiliated with Heinz North America) that handles many Heinz foodservice products, selling direct, via the Internet. Perhaps they may be of some assistance in obtaining this product. They can be contacted at by phone at 1-757-245-7675, by address at Foodservicedirect, Inc., 905 G Street, Hampton VA 23661 or online at

Thank you again for your interest and continued patronage. We hope that you will soon have a convenient source for all the products you enjoy.

Heinz Consumer Resource Center

When contacting us, please refer to the following reference number: 003395378A


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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Post# 263 - Manwich and A Lack of Attention to Detail

Confession time: The lack of attention to detail is on my part.  I misread the label and thought it read "Heat thorough."   In my head, I said, "That's wrong! It should read "heat thoroughly."  Instead it reads "Heat through," which still sounds odd to me.  Anyway, I realized this after I had written the letter, but wondered how they'd react--would they DARE correct the customer?

I sent this on 7/15/2011:
Dear Manwich,

Your delightful variation of the sloppy joe, like all the others, Yip Yip, Yum Yums, Wimpies, Slushburgers, Barbecues, Hot Tamales, Taverns, Sloppy Janes, Steamers, Gulash, Dynamites, Victory Burgers, and Juicy Burgers, are a working class meal.  Something tasty that can be prepared on short notice for a large group.  Everyone who can stomach ground beef, sweet tomatoey sauce, and a bun, loves these things.
Sloppy Joes are popular among construction crews, fire fighters, soldiers, teachers, attorneys, clergy and tennis instructors.  In addition, I’ve seen them being enjoyed by people who tailgate in football stadium parking lots and on Nascar infields.  The tailgater crowd seems to be the stereotype.
Last night, as I prepared my version for my loved ones, I noticed something disturbing.  Your directions state:
1) Brown one pound ground beef.
2) Stir in one can Manwich; heat thorough.
3) Serve on hamburger buns. 

The part that caught me was the adjective, “thorough” used in the adverb position normally occupied by “thoroughly.”   I learned this in Mrs. McNally’s 6th grade English.  I believe you did too, but that “thoroughly” sounds to “hoity toity” for the Nascar crowd

I don’t believe that “heat thorough” would have passed through your art department, marketing folks, proofreaders, label suppliers, to the shelves of the store, and into my cart with me being the first person in the whole world to notice the error.  I believe that you already know about the error.  I believe it’s intentional.  You’re dumbing down your sauce to appeal to the Nascar folks.   You’re fixated on focus group data, marketing trends, and perhaps an irate 800 call or two from somebody with a thick accent?  You should be looking deep inside your soul.  I believe these outside factors had more to do with the odd use of “thorough” than anything else.

The thing is, this may make the Con Agra shareholders wealthier.  It may bring more jobs to the sloppy joe factory, and a self-serving Food Network spot in the future.  Somewhere, a little kid is going to read that and start misplacing adjectives as verb descriptors.  You’re perpetuating the dumbing down of the next generation.  You’re simultaneously filling their bellies with nourishment, and their heads with bad grammar.  Grammar isn’t just someone you take to Bob Evan’s once a year on her birthday!

What’s the story?  How’s my aim?  If I’m wrong, and I’m the one who discovered this typo, certainly I should be entitled to some sort of prize or medal of distinction.  Am I wrong? 



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Subject: Consumer Affairs Email Response (Case#: 60275828)
Date: Saturday, July 16, 2011, 11:46 AM
Dear Mr. Herman,
Thank you for your email concerning our Hunt's Manwich.

To clarify, the instructions do not state to heat "thoroughly" but to heat "through".
Your comments are extremely valuable, and they help us make the food you love even better.
Thanks again for your feedback. We're listening!

Consumer Affairs Representative
ConAgra Foods
Case: 60275828

1-877-CONAGRA (1-877-266-2472)
Subject: Re: Consumer Affairs Email Response (Case#: 60275828)
Date: Sunday, August 7, 2011, 10:35 PM
Dear Sarah,



Friday, June 8, 2012

Post# 262 - Wendy's and Their Father's Day Frosty Promotion

Previously, I had sent this positive note.  I decided to participate in the Wendy's Father's Day social media event, which donated 50 cents to Dave Thomas Foundation For Adoption. for every Facebook post or Tweet.

The more I posted, the better I felt about it.  I sensed their webmaster was doing something to slow me down, and that annoyed me,  so I wrote this.  Now, I'm really annoyed.  I sent this on 6/17/2011:

Dear Wendy’s,
Everyone knows someone whose life has been changed by adoption.  Childhood friends who, for whatever reason, needed a happy, loving home.  Adult friends who, for whatever reason, decide to make a big commitment.  The stories that these adult friends tell are staggering-- expenses, paperwork, and the big microscope called “adoption agency”.  The idea is to ensure a good fit.  I get that.
We need to make it more affordable for good families to connect with children.  We need to increase awareness, raise money for the agencies, and in the meantime, take care of the kids.  I believe that’s what Dave Thomas intended.
This past week, I saw your annual Father’s Day Frosty promotion.  I wrote you a letter commending your promotion.  I never heard anything back, but that’s fine, whatever.  I also noticed your promotion on Facebook – “Frosty Treat-It-Forward.”  I downloaded an app that, whenever I share on my facebook page, Wendy’s donates 50 cents to Dave Thomas’s foundation.  Your words—not mine.

I decided to participate, in a big way.  I posted twice.  Wow— I just raised $1.  Then I did it 18 more times.  $10.  Then, I just went crazy.  While watching television, I kept posting.   Posting and posting.  80 clicks per minute.  I reached 1164 before it mysteriously stopped working.  The sign kept reading “$50,000 as of one hour ago.”   It should have read “$50582 as of one hour ago.”   Worse yet, the “app” stopped counting.  Who knows how much that cost Dave’s foundation.  It felt like I was being “stopped.”
I started a second account and posted 1037 more times.  In total, by your classification (“Help us spread the word and Wendy’s will donate $0.50 each time.”)  I started wondering if each click actually counts for $0.50, especially since the “$50,000 as of one hour ago” never changed.  Did each of my posts ACTUALLY count for $0.50?  Did I really raise $1100.50?  Or are you just using some whiz-bang macro that averages facebook traffic for a nice round number that looks a lot like $50,000?
Please tell me that you take your promotion seriously, as well as the time and effort of your loyal, caring customers.


Subject: Father's Day Treat it Forward
Date: Wed, 6 Jul 2011 00:23:54 -0400

Dear Rachel,

I found your email address in my "history."  I submitted the note below on June 17 and never heard back.  Can someone answer my questions?  I felt like I was being "stopped."


From: Rachel
Subject: Wendy's
Date: Wed, 6 Jul 2011 13:30:48 +0000
The donation was capped at $50,000 and this was included in our disclaimers also. Please let me know if you have any further questions and I apologize for the confusion!

Consumer Relations
To: Rachel
Subject: RE: Wendy's
Date: Wed, 6 Jul 2011 23:02:39 -0400

Dear Rachel,
Thank you for responding.  I’m sure you’re right—I missed the disclaimer.  I know it wasn’t glaringly visible on the posting that caught my attention.  That read “
Thaaaaat’s right. Keep spreadin’ the word and Wendy's will keep donating to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Each shout-out on Facebook or Twitter is a 50¢ donation.”

I’m a big fan of Wendy’s, and a bigger fan of adoption.    Parents that I know spent 3 years and roughly $40k to adopt a son.  Friends of mine were adopted, and wouldn’t be who they are if not for this blessing.  Your video states 115,000 are in foster care, in need of adoption.

As a father of two, I don’t have a lot of spare money to donate, so I thought, “what a great opportunity to help!”

 I don’t have a lot of spare time, after work, commute, driving kids to practice, etc.  I made sure to donate most of my free time that week.  As I learned later, I started shouting out well after you reached $50k, , so every one of my clicks, several hours worth, were for naught.

Why, I wonder, wouldn’t you shut it down when you reached the $50k?  Could it be because each of my clicks was a tiny advertisement, and there were several thousand of us shouting out after the quota was met?

Look, I know Wendy’s profits are down.  My research says roughly $865 million in 2010, which is down.  We’re all struggling—underemployment, pay freezes, rising costs. 

Why did you cap it at $50k?  That’s $0.43 per kid.   My clicks, had they counted, would’ve accounted for roughly $0.01 of those $0.43 per kid.

I feel like I was tricked.  I feel like you used me as a pawn to advertise Wendy’s to my friends, well after the fundraiser was over.  It’s just disappointing.


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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Post# 261 - Would Burger King Consider Using Recycled Human By-Product

I sent this to Burger King on 7/20/2011, afdter reading about Japanese scientists who recycled human excrement to make a meat substitute

Dear Burger King,

I once called into question your marketing, citing that Mr. Potato Head eating a french fry is cannibalism.  You thankfully ended that form of advertisement, and I thank you.

A recent United Nations Report estimated that the meat and livestock industry to contribute to about 9% of total anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, including 37% of methane and 65% of nitrous oxide emissions.

The time has come to think about future generations.  If Burger King uses 600,000 lbs of beef per year, and each pound requires 2,500 gallons of water to produce (these are round numbers), that's almost Lake Erie.  We need to make changes, and fast.

People laughed at Edison's "light bulb" invention.  However, when the laughing stopped, society embraced it, continuously improving it's performance and efficiency.  It seems that recently, Japanese scientists have been able to create an edible meat product from recycled human "byproduct:."  This may seem silly or disgusting, but it is true, and 100% safe.  It is still early--the processes have not been optimized, and the end product is still prohibitively expensive.  In time though, as resources dwindle and Yankee Ingenuity thrives, this will be a viable food source.

My question to you is, once the scientists optimize this process and produce an affordable, safe, delicious beef alternative, will you consider making a switch to some or even all human byproduct? 

I'm envisioning an 80/20% Beef/Poo hybrid.  Maybe more.  This can all be fleshed out by the focus groups.  The important thing is beating McDonalld's, Wendy's and Carl's the punch!  Burger King could go fully "independent" and capture/process their own human byproduct.  The slogan could be something clever like, "From One Loyal Burger King Customer to Another."  I'm spitballin' here--you have marketing people that can figure all of that out--hopefully the last of the Potato Head era has left the company.

By reducing beef consumption, we free up farmlands for wind farms, cease the destruction of wildlife habitats for future farmlands.  We exhaust less natural resources (fossil fuels, fresh water, etc) and create less waste.  We turn the fast food industry on its proverbial ear.



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Post# 180: Sonic and Their Crappy Beverage Carrier

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