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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Post# 278 - Wendy's Hot N' Juicy: The Tomato Isn't Centered

I sent this on 11/6/2011:

Dear Wendy's,

As my orchestra's conductor, I seek perfection.  The perfect balance of woodwinds, percussion, strings, and brass.  Anything less is a disservice to my audience.  Anything more is a musical journey to be cherished forever!  

The same goes for food.  The ebb and flow of interwoven flavors and textures in a well-composed recipe or culinary happenstance create a concert for our palate and taste buds.  This is truly an art, forgotten by most cookie-cutter quasi-bar chains and fast food joints.  That is, except for Wendy's.

Wendys has been my "game changing fuel" for years.  I chose to change cities at one point, because the orchestra hall in "Town B" was within walking distance from a Wendy's.

Every Friday, before my weekly performance, I order a #1 combo (Quarter Pound, no cheese).  I enjoy a small vanilla Frosty as my grand finale.  For over forty years, this has served as my inspirational "springboard" into an awesome performance.  Perfect ratios of beef, onion, tomato, mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup translate into perfect ratios of woodwind, percussion, strings and brass.

When I heard  that my favorite restaurant was re-inventing the hamburger, I was a little concerned.  Would Orff re-tool Carmina Burana?  Would Lennon and McCartney tweak Sargent Pepper?  Would Bach ask for a do-over on Toccata and Fugue in D minor?  I think not.  You can't tweak perfection.

This past Thursday, curiosity got the best of me, and I veered off of my normal plan.  I ordered your new Hot 'N' Juicy.  I was expecting that perfect concert in my mouth.  I envisioned a bigger patty, buttery toasted bun, red onion, crinkle cut pickles, whole fat mayo, ketchup, and melty cheese performing the culinary equivalent of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. However, I was slightly disappointed.

The burger comes in a box, vertically stacked, and wrapped in paper.  This makes for a striking visual presentation, much like a polished violin or tuba.  However, while in transit, gravity imposes its will on the sandwich toppings.  Red onion, pickle and tomato, riding a vertical wave of mayo, slide down, creating a flavor imbalance on the top side.  As I bit the bottom end, I experienced a whirlwind of taste.  As I bit the top end, there was no balance.  The toppings were not centered.

That night, my performance stunk.  Musical imbalance was the overwhelming comment.  The two elder critics in the area, the equivalent of Statler and Waldorf from the Muppets, screamed for my head.  I was told by our board of directors that I'd better "shape up or ship out."

Those old codgers blame me.  I blame Wendy's.  The flavor imbalance of sandwich toppings that were not centered through me off of my game.  I recommend serving those bad boys horizontal to keep things in place.  This isn't an incident that you can address at one location.  I would expect this to be a policy change.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Post# 277 - Little Caesar's Sign Holder Guy

I sent this on 11/6/11:

Dear Little Caesar's,

I saw something the other day that made me very sad.  Picture, if you will, a driveway to a very busy shopping complex.  On the north side of the driveway, a man stands with a sign in his hand.  His sign reads "Halloween USA Now Open."  On the south side of the driveway, a man stands with a sign in his hand.  His sign reads "Homeless.  Need Food.  God Bless."  You have Corporate America competing against our nation's downtrodden. 

I took my son to the grocery store.  We bought two boxes of breakfast bars.  One for the hungry man with the sign.  The other, I stashed under my seat for the next hungry fellow with a sign.  I see more and more people like this.  As I did this, I wondered what else I could do.

Some folks will tell you that these are rich men getting richer off of hand-outs.  Others will say, "you're not helping them by giving them hand-outs."  Here's what I know.  1) If I were the one with the sign, I'd be pretty grateful for any help.  2)  If I've been tricked by the 1 in 1000 who lives in a nice house, he's going hto be eating breakfast bars in his nice kitchen, but that doesn't take away from a good deed.

If there were something more permanent that I could do, besides eight cereal bars, I would like to help.

I contact Little Caesars because 1) I happen to have a great deal of respect for the owner, Mr. Ilitch.  2) I see young fellows out in front of your restaurants every day, with a sign, waving folks in. 

Doesn't it seem like an easy and natural transition to pay the guy on the south side of the driveway to wave a sign like the guy on the north side of the driveway?  Let hungry guy wave a Little Caesar's sign.  He can stand there for eight, ten, twelve hours a day with a sign--he's already doing this!

I'm not trying to be a smarty pants.  I'm talking about an outreach program for someone who desperately needs it.  I'm talking about minimum wage, leftover pizza, and a uniform.  Maybe hook them up with a shelter where they can stay.  Publicize the heck out of what you're doing.  People would love to support such a caring business.  I'm talking about a new beginning.

In the meantime, give folks like me a stack of applications, maybe with a nice letter to encourage them to stop by and apply.  Think about it!



Follow-up note sent 11/21/11.

Dear Little Caesar's,

On November 6th, I sent you a note suggesting an outreach program to homeless people.  Start hiring them to hold up your festive signs.  Give them an honest day's wage, some leftover pizza, and maybe access to the various networks of shelters.  What could it hurt?

I received a confirmation that you received my note.  And then silence.  Did you not take my idea seriously?  Did you think I was joking?  Or are your folks seriously considering my idea?

I"m not saying fire the guys doing those jobs now.  I'm saying, as one leaves, hires a homeless person.  It seems to be a high turnover position.  All I'm saying is, help somebody out who is down on their luck.

Look, I've invested a lot in your place.  Frankly, as a father of two, I'm growing tired of Hot N' Readies.  If I knew you were making a concerted effort to hire homeless people and point them in the right direction, those $5 pizzas might start tasting pretty good again.



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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Post# 276 - Frito Lay - Bring Back the WoW! Chips!

A while back, Frito Lay sold "healthy" potato chips made with olestra, a type of fat that basically "goes right through you, not getting absorbed into your system.  The chips were known to have side effects.  by the Eventually, they disappeared from our shelves.  I wondered...whose life would be affected by the loss of such a volatile product>  I sent this on 9/29/2011.

Dear Frito Lay, 

As a wrongfully accused victim of our Justice System, I've been rotting away in a prison cell for 30 years.  Don't let anyone kid you--prison IS as bad as people say it is.  You rot away, thinking about the thing you did to ruin your life.  In my case, it was a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  See, I was minding my own business, shopping for a Halloween costume in a local costume shop, when gunshots rang out and an alarm sounded.  As I left the store, Mother Theresa costume in hand, another person, dressed as Mother Theresa darted down an alleyway with pistol and a bagful of cash.  They never found the culprit, but I was brought in for questioning, picked from a line-up, and convicted of first degree  murder and armed robbery.

To put it bluntly, since the dawn of time, prison shower time is it its own caste system.   Musclebound men rule the roost, and the rest of us are their "subjects."  The average prisoner is victimized five times a week, depending on the Musclebound/Weakling ratio.  It's demeaning and dehumanizing.    My fortunes changed one day in 1998 when my nephew, Zeke, sent me a care package.  As I stood in the yard, eating these new "Wow!" chips, the "Shower Overlords" watched closely.  They seized the bag and flushed the chips.  I wondered why.

As it turns out, your Olestra chips, with their diarrhea, abdominal discomfort and "leakage" disclaimers, turned me into a wild card.  That day, I showered without interruption.  I started having my son send me bags and bags of your glorious Wow! Chips.  Diarrhea?  WOW! --Sometimes.  Abdominal discomfort?  WOW! Often.  Leakage?  Not as often.  Awesome showers?  Always.

I started having extra bags sent.  Ezekiel and I made a fortune, selling my fellow inmates their "insurance plan."  Many of the Shower Overlords hung themselves in their cells, using shoelaces, bedsheets--one fellow used the drawstring from his sweatpants.  We were living the dream, living in a Utopian prison society.  And then, sometime around 2003, the WOW! chips disappeared.  Ebay was catching on, and I bought every bag I could.  I kept the wrappers and filled them with regular chips.  The Shower Overlords caught on though, and my fun ended.

Warm, luxurious showers became a hurry-up operation.  No thanks.

What would it take to bring WOW! Chips back?  Would Frito Lay accept a significant bribe?  I need to know, ASAP.


No Reply

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Post# 275 - Delta - Peanuts on Flights?

A friend brought her bad experience on Delta to my attention.  I've had my own experiences with this fine airline.  I submitted this on 10/17/2011:

Dear Delta,

A friend of mine was telling me about a horrible Delta experience that she and her family recently experienced.  This was last summer, so if your policies have changed since then, I apologize, and kudos.

The "Jackson" family is comprised of four members.  The youngest, "Holly" has a very severe peanut allergy.  Well in advance of this flight, the maternal member, "Julie," called your team, forewarning them of this issue.  She asked for, maybe not a peanut-free flight, but a three row peanut-free "buffer."  She was assured that this would be handled, that the flight team would be alerted, and that the appropriate steps would be taken.

The flight took off, the seatbelt light was turned off, and out came the peanuts.  Holly started having trouble breathing.  This wasn't a puddle jumper flight, this was DTW to SFO.  Holly's parents gave her Benedryl, and luckily, the peanut dust and debris, your recirculated incubator airspace, did not seize her throat and lungs.

Had the outcome been different, maybe you wouldn't have apologized and handed them some frequent flyer miles (which have a heavy transfer fee that makes them almost worthless to anyone but the person who received them, as I know from personal experience).  Did this solve the problem?  No.  Actually, they've driven from Michigan to Florida twice now, just to avoid using Delta.

Look, I like peanuts just as much as the next guy or gal.  But on a flight, where they could kill or seriously hurt another passenger, I'll pass.  There are plenty of tasty, low cost (because I know that's important to you) options.  Pretzels, Goldfish, gluten free potato chips, those little soy rice crackers, raisins, just to name a few.  I'm sure some of those present other allergen risks, but isn't the peanut the "heavy hitter" in the allergen food chain?

In this instance, what failed?  Why did the crew "not get the message"?  What steps, if any, were taken to address the root cause?  Was there a lesson learned?  How do I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that little Holly Jackson can safely fly on your airline and not worry about her lungs stopping?

I recommend a policy change.  If you can't handle the simple task of not handing out peanuts because they might kill a passenger, you shouldn't be serving peanuts at all.  For the record, I'm not confident that you are capable of handling that task.

You've already simplified your meal prep by eliminating meals.  Now you need to simplify your snack operations.  Peanut and gluten-free potato chips or raisins for everyone!



Their response, sent 10/21/11
Dear Jerry,

RE: Case Number 4677998

Thank you for writing about our peanut policy. On behalf of Delta Air
Lines, we sincerely apologize for your disappointment with our peanut

First, please understand, in respect of our passengers I am unable to
address the comments you made regarding your friends experience. That
said, I am truly sorry for any discomfort any of our passengers felt
onboard our aircraft.

Please know I appreciate the opportunity to respond to your concerns
regarding our policy for those passengers who have peanut/tree nut
allergies. We sympathize with these passengers and welcome them onboard
with the understanding that public transportation poses an inherent risk
to passengers with nut allergies.

We encourage passengers with a nut allergy to take the necessary medical
precautions to prepare for any possible exposure. Prior to their
flights, we also ask that they call one of our reservations sales agents
and have their Electronic Ticket Record (ETR) noted regarding their

On the day of travel, it is important for them to notify our team member
at the gate of their peanut allergy. Upon notification, the flight
attendants on their flight will be advised to create a buffer zone (3
rows forward/3 rows aft/adjacent row) in which the flight attendants
will refrain from serving peanuts. Individual passengers seated in the
buffer zone will also be notified by the flight attendants of their

Respectfully, we are not in a position to remove all nut products from
our flights. As such we must advise you of the following.

- We cannot guarantee a peanut/nut free environment. Peanuts, products
made from peanut oil, and other nuts may be brought onboard by any
- Peanut or tree nut remnants, peanut dust or peanut oil may be on the
aircraft floor, seats, or tray tables from previous flights.
- We will serve peanuts/tree nuts and products processed or packaged in
peanut factories on our flights.

Again, I am sorry you are disappointed with our peanut policy. Please
know I will forward your comments and suggestions to the appropriate
leadership team for review.

As a SkyMiles member, you are an integral part of our customer base and
we are always interested in your feedback. Thank you for taking the
time to write regarding our peanut policy. We deeply value your
business and look forward to the pleasure of serving you in the months
and years ahead.


Coordinator, Corporate Customer Care
Delta Air Lines
My response, sent 10/30/11:

Dear Maura,

Thank you for responding.  I appreciate your feedback.

Here's what I don't understand.  If I tell the Delta Representative on the phone, why would I also need to tell the team member at the gate?  What happened to the person on the phone?  Why, for each flight, wouldn't there be a list of things like allergies, kids traveling without a parent, elderly loved one who needs his oxygen tank.  These kinds of things.  For each flight, the team member at the gate would pull up this list of things, and then call us and all of the flight attendants over and explain the situation.  It seems less-than-efficient to have me needing to remind everyone, and this highlights the lack of communication that led to our situation.

I mentioned the Benadryl--what other medical precautions could I take, given the thought that we were counting on the three row buffer that didn't happen?

You spend a lot of time talking about other passengers bringing rogue PB and J's (because you no longer serve meals) and other peanut-laden foods.  Let's say 12% of the flight did this, and the PPM peanut allergen count in the recirculated air was "X."  Now, you're serving peanuts to 99% of the flight, and that particle count is now 1200X.  I guess what I'm saying is, by serving peanuts on your flights, you're certainly not helping matters.  In fact, you're the biggest cause.

I'm asking you to take a step back and put on your thinking caps.  Use common sense. 1) Better communication within your ranks.  2) Stop serving peanuts.


Delta's response, sent 10/30/11:
Dear Jerry,

RE: Case Number 4677998

Thank you for writing and allowing me the opportunity to further review
your concerns. On behalf of Delta Air Lines, I am genuinely sorry you
were dissatisfied with my response.

I understand you feel I did not adequately address your concerns. I was
happy to review your comments again to see if there was something I
missed. Respectfully, there is nothing more I can add. I am sorry to
disappoint you, as I understand this is not the answer you were

Again, I regret your disappointment with our peanut policy. Your
support is important to us, and I thank you for your additional time and
effort. We look forward to the privilege of serving your air travel
needs again soon.


Coordinator, Corporate Customer Care
Delta Air Lines
My response to Maura, sent 10/30/11:


If you're unwilling to revisit or rethink your policies and intradepartmental communications, then there really is nothing more to discuss.

I find it to be a sad and unfortunate commentary on the state of the airlines.  With less competition, there's less incentive to bend.  I don't think my suggestions are unreasonable.  Your policy is your policy.  So be it.

Thanks for getting bck to me.

Delta's response, sent 10/31/11:

Dear Jerry

RE: Case Number 4677998

Thank you for your most recent communication expressing your continued
dissatisfaction with my response. On behalf of Delta Air Lines, I
apologize that I have been unable to offer a satisfactory resolution.

Jerry, please be assured, I have forwarded all of your feedback to
the appropriate leadership teams for review.

Again, I am sorry you are dissatisfied with our peanut policy. I hope
in time you will provide us with another opportunity to restore your


Maura Coordinator, Corporate Customer Care
Delta Air Lines

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Post# 274 - Pizza Hut Bigfoot Pizza

Letter sent to Pizza Hut on 9/17/1996:

Dear Pizza Hut,

One chilly September evening, on a routine dusk patrol through the state park, my partner, Seth, and I saw some strange activity--flocks of animals fleeing a section of pine forest, on the other side of the marsh.  Thinking “Poachers!” we pulled the Cherokee onto the field and drove through the marsh.  The scent of the pines, in the damp air was exhilarating!  As we inched toward the excited area, we switched to the parking lights (so as to not startle additional wildlife).  In the distance, we saw a silhouette of an apparently large, furry naked man.

Although the creature was faster, policy is to chase until there is no reason for pursuit.  Suddenly we were ambushed by an eight foot tall P.M.S. driven wookie that smelled like two-day old grass clippings.  He growled and swiped Seth’s left arm clean off, heaving the pistol and bloody appendage approximately two football fields.  Seth gasped and screamed “Save yourself--go on without me.”  However, our “Introduction to Park Rangering” manual taught us to never leave a fellow ranger.  If you cross one of us, you have a whole squad to fight.  I fled like a panicky girl with a full bladder. 

The assailant chased after me, intentionally allowing me to outrun him.  In a desperate effort to avoid fate, I rummaged through the emergency kit, flinging gauze, tweezers, and a Band Aid.  Distracted, I failed to see the 15 foot quarry, and we both found ourselves in three feet of swamp water.  As I scrambled to scale the rock, a large furry hand grabbed me. 
His nostrils perused my torso, and I played dead.  As he stuck my leg into his mouth, I tried to fire the flare gun into that salivating opening, just like in Jaws.  I missed pathetically, but lodged it in an equally awkward area.  An angry Bigfoot threw me against the quarry wall, and I scurried up and over the rim. 

Moments later, the brilliant explosion left no trace of the beast.  The sight of Seth’s struggle revealed only a tree with the carved letters “GETHELP.”  Confused, I went home.  No one ever found Seth.  By the way, “gethelp” was not in the dictionary.  Seth never could spell his way out of a paper bag. 

The next day, flags were placed at half mast.  Maybe I should have stuck it out with Seth, my best friend since Cub Scouts, the best man at my wedding.  Seth always helped me out of trouble--with my parents, with girls who discovered that I was not a close personal friend of Ric Ocasik.  The one time Seth needed me, I fled.  Try living with that.

To this day, each time I go to  Pizza Hut, your “Bigfoot Pizza” reminds of my cowardice.  Why did you name your dinnertime fare after a famous killer--someone that has made widows, orphans, and guilty best friends?  Why not “The Mighty Manson,” “Deep Dish Dahlmer,” “Thick Crust Coresh” or “O.J. By the Slice.”  You could serve it up fresh with some Jonesville Kool-Aid.  Why not “Big Daddy,” “The Big Grumpy,”  or “Big Gentle Pie.”  These names reflect a more positive dining experience--not death.  Until I am provided with some explanation, I cannot support your chain. 

Going Hungry (and Thirsty),

“Ham ‘n’ Onions” Herman
No Reply
My Follow-up, sent 4/22/97

Dear Pizza Slingers,

There are only five (5) things in the world that irritate me.

1) People who need a bumper sticker to state “what they’re about.”
2) When people drive with their headlights on in broad daylight.
3) People who nibble on their stick of gum like it’s a carrot, rather than cramming it in their mouth.
4) Toilet paper that doubles as fine grain sandpaper.
5) Companies who fail to respond to their customers’ concerns in timely fashion.

The month was October.  I penned a reflective letter in which I retold a story from my life that was so traumatic, I have never told it to my family.  In fact, in telling you, it stirred up some feelings from 17 months, fourteen days, twelve hours, 18 minutes and... ten seconds ago.  A story about bravery and cowardice.  A story about the best of friends--and how one is gone because the other didn’t have “the stuff that Park Rangers are made of.”

 I was almost over the rough part, until I wrote that letter.  The only time I would break up was at my favorite restaurant (Pizza Hut) when I would glance at the menu and see the name of my friend’s killer right there in big font.  Can you imagine how traumatic that was?

I decided to stop being a sissy and, last night, I went to Pizza Hut.  My waiter thought I was some sort of emotional freak.  I opened the menu and saw no sign of Bigfoot.  Maybe you were considerate to my problem and took it off out of compassion for your fellow man.  If this is the case, I thank you, but I think otherwise.

I am, right now, reconsidering my loyalty the very company that I have made profitable with my late night cravings.  You don’t get customers like me very often.  Let me share another secret--I have loyally consumed your pies despite being lactose intolerant.  “Consequences, Schmonsequences,” I would say.  My system would be congested like the Brooklyn Bridge during rush hour.  But all the loyalty in the world has not consummated itself in the form of feedback from you!  Get to it!

Considering the Dark Side of the Force,

 “Ham ‘n’ Onions” Herman 
Joseph Heilner's response, May 1, 1997:

Dear “Ham ‘n’ Onions:”

Thank you for your recent letters.  Seth’s passing was not only a loss to you, but we vicariously feel the void of his absence through you.  Please accept our condolences.

Let me confirm your suspicions.  We will go on and on to shareholders about how our decision to remove Bigfoot from our restaurants was based on our strategic focus on quality leadership, profit margins, and other business measures.  But in your heart, you can know our commitment to the survivors of Seth and hundreds (thousands?) of Bigfoot victims like him simply required that we remove this well intentioned but unfortunately named product from our restaurants.

Pizza is about having fun, so please accept the attached pop-psychological “Scooby snack” to reprogram your mind to blissful associations with our brand.  You’re not alone, Larry.  Pizza Hut will always be here for you...perhaps the only thing that will always be here for you.  So take this coupon in to your local Pizza Hut today and start healing!
Best of Luck,
Joseph Heilner
Pizza Hut Counseling Services

P.S. -- Jerry, as all of us who’ve lost a loved one know, there will be moments of grief -- ongoing moments of grief.  Now you listen to me, Jerry.  When those times of darkness set in, run, do not walk to your nearest Pizza Hut and fill that void with warm, nurturing slices of Pizza Hut Pizza.