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November, 2009:

#23. The Butterball Hotline

Thanksgiving is the greatest American holiday.

No presents to buy, no fasting to do and no other obligations to attend. It is a day dedicated solely to feasting and to the belief that the best way to celebrate our great country is by eating a selection of the bounty that it has to offer. Oh, and it gave rise to the Butterball Hotline, a free hotline you can call to get expert help troubleshooting your inevitable turkey cooking disasters.

You wouldn’t find that in Europe!

Here is a great clip of President Jed Bartlet from the West Wing on why the Butterball Hotline makes America Great.

Happy (slightly belated, my internet was down all day) Thanksgiving and God Bless America!

Which fast food should I eat? [important questions]

Questions, Questions, Questions

Questions, Questions, Questions

Perhaps the greatest triumph of American Capitalism was the invention and proliferation of Fast Food. From humble beginnings, visionaries like Roy Kroc have taken stand-alone burger stands like the one owned by the McDonald brothers and transformed them into multi-national food empires that serve free refills and cheap eats in almost every corner of the globe (sorry Iceland).

But Roy Kroc was not alone, and today there are so many options available that sometimes choosing can be difficult.

To help you decide which fast food restaurant to visit next time you pull off the interstate, the good folks over at food blog Eating The Road have put together an amazing flow-chart.

Thanksgiving is like an all-you-can-eat buffet. Here is how to beat it.

Thanksgiving SpreadThanksgiving is upon us, and that means millions of Americans will be sitting down to vast feasts of turkey, stuffing, potatoes and various casseroles that no one likes. Most of these feasts will be served buffet style with refills available on everything. Of course on Thanksgiving, whether you’re going to the in-laws house or to one of those $19.99 all-you-can-eat buffets, the goal is the same: eat the most expensive, highest calorie meal you can manage.

To help you in this task, check out the All-You-Can-Eat Buffet Guide from Eating The Road. It’s geared towards maximizing your value at those Vegas-style mega buffets, but the tips will serve you just as will at Aunty Mildred’s thanksgiving table.

So go ahead and gorge yourself this Thanksgiving. After all, it’s what the Pilgrims would have wanted.

Happy Eating and God Bless America!

European-style service fee lands two students in jail

The Tip

Does “Gratuity included” = Mandatory Service Fee?

America is the land of decent service and discretionary tips. Unless, that is, you’re eating with a group of 6 or more. In that case, you’re increasingly likely to find restaurants including a sizeable tip on the bill, regardless of the service provided.

And as two college students from Pennsylvania found out last week when they were arrested for refusing pay a tip when they received horrible service, “gratuity included for groups of 6 or more” actually means “mandatory European-style service fee.”

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

They were with a half-dozen friends at the Lehigh Pub in Bethlehem last month, so the establishment tacked what it called a mandatory 18 percent gratuity onto the bill of about $73, according to reports.

Pope and Wagner refused to pay.

“You can’t give us terrible, terrible service and expect a tip,” said Pope, a 22-year-old Moravian College senior who’s a Pottsville native, according to the Lehigh Valley Express-Times.

They had to find their own napkins and cutlery while their waitress caught a smoke, had to ask the bar for soda refills, and had to wait over an hour for salad and wings, they told NBC10.

Following the incident, hundreds of readers Yelp!-bombed the restaurant, posting hundreds of negative reviews of the Irish Pub online. If you think the restaurant was out of line, you can post a review here.

There is no drive-thru, but at least the Wi-Fi is free [consolation prizes]

Chelsea McDonaldsGoing through the drive-thru and then pulling into a parking space to scarf down your Big Mac in the air-conditioned solitude of your own (running) car is the best way to enjoy McDonald’s.

In order to encourage this behavior—and discourage you from dirtying their dining rooms and bathrooms—McDonald’s has been a leader in advancing drive-thru technology. They developed better drive-thru windows, fast no-signature-needed credit card machines and multiple order lanes.

But despite their best efforts, there are some places where building drive-thru lanes and vast surface parking lots is a bit difficult. Top among these places is Downtown Manhattan, where astronomical land prices and uppity neighborhood associations make building drive-thrus all but impossible.

In order to lure folks in to these unfortunate drive-thruless restaurants, McDonald’s has started remodeling them. They’re adding free wi-fi, stylish lighting and trendy new chairs. You can think of the new amenities as a consolation prize. Sure there is no drive-thru, but at least the wi-fi is free. If that is not enough to lure you out of your apartment, then remember: in New York, McDonald’s delivers.

God Bless America!

The Col-Pop is real [rejoice]

IMG_0145I first heard about the Col-Pop I was blown away. A cup that holds both delicious chicken and refreshing soda in one container! How could such a thing be possible? The video about this momentous achievement of human engineering was convicing, but part of me was still skeptical. I guess it was a defensive measure. It would have been hard to bear if a food development this life changing turned out to be nothing more than a hoax.

Today I am happy to report that the Col-Pop is real. I’ve seen it with my own eyes at the BBQ Chicken in the East Village. And sure enough, the store is proudly touting Col-Pop technology to New York pedistrians.

Now if we could only get them to open one  next to the McDonald’s in the Louvre. After all, what product could be better suited to weary tourists wandering around a mammoth museum that is suspiciously devoid of tables and benches?

Great Pyramid, meet Pizza Hut [progress]

Pizza Pyramids

The view from the window of the Giza Pizza Hut. Now if we could only get some billboards up around there...

A few weeks ago I wrote about how McDonald’s is colonizing the Louvre. Turns out the Golden Arches aren’t the only American fast-food logo visible at famous world heritage sites. Pizza Hut and KFC have been doing their part to make the world—or in this case the ancient world— safe for free refills and fast food as well by building restaurants in famous places, like across the street from the Great Pyramid.

Now weary tourists can take in the greatest achievement of Egyptian culture while enjoying the air-conditioning, greasy pizza and free refills that our some of our greatest achievements. Talk about a nice view.

God Bless America!

Corporate attack posters [follow-up]

Negative campaigning is one of the great things about America. And few negative ad wars are more entertaining to watch than when two big companies go after each other.

A few weeks back I posted a web ad that Motorola had released attacking the iPhone. It was a delightful little piece of corporate negative campaigning, and I’m pleased to report that Motorola has decided to put it on TV and adapt it to a poster campaign.

Here is a photo of some fly-postings I saw on a construction site in New York City’s East Village:

IMG_0144

As you can see, they should probably add “iDon’t take good nighttime photos” to the list.

Previous topics mentioned in this post:

#21. Negative campaigning

Corporate negative campaigning

Should we ban cell phones in cars? No.

As state legislatures around the country rush to ban the use of cell phones in cars, I thought it would be a good time to pause and consider a few facts about cell phones and traffic safety over the past few years.

Or if you prefer your data in graphs, I made these three with data from the NHTSA, Neilson survey, The Pew Center and the U.S. Census.

Car-crashes-and-cell-phone-use

Texting-and-driving

carpooling-fatalities

These facts and data show us that despite all the sensationalistic claims like “talking on a cell phone is more dangerous than drunk driving,” the rapid proliferation of cell phones and text messaging in cars has not made our roads more dangerous. On the contrary, our roads have become dramatically safer over the last decade.

Is this increased safety due to a decline in carpooling? Perhaps.

After all, if you ignore the results from fancy “eye-ball tracking” studies and driving simulators, which are not very applicable to the real world anyway, and just ask motorists what they find distracting, they will tell you something surprising. Crying children, it seems, are one of the biggest distractions motorists face. At least that is according to a survey conducted by Leasetrader.com. So maybe we should let cell phones be, and just ban carpooling instead.

Driven to distraction

Previous topics mentioned in this post:

Is it time to ban carpooling?

The graph the New York Times doesn’t want you to see


#22 The Steering Wheel Desk

Steering Wheel DeskAn American’s car is his castle.

And while that castle comes nicely equipped with leather seats, air-conditioning, a sound system and ample cup-holders, until now it has always lacked a critical feature: a table.

But thanks to the American innovative spirit, that problem has been solved.

Introducing the Steering Wheel Desk.

It is an easy-to-use desk that simply attaches to your steering wheel. According to its ads, it can be used as a table, reading or music stand as well! Never again will you need balance your Chinese take-out between your knees while fiddling with chopsticks with one hand and holding your drink in the other. Now you can enjoy the meals you eat behind the wheel from the comfort of a table, just like you would at home.

Judging by the overwhelmingly positive reviews on Amazon.com, Americans have been longing for something as useful as the Steering Wheel Desk for a long time.

You would have to be some sort of luddite not to recognize the immediate productivity gains that this steering wheel desk affords you. I spend about 4 hours a day in my car making sales calls and used to spend two hours a night doing that day’s paperwork. No Longer! By the time I arrive at the next target’s business, I’ve already completed my sales call site summary, product order form for the target I just visited, and a game or two of Free Cell. Sure, cell phones may be illegal behind the wheel here in Maryland; but the law dogs have yet to ban my right to work on my Notebook PC as I cruise around the I-95 corridor.

Although not everyone was quite so impressed.

Obviously the snake oil salesmen who designed this product don’t know much about computers or steering wheels. My first and most notable complaint is that you better be sure you’re driving on a straight road when you use it, because it is impossible to turn your steering wheel with this attachment. Maybe because my car is a foreign model, it doesn’t fit, but I honestly cannot even back out of my driveway with this thing on.

If you are lucky enough to have a car where this apparatus can fit safely on the steering wheel, I hope you have a satellite internet card, because there is no way you can pick up wifi in a moving vehicle.

God Bless America!

Previous topics mentioned in this post:

#3. Cup Holders

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