Free Refills & Why I Love America Rotating Header Image

June, 2009:

ACTION ALERT: Greatest charity ever?

deep-dish pizza

While driving around town today I spotted an ad on the back of a Coors Light beer truck for what might be the greatest charity ever: Pizzas 4 Patriots.

The folks at Pizzas 4 Patriots understand that when you are overseas, nothing quite makes you feel at home as drinking a cold beer and eating a greasy pizza. This phenomenon explains why Americans instinctively flock to Pizza Hut locations when traveling in Europe (plus, Pizza Hut offers free refills).

Apparently our military men and women serving in Iraq face a chronic shortage of pizza. To remedy this, the folks at Pizzas 4 Patriots have chartered a DHL cargo plane and are trying to fill it with pizzas and beers that they hope to deliver to our military men and women in Iraq before the 4th of July.*

If you can’t have a backyard cookout to celebrate the 4th of July, the next best thing is a cold beer and a greasy pizza.

Check out Pizzas4Patriots Providing pizza for our troops overseas! to see how you can help. The website even plays “I’m Proud To Be An American” in the background. Nice.

*The Pizzas 4 Patriots website does not mention shipping beer overseas, however the ad on the back of the beer truck did.

Previous topics mentioned in this post:

#17. Five-dollar large pizzas

An open letter to VISA about unscrupulous merchants

Earlier this week, after a particularly heated exchange with a local merchant about minimum purchase prices, I realized that I was spending on average about 30 minutes a week fighting for the right to use my credit card. So I decided to write VISA and plead with them to take action. Below is a copy of my letter.

Visa U.S.A. Inc.

P.O. Box 194607
San Francisco, California 94119-4607

Dear VISA:

First let me thank you for the great service you provide.

A lot of people like to say horrible things about you and credit card issuing banks these days, but I think you are great. I love my VISA card(s), and I am not afraid to admit it.

VISA is quick, it’s easy, it’s paperless and it’s everywhere I want to be! What’s more, using my VISA card means every purchase is automatically categorized, which makes budgeting with free websites like a breeze. Using my VISA card is so convenient that about a year ago I abandoned cash all together—and I wouldn’t think of going back.

I believe the widespread acceptance of credit cards at no charge to consumers is one of the things that make America great. I value the right to pay for a 99 cent can of coke with a VISA card, and I am willing to defend it.

If I encounter a merchant who tries to enforce a “minimum purchase requirement” to use a credit card, I challenge them. I politely inform them that their contract with VISA prohibits them from charging fees to use a credit card or stipulating a minimum purchase price. The merchant always backs down.

I don’t mind doing my part to protect my right to swipe, but I am concerned that more and more merchants are trying to institute minimum purchase requirements. Everywhere I go these days, from party stores to gas stations to cafés to late night pizza places, merchants are trying to circumvent their VISA contracts—and it hurts me, the consumer.

I am doing my part to fight back and stand up for the rights of VISA users everywhere, but I only have so much time in the day. I cannot keep carrying all of the water for you.

So please VISA, step up your enforcement of credit card minimums and surcharges. If not for yourself, then do it for the loyal VISA users everywhere, and for the American way of life.

Previous topics mentioned in this post:

#6. Chargebacks and Credit Cards

€5. Different sized banknotes

Link Roundup—“What would look nice here is a parking lot” edition

Michigan Central StationThere is nothing more frustrating than a vain search for parking—which is why we Americans are always keen to build more parking lots. Sometimes that means we have to knock down beautiful train stations to make way for gravel parking lots. Sure it might seem like a tragedy, but hey, we have cars now, what do we need train stations for anyway?  (

It feels nice to be an American when our team wins at things we are good at, like say war or Olympic men’s swimming. But it feels even better when we kick the world’s ass in things we are horrible at, like soccer.  Today, the USA men’s soccer team beat the number one ranked Spain 2-0 in a huge upset. What makes the victory sweeter is that no one in America even cared enough to watch the game. (NYT)

A St. Paul, Minn. women is suing White Castle after the employees refused to serve her through the drive thru because she was on a mobility scooter, not in a car. In Europe, the bureaucrats would spend years developing regulations on what kinds of vehicles can use a drive thru. In America, we take it straight to the courts. I’m rooting for the plaintiff. (

#18. Moving Walkways

Neon Walkway at O'Hare - Warm FlavorYou know what sucks?


It is slow. It makes your feet hurt. And it is particularly unpleasant if it is hot or cold outside.

By any measure, walking is the worst form of transportation available.* But due to technological constraints and economics (horses are rather expensive), walking was the primary form of transportation for most of human history.

One of the cornerstones of the American Character is a determination to improve life through technology. This is why for the past one hundred years, American engineers have been on a constant quest to develop alternatives to walking. In 1900, the Wright brothers invented the airplane; Henry Ford developed the first mass-produced automobile in 1908; and in 2001, Dean Kamen developed the Segway Personal Transporter.

But despite the fact that we Americans can fly across the country in comfort, drive carts on the golf course and have structured our entire urban fabric around the automobile, there are still some places where walking is unavoidable.

Fortunately, that is where the Moving Walkway, or Moving Sidewalk, comes in.

First introduced in 1893 at the World’s Columbian Expedition in Chicago, the moving walkway has revolutionized the way we move through large, car-unfriendly, places. Today, moving walkways of various sizes are alleviating the pain of people forced to walk long distances in malls, airports and train stations.

Walt Disney World has even installed a moving walkway on the Pirates of The Caribbean ride, in order to ease and speed travel between the exit of the ride and the gift shop.

God Bless America!

*To be fair, running is probably worse.

Previous topics mentioned in this post:

#2. Drive-Thrus

#4. Down Escalators

#9. Automatic Transmissions

#17. Five-dollar large pizzas

Hot-n-Ready from Little CaesarsDetroit is known around the world as the birthplace of  the assembly line and the automobile industry. The former invention revolutionized manufacturing while the later changed the way we travel (and allowed the future development of the drive-thru).

But what many people don’t realize is that Detroit is also the birthplace of another great American institution: the franchised pizza store. Domino’s, Little Caesars and Hungry Howies—or as I like to call them, “the Big 3 of pizza”—were all founded in the Detroit area.

Over the last fifty years, while Detroit’s marquee industry has been slowly atrophying, the Big 3 of pizza have been busy innovating. Domino’s founder Tom Monaghan introduced the franchise model to the pizza business and pioneered pizza delivery technology. Hungry Howies popularized the idea of flavored crust. While Little Caesars introduced a plethora of new pizza products ranging from the original 2 for 1 “Pizza! Pizza!” deal to “Pizza-By-The-Foot” and everything in between.

But the most important innovation came in 2004, when Little Caesars introduced what is possibly the most important food-related development since canning technology: the $5 “Hot-N-Ready” large pizza.

Think about that: a large pizza for only $5.

Not only is that less than you pay for a typical value meal at a fast food joint, it is substantially less than you paid for a large pizza in 1995. Over the past decade, the price of coke from a vending machine has gone from 50 cents to $1.50. Movie tickets have jumped from $6 to $12. But thanks to the great men and women at Little Caesars, pizza prices are lower than ever.

Only in America could such a great thing be possible.

So the next time you are hungry and have nothing more than $5 bill in your pocket, just swing by your local Little Caesars. They have hot pizzas ready for you at any time.

One word of advice: don’t share the pizza with anyone. It tastes better if you enjoy every one of its 2240 calories yourself. After all, you might as well get your money’s worth.

God Bless America!

Previous topics mentioned in this post:

#2. Drive-Thrus

#16. Cheap gas

MINUTEMENT UPDATE: Because eight pop choices is not enough

coca cola
Have you ever gone up to a self-serve soda fountain and thought that the six to eight choices typically offered are insufficient?

Well, neither have I.

But one of the great things about America is that deep the the research labs of our big companies there are thousands of scientists finding solutions to problems we didn’t even know we faced.

The Flat Bottom Taco Shell from Old El Paso is a great example. Did I realize my old, curved taco shells were insufficient? No. Is my life now better because of the hard work of the men and women of Old El Paso? Yes.

Yesterday came word that the consumer scientists behind America’s great food companies have done it again.

It seems the good men and women of the Coca-Cola Corporation have solved the problem of not enough pop flavors being offered at soda fountains. Coca-Cola has developed a new “smart” soda fountain that can deliver up to 100 different flavors of pop, water and juice from a single machine.

InformationWeek has the full story with photos.

No longer will the sparse offerings of our soda fountains be reminiscent of Soviet grocery stores. No longer will we have to settle for the limited choices of Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Dr. Pepper, Fanta Orange, Dasani ect.

100 flavors here I come!*

*I just hope all 100 flavors use high-fructose corn syrup.

God Bless America! has more info here.

Why Europe Stinks €. 6 – Internet Cafes

Internet Cafe in Berlin Shopping CenterThey’re dirty.

They’re smelly.

And they are chalk-full of Euro-Trash.

And no—I’m not talking about youth hostels either.

I’m talking about a kind of place that manages to be far less pleasant. A place that combines gruff service, cramped conditions, poor ventilation, rancid smells, and dated technology—the internet café.

The typical European internet café is about as warm and inviting as a truck stop on the side of the interstate. Most often, the “café” is presided over by a disgruntled man in his mid-30s who passes the day by staring at his cell phone. When you approach him to purchase some service he will simply ignore you. If you do manage to get his attention, he will gruffly inform you that they can neither take credit cards nor make change.

If the cafe itself is not located in a basement or backroom, it might as well be since the windows are invariably so dirty as to block out any natural light. And as far as the computers are concerned, they are neither modern, nor easy to use. If you manage to log into one of the grime-covered terminals and encounter an error, the closest thing to tech support you’ll find is the smelly guy in the corner who looks as if he has been camped out at that particular computer since German Reunification.

But despite their unpleasantness—or perhaps because of it—Europe (and much of the rest of the world) is plastered with internet cafes.

Why? Because internet cafes fit nicely into the European approach to the world. When faced with a scarce resource—internet access—Europeans respond by finding ways to effectively ration it. If we encourage places where people pay for internet access by the minute, then we don’t need to worry about providing people with cheap computers and reliable high-speed internet access, or so the thinking goes.

In America, we took a different approach. We expanded internet access by driving computer prices ridiculously low and engaging in a speculative infrastructure bubble that spread high-speed access to every corner of the country. Today, any America can buy a new laptop for less than $500 and enjoy free broadband internet access at countless coffee shops and restaurants across the country—not to mention cheap, unlimited broadband at home. (I am writing this post from a bar with free wifi).

Today, the only places you can find internet cafes in America are places frequented by European tourists. We keep them to make the backpackers feel comfortable.

Previous topics mentioned in this post:

#6. Chargebacks and Credit Cards

#16. Cheap gas

Cheapest gas yetThe economy is shit, the auto industry is collapsing, and it seems like every other house is in foreclosure. But on the bright side, at least gas is still cheap!

Why is that important? Because in America, cheap gas = freedom.

Sure, things like democratic elections and the right to a fair trial are important. But almost everyone has those things these days. You can go on a crime spree that stretches from the beaches of Normandy to the Bering Straits and be comfortable with the fact that you’ll receive at least the semblance of a fair trial no matter which country you’re apprehended in. And as far as voting goes, hell, they’re even allowed to do that in Iran these days—and Iran is part of the Axis of Evil!

But cheap gas, combined with a credit-fueled car culture, is something uniquely American. Where else in the world can you jump in a car your own and drive across two states on only $40 worth of gas? Where else is it cost effective to take the car when you go out pick up the mail in the morning? Where is gas so cheap that you can drive around in your military-size vehicle with your windows down and your air conditioning on— just because you feel like it?


Sure they’ve got cheap gas in places like Venezuela, but no one can afford a car there. And of course Europe has modern auto finance figured out, but gas taxes are so high that commuting is unaffordable for the average person, let alone the leisurely Sunday drive.

Of course there are those who frown on America’s cheap gas / big car ways. They say that Americans need to give up their cars and bike or take mass transit to work. But these criticisms tend to come from the kind of people who see waiting 30 minutes for a bus as a fun start to a night out on the town. Besides, who is going to ride a bike to work? Bikes don’t have heated seats, let alone air conditioning, navigation systems and accessible cup holders.

What the naysayers don’t understand is that the fundamental promise of America—big houses, bigger dreams and the endless bounty of the West—requires cheap and easy transportation. You can’t be expected to walk to the corner store when all your neighbors live on five-acre lots. You can’t afford to let a late bus derail your big dreams. And as for the promise of westward expansion, well, Manifest Destiny requires mobility. Our forefathers never would have opened up the West if they were sitting around waiting for the trolley car to take them there.

Sure, the world might be going to hell all around us, but as long as we Americans have our cars and a tank full of cheap gas, we will be OK.

We might even make it to a drive-thru while we’re out.

God Bless America!

Previous topics mentioned in this post:

#2. Drive-Thrus

#3. Cup Holders

€4. Inadequate air conditioning

Related Posts with Thumbnails