Serving up inflammatory chestnuts since . . . well, today.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

My apologies to the breath-bated audience (of one?) for my failure to post. Today's entry is far from pithy, but maybe it will get the juices flowing a bit:

I flew into the Pittsburgh Airport Friday, and from there hitched a ride to West Virginia for a bachelor party, but not without a stop to a nearby branch office of The Lube for some wings. Notwithstanding recent inconsistency — and my conviction, not entirely lacking in support from my friends, that their half-buckets are in fact bigger than their full buckets — I still have to rank Quaker Steak as The Tops in wings, especially given the meager offerings here in Boston. In the backseat of an old, great friend's Mercury, I sampled the Medium, Hot, Cajun, and Louisiana Licker flavors on the long road south on I-77 to Ripley, WV (believe it or not) and quietly lamented the absence of the award-winning Golden Garlics from our haul.

Maybe I'm an old curmudgeon, but I think the place could make do with fewer atmosphere-enhancing vintage autos. Sure they're festive, and consistent with the gas-station franchise theme, but the cost of these and other extravagances is passed on directly to the customer, and I think my hard-earned cash is better spent on Wing Flavor R & D, Quality Control, and a concession or two to Consumer Value, starting with a return to the complimentary celery and carrots of yore.

Not that anyone's asked, or that it would make a difference anyway . . . back in '89 I was approached by a Taco Bell marketing rep (no doubt since rendered "redundant" by the Border's "post your comment" webpage — when you get a minute write these bastards and give 'em hell for me) at its now-defunct Rte. 422 location in Warren, Ohio. She invited me to fill out a survey. The form asked how often, on average, I ate there in a month; I circled the (I thought) clout-worthy "ten or more" entry. My only recommended improvement was that they bring back the Taco Belgrande — this was before they "phased in" the "Big Beef Meximelt," functionally distinguishable from the "phased out" "Beef Meximelt" only by the $.20 price increase, or I'd have complained about that, too. Anyway, I lobbied on behalf of the Belgrande in the form's Additional Comment section, then went so far as to harangue the survey-monger orally on the matter: "Best value on the menu," "Should be a dietary REQUIREMENT for teens," and so forth. I went home sure that Pepsico would act on my suggestion and restore the Taco Belgrande to its deserved berth on the overhead menu. But did I save that luscious and loaded 12-inch tortilla from the jaws of Oblivion? Hardly — Google "Belgrande" and you're more likely to rake in typos for the Serbian capital than any reference to that once preeminent food unit.

Let's face it — to the extent that the individual consumer depends on mass-marketed food products for his satisfaction, he is powerless. If he is lucky, he may have a say in the "electoral college" of the focus group, but even then a unanimous vote does not always bring a desired result from the board room. Big Business makes clear that it prefers the free market to the regulatory state. In my view, the road map to that Promised Land would begin with a corporate retreat from take-it-or-leave-it pricing. I should be able to walk into a KFC, read the menu, and have the order-taker seriously consider my counteroffers for individual chicken parts.

I'm just sayin'.

Am I terminally unhip for adding an Onion link to my first substantive blog? History will decide.

posted by Phutatorius at  #9:46 PM.

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