(52) Double Stacks™ of Wendy's®

On Labor Day 2008, Wendy's International did something very nice (in a self-serving, promotional sort of way) for the increasingly unemployed peoples of Central & South Florida. They offered an economic stimulus package in the form of a booklet containing a year's supply of coupons (52) for the newly launched 99¢ Double Stack burgers. First 50 customers at participating locations got a booklet. I was one of those recipients.

I was anticipating the giveaway; I had a plan. The restaurant chosen for my attempt at complimentary vittles was tucked away, the least obvious of the five Wendy's within a seven mile radius of my apartment. I arrived a half-hour before opening, fearing a line already waiting. I envisioned a small gathering on par with the number of people who would stop and listen to a free concert at the mall by an as-yet-unknown, but up-and-coming teen sensation with a hyphenated last name. When the doors opened at 10:30, only four guys entered: Me, Mr. Tamrod O'Flacker, and two other locals.

I noticed Wendy's, Burger King, banks, theme parks, and farms all employ the same style of livestock handling systems. You enter the parking lot (Pen), go into the through the front door (wide lane with block gates) and enter the guard rail created lines (squeeze chutes). This system helps control the movement of the dumb, slow beast for processing. One gets turned into a burger, the other eats the burger - ironic balance in the universe.

According to Dr. Temple Grandin cows & sheep flow better in curved/round chutes and pens because:

1. As the animals go around the curve, they think they are going back to where they came from.
2. The animals can not see people and other moving objects at the end of the chute.
3. It takes advantage of the natural circling behaviour of cattle and sheep.

Humans being allegedly more intelligent don't need fancy curves, we can handle a straight/block setup and yet keep the herd mentality. The only other difference with people is we get agitated when the process takes too long.

Soon it was my turn in the stunning box (It cost how much for a value meal?). I could see the package containing the prized coupon booklets sitting open at the far end of the counter. My only herculean task was to order something to get the booklet, so I had a small Wendy's brunch - a literal small price to pay for $52 worth of unrecompensed eats. While we were eating I overheard two employees speaking of the lack of a turnout and the lack of publicity.

Apparently the marketing of the giveaway had a few issues. The publicizing of the event was modest and didn't generate word-of-mouth buzz (I mentioned it at work and got shrugged off - even though there was a Wendy's 1/2 mile down the road). The press release was dated July 9 and I remember the story being covered by local media with appropriate short pieces on TV and local news blogs. Less people were scrounging for survival back then (only 6.5% unemployment!) and some may have forgotten in the 3 weeks leading up and I don't think there was much social networking coverage, either. Wendy's joined Twitter on July 23 of this year, and the Facebook page's earliest comment is from July 7. Another part of the problem was the online press release didn't include a link to a list of participating locations. Assumably a list was provided to the press, but not the public. As an average consumer / shameless seeker of free food (i.e. target audience) I felt it took too much effort to track down the information. I did finally find an EXCEL sheet online (yeah, seriously) which listed all the locations in on the giveaway, but by and large an opportunity was missed by Wendy's to provide the necessary information directly to the public. I think most people who ended up with a booklet did so by luck.

I got mine and I was happy. The coupons started out as great way to have an affordable lunch once a week at work. The promotional giveaway created a repeat customer who bought stuff to go with the Double Stack, creating profit. As the economy worsened and I got laid off, the coupons became a daily free lunch and I was happy for the cost savings. I began walking to Wendy's to offset the toll of having a Double Stack every day and reduce my carbon footprint (read: save $ on gas). These walks lead to my discovery of DSC, wild passion fruit vines with weird flowers, and provided me the opportunity on occasion to help the less fortunate hobos/grifters by giving them a coupon. Post-job visits were only for the free Double Stack. No additional purchases. So the profit from my visits was reduced to almost zero or negative.

As a consumer and adamant hunter of free food I say Wendy's (or anybody else with a 99¢ menu) should consider doing some sort of giveaway again. Unemployment is at 11% in the same region, which would make for more people clamoring for free anything. Now with the power of social networking behind them, they would have a much more efficient means of spreading the word. Many sit-down restaurants and some direct fast food competitors have some sort of BOGO Free coupon showing up in email and/or mail. The downside risk is people may all be tightwads like myself and only get the burger, rioting might ensue, or the coupons will be resold on Craiglist.

The final success level of the whole endeavor? For me it was a major victory. I got a free meal at least once a week for a year at a time when I really needed cheap and free stuff. Also made an excuse to get out and make discoveries about my little part of the world, giving me things upon which to kvetch. For Wendy's perhaps it's harder to see the impact of the coupons, being it was only 2/3rds of one state that was involved in program. Wendy's Arby's Group Inc (WEN) 52-week range as of time of writing is $2.63 - $6.90. The stock took a steep drop the 31st, the day after the coupons ended, coincidence? Probably.

Miscellaneous comments for Wendy's:
  • Having visited all five Wendy's within my area, the fastest one of all to complete my simple order was #515 Adamo Drive. Where other stores took 2-4 minutes at times, #515 had it waiting almost before the receipt printed.
  • The Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger is the best of the value menu as it always has been.
  • The 99¢ value chicken sandwich is a disgrace to fastfood, especially considering the popularity of the Spicy Chicken sandwich.
  • The nuggets were better with the old breading.
  • Thanks!



Vietnamese Take Out

So you think you're funny with the ha-ha stereotype about Vietnamese food and the stray cats? Well you should be ashamed of yourself; the proud people of Vietnam have many, many much more rare species of animals they put in their diets.

From BBC News

Experts in Vietnam have warned that the Vietnamese could be eating a number of wild species into extinction.

The chairman of the Vietnam Zoology Association said animals at risk included the rhinoceros, the white-handed gibbon, the civet and the tapir.

My grandfather likes his meat rare, but his is ridiculous! (awaits rimshot). Now the only question that remains is how long before I start to see Roasted Civet on the menu locally?

Not Another Star Crossed, Mystical Teen Movie: The Musical 3D

I was sure the final blow to complete the Ouroboros of Hollywood's Pitch-tank of Appropriated, Monkey-typed Scripts would have been dealt by the contrived pop culture "referenceur" team of Friedberg & Seltzer with "Rebooted 1980's Toys Movie 3D". You knew it was going to happen, it was a safe bet.

Instead the pale rider on a paler horse of Limey cinema has taken up the gauntlet, intent on one-upping their Yank cousins by turning our fascination with UK character actors, magiks, musicals, 3D and rehashed ideas back on us with a series of movies "targeting the 'Harry Potter' and 'High School Musical' market" IN 3D, yo!

Based on musical versions of the plays created by Shakespeare 4 Kidz, "Hamlet" will be the first of the six total pictures ("MacBeth", "Romeo & Juliet", "A Midsummer Night's Dream", Twelfth Night, and "The Tempest").

So armed with a "$10 million budget for the initial three films" we can expect some high end, not at all obvious, pop-out-go-wow, 3D effects, right? Well, we are assured Hamlet will rock you so hard.

"Hamlet" lends itself to a 3-D treatment. The producers hope to include a ghost that hovers in front of the aud's eyes, cannon fire that flies into the auditorium and a sword fight that appears to happen all around viewers.

Such Xtreme awEZomenEZ will be accompanied by the reality show "Movie Quest -- A Romeo 4 Juliet," a public search to find two "undiscovered" young actors to play the lead parts of Romeo and Juliet. Renée Zellweger is rumored (just made it up) to play Mrs. Uncle.

Slow clap to you, L.A.-based private equity fund, European backers, Mark Thomas of Elsinore Films, Director John Godber and all the Queen's loyal subjects for staring into the void and asking it to name the capital of Assyria.
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