Jon Reed Goes Off On... October 2004
Wednesday, October, 13 2004
How ya doin', Quiznos?
Recently, I made the trip to the new local Quiznos franchise to get a better feel for the sub chain that adds a decidedly corporate feel to our increasingly franchised little town. As if anticipating my cynical visit, a frantically-large "locally owned and operated" sign fills the door. Inside, Quiznos has done their best to make the café space they inherited as poorly-used (but radioactively bright) as possible. Yellow is everywhere; the word "toast" or "toasty" is everywhere. Before I get my bearings, some chippy behind the counter comes up to me and yelps out: "How you doin?," which he is likely prompted to say during the Walmart portion of his Quiznos training program. I try to respond, but all I have is a good view of his back as he runs off to check on the toast. While my mystery meat sandwich was in prep, I sat and pondered the brilliance of the Quiznos business plan. A major franchise built on one simple concept: bread tastes better warm. Poor Subway, thinking they had the sandwich biz wrapped up because they bake their own bread. But I still recall the day I popped into my local Subway amidst the seductive smell of freshly-baked bread. I actually offered to pay extra if they would serve my sub on the fresh, warm bread, but I was denied: "store policy" (upon further questioning, the "Sandwich Artist" behind the counter was more than happy to elaborate on this policy, explaining that he was required by Subway to serve me the oldest bread in the store. The bread that smelled so good wouldn't be eligible for eatin' for another three days). Turns out this particular policy was to become Quiznos' Trojan Loaf, as they baked their way into a strong position in the sandwich biz.
So, Quiznos loads up on the "how you doin'" employees, fills their shops with cheap (but very tasty) toast, serves crummy meat and crapped out salad fixins', while making a big show of their "recipes" which are not actually recipes as our mothers understand them, but various forms of sugar-based sauce. Each form of sugary sauce is a special, distinct "recipe" which leads to a supposedly unique sandwich experience. Forget wasting big money on good meat and fresh veggies: just shell out for the toast, and hope to hell the low-carb craze dies down. I take my hat off to the diabolical genius that drove this franchise all the way to small-town Northampton. But for the record, "locally owned and operated" doesn't impress. What, were we under the mistaken impression that the store was being staffed by robots and centrally managed at Quiznos corporate headquarters? Crappy sandwiches are crappy sandwiches, crappy uniforms are crappy uniforms, and crappy corporate service industry jobs are crappy corporate service industry jobs. If they put up a sign that said "locally managed, centrally-controlled," then I would be impressed - honesty still goes a long way. If they put up a sign that said "we buy only local produce," then I would be very impressed. One thing, however, is certain: if shops like Quiznos continue to proliferate, anyone in search of a really good sandwich will be toast.
Monday, October, 11 2004
The Cars and Circuit City: just what I didn't need
The Cars have a lot of leeway when it comes to selling songs. They've spared us, by and large, from embarrassing reunion tours, and you don't get the feeling they made a huge killing the first time around anyway. Plus, Ric Ocasek has the look of someone who would know how to waste a lot of cash, and we know he has a penchant for pricey supermodels. So if the Cars want to sell a few of their songs, more power to 'em. "Tonight She Comes"? Sure, why not? "You Might Think"? Ric, knock yourself out. "Shake it Up"? That's fair game. These songs were always light fare, greased to slick their way up the top forty with forgettable ease. In the entire Cars catalog, there's only a few songs that should be off limits. One of them, of course, is "Just What I Needed." For a generation of adolescents, that song is forever associated with fantastic moments of attraction. Was there anything better than a warm summer day, windows rolled down, thinking about some girl who shined as bright as the sun, with that staccato riff blasting out of the radio? I still remember the places that song could take me to, the feeling that anything was possible. But now, thanks to the Cars and Circuit City, "Just What I Needed" now refers to the petty satisfaction of going to the mall and selecting your mp3 player of choice. We may have more disposable income than when that song came out, but how many of us really got what we needed? I don't care how many times Circuit City runs that commercial, or how big a television we buy there, you can never get that feeling back. Not that way. And the Cars just rubbed our face in it. It's not fair to say we're surprised by Ric Ocasek, but it does seem fair to punch him in the face next time we see him.
Wednesday, October, 06 2004
The blog is back!
The Blog is Back! Hey folks....the blog is back! Now that Resumes from Hell is almost out (will be available for purchase in November), and my biggest thorn-in-the-side essay is done, I'm back in action. I won't be posting too much for a while, but there's too much commercialized crud out there to stand by. Thx to all those who wrote in asking me to keep on! Here we go....
ESPN: free throws and stolen bases for sale
People swear by their TiVos, but the TiVo is actually a diabolical invention. As fewer and fewer people actually watch commercials, networks are looking for more and more ways to "embed" commercial messages into their programming, and it's no surprise that ESPN is leading the charge. Sleazing commercials into the actual broadcast of sporting events is not quite a "captive audience" situation, but it's still pretty freakin' annoying. The examples on ESPN are numerous and mind-numbing. During a basketball event last spring, I could swear a company sponsored a free throw. And then there is the "Dunkin Donuts game summary" - an already-annoying display of in-game statistics hijacked by a donut. Any event in sports - whether it's a double-play or a safety or a stolen base - is now available for purchase from the shills at ESPN if you can scrape the cash together.
Late nights and griddle cakes: can someone pass the methadone?
In a naive attempt to serve as the sugar fix of the youth culture, McDonald's has been running a silly ad for griddle cakes that actually targets late-night rave-a-holics who will, McDonald's is (inconceivably) hoping, stagger in at dawn, plop down next to school-bound families, and scarf down some griddle cakes. Give McDonald's credit, the spot has a slick vibe, with a cool twenty-something griddle dude narrating his way through an evening at a house party with his buddies. The female d.j. gives them pause ("that girl's got more skillz than u,") but they regroup and head over to Mickey D's for some yummies. Oh, and these kids are a lot cooler than we are, or as the narrator puts it: "breakfast for you...bedtime snack for me." Can someone please tell me which marketing guru told McDonald's to expand their breakfast rush by targeting ravers who have the munchies? Does this person still have a job? Give McDonald's credit for portraying raves as such clean fun. Pretty girls are everywhere, but there's no drugs, no drinks, no sex in sight. It's all good, though - everyone will get off on griddle cakes later. If the next generation is really that vanilla, I don't know whether to praise them or damn them. But I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that a hit of X goes pretty well with some griddle cakes. Breakfast at McDonald's anyone?