Chick-Fil-A Labor Day Giveaway: FAIL!

I learned midday today that Chick-Fil-A was hosting a fairly bold and dramatic nationwide promotion for Labor Day: Show up = Free chicken sandwich. Nothing to buy. The only catch is that you had to arrive sporting the logo of your favorite sports team. No problem. After Saturday’s BYU-Oklahoma game (BYU 14, Oklahoma 13), donning some Cougars paraphernalia would be no sacrifice at all. :)

Chick-Fil-A Giveaway

My next task is to find a local Chick-Fil-A. I’ve seen billboards on the freeway so I know there’s one nearby, but I’ve never been to it. I then realize the brilliance of the promotion. Get everyone in the area to realize that there is a Chick-Fil-A nearby and build some local Chick-Fil-A love and loyalty with a fairly modest investment per customer on their part.

Turns out my local restaurant is in the food court of the University Mall in Orem, Utah. No problem, especially since we have five cousins from up north to return home anyway. Next I have to supply sufficient BYU logos for all 12 small people. Not a problem at our house. I raid my t-shirt shelf and we’re in business.

Next stop, Orem! Avoid Labor Day freeway parking lot by taking back roads. No sacrifice because we’re heading to Orem to feed 14 people for free just because we show up in BYU gear. Starting to feel some positive vibes about Chick-Fil-A.

Arrive at the mall outside the food court and 14 of us pile out of our 15-passenger van (yes, I do own one), all decked out like it’s game day. As we near the door, an interested bystander says to me casually, “Going to Chick-Fil-A? They’re all out.” I go, “No!” in sort of mock horror. He says, “They’ll give you a coupon. Just thought you ought to be prepared.” Hmmm. Well, understandable that they might run out with such an unrestricted giveaway, although far more classy to actually stock enough chicken to get through the day. I mean it’s still hours before closing. Well, let’s go get our coupons and see what they do to make lemonade out of this.

No dice on the lemonade. I roll up to the counter while the other 13 Cougar fans in my party stand back so as to not create a mob scene at the register. Girl in the uniform sees us and says, very apologetically, “I’m sorry, we’re all out of free chicken sandwiches.” I then calmly reply, “We’ll take 14 coupons then.” She raises her eyebrows, I gesture behind me toward the cheering section, she coughs up the coupons. This is the moment when the Fail emerges. Out of curiosity I ask her if they’re completely out, or if I can still buy a chicken sandwich if I really want one. Just call it a hunch on my part. She says that, yes, in fact, I can still buy a chicken sandwich. Apparently it’s just the free ones that they ran out of. The ones you buy they still have in stock. Yikes.

I take my 14 coupons and then I look at her and say with that gentle but slightly condescending grandpa tone of face that I’m trying to perfect, “You know, if I were running the show here, I’d give away the chicken sandwiches until there wasn’t a single sandwich left for sale.” To her credit, she gives me a pained and knowing nod and says, “I know. I agree.” Much smarter play on her part than whatever management was thinking.

Meanwhile, the good cheer is just gone. I was planning on spending no cash for dinner, and now I’m standing in a food court with 12 hungry kids in tow, and the teenage boys are getting that vacant look in their eyes like they’re about to kill something large and eat it raw if necessary. I now realize that I’m about to fork out greenbacks to feed this crew because I am a doofus with no backup plan. Of course, I’ll be danged if I’m going to now go back to the Chick-Fil-A counter and order 14 chicken sandwiches (the ones you pay for, which are, in fact, in stock). So instead we slide over and cause a near riot situation at the Taco Bell counter and drop $40 there plus another $12 for my wife and me at whatever it is in the food court that’s trying to be Panda Express. 50 bucks down and all I have to show for it is a detour plus 14 coupons for mythical chicken sandwiches.

Memo to Chick-Fil-A management: If you’re going to play an incredibly bold marketing game, then play the game boldly. Stock enough chicken to feed the entire community, because in a college town people are definitely going to show up for free food. When you run out, start giving away other stuff, whatever you’ve got. It’s a make or break day. When your cupboards are completely bare, and you’ve given away the last french fry, put up a huge sign saying something like, “Thanks for your love, [your city name here]! You cleaned us out!” and then stand there cheerfully handing out the coupons to anyone that walks by with a logo on. Act like it made your day to get cleaned out by the locals on Labor Day. If that wasn’t your point, then why run such a gutsy promotion in the first place?! Instead, you come across looking chintzy when you could have been a hero and really built some customer affection. My wife is a sucker for this sort of thing, and you had her right up until, “You can still buy one if you want.” I’m not seeing her as a regular after this.

Memo to myself: Figure out a way to motivate my lab students using coupons for free chicken sandwiches…

Text messaging is not the devil

About a week ago the Deseret News ran an article entitled, “Parents urged to text teens.” The article quoted me extensively (and accurately) and was pretty balanced. I can’t say the same for some of the comments. It’s interesting enough to read posts on random discussion boards across the Web, but it’s another thing when the anonymous writer calls you out personally. Let me share an example:

Texting is impersonal and rude and drives families apart whether this guy knows it or not. Talk to you [sic] teens and forget the texting, its [sic] meaningless and useless means of communication with your family. Ditch the phones and use your voice and vocal chords to communicate, it does more for your teens and makes it a personal conversation. Texting is not communicating, its avoiding your family and a real conversation with them.

Class is now in session…

Texting is a technology, like cell phones, computers, automobiles, electricity, the wheel, fire, whatever. Pick anything. Technology is not evil. Technology is not the devil. We humans are tool builders and creators, and modern technology is a tool. All tools have both positive and negative usages.

After fire, we had cooked meat plus warmth in the winter, and then soon after we had smoke inhalation, burn wounds, and arson. I’m sure that didn’t stop the enthusiastic “Anti-Fire Coalition” from picketing the campfires.

After the wheel was invented, we had improved transportation, followed soon after by the first wheel accident (followed shortly by the arrival of the first insurance agent). The “Society for the Prevention of the Wheel” gained support for a time, but the technology ultimately, um, rolled over their efforts.

There’s no question that texting is less personal than face-to-face communication, but sometimes that’s the best you’ve got. I never advocated that parents stop communicating and hanging out in the same physical space with their children. My point is that when kids are otherwise unavailable, or are remote from your personal space, there may be significant benefits to texting them when the alternative is no communication whatsoever. Turns out even when it’s not the only option, most teens experience a text message from their parents as a positive interaction. A comparable majority feel that their relationships with their parents are better because of text messaging.

The worked-up commenter fails to grasp (or at least to express) that there is a broad spectrum of activities that can be classed as communication. Some communication methods are intimate, like whispering sweet nothings in someone’s ears, holding hands and kissing. Not the right approach at all times, in all places, or with all people. Some methods are face-to-face but casual and friendly, like conversation over breakfast or casual exchanges between friends. Some communication methods are not face-to-face at all, like a phone call from another state. And some communication methods (brace yourself…) are not verbal at all, but textual, like newspapers, billboards, or written letters. Some even involve computers, like email and (gasp!) text messaging. Now let’s be very clear. Like all tools ever invented, every communication method may be used *or* abused. You can kiss or you can hit. You can verbally express love or hate. You can whisper or you can scream. You can send an encouraging email or start a flame war. Same goes for text messaging…

Newsflash: Text messaging does not drive families apart. However, improper use of text messaging, including obsessive and constant texting by teens to friends (real or imagined) outside the family is almost always emotionally damaging. It weakens the strong family ties that are essential to the healthy development of teenagers. Bone-headed adolescent forays into inappropriate activities such as sexting is morally reprehensible as well as spiritually destructive.

Lecture over. Oh wait, one last comment from the back…

Talk about a dysfunctional family, this guy is promoting his and seems to be proud of it. His family probably carries pictures around in their wallets to remember who they are when they bump in to each other in public.

Yes. Texting can be impersonal and rude.

Same can be said for comments left on online message boards.

An “Internet Safety Podcast” First: Interviewee, not Interviewer

This past week I was a guest on the KBYU-FM Classical 89 program “Thinking Aloud.” I’ve done a few interviews for the Internet Safety Podcast, but this was the first time I was on the receiving end of the thought-provoking questions. The program host is Marcus Smith, and he does a very good job in the interviewer’s chair.

The 30-minute interview aired Wednesday, April 8, 2009, and was made available as a podcast on the KBYU-FM website on April 9, 2009. The program was entitled, “Way Too Wired and Overly Connected.” You can click the program link and listen from the KBYU-FM website or you can go to the Internet Safety Podcast site and listen there.

Here’s the description from the KBYU-FM site:

We have gained many comforts and abilities through technology, but at what price? We’re not looking to rain on the technology parade, but merely to reflect on just how radically our lives have indeed been altered by it. Join us to explore some subtle risks of technology, problems that most people don’t seem to notice or care much about.

CBC Radio — Ideas: How to Think About Science

Commuter recommendation: Turn off the classic rock. Now! You can only listen to “La Grange” by ZZ Top so many times before you realize that you’re wasting your drive time every single morning and every afternoon. If you’re commuting 20 minutes like me, it’s a modest waste. If you’re living somewhere more metropolitan, the cost is far worse.

What, pray tell, do you do with the time if not drum on the steering wheel or air guitar on the emergency brake? You equip yourself with some MP3 capable sound transmission device (iPod, iPhone, Zune, doesn’t matter) and start looking for meaningful podcasts to energize your mind and soul during an otherwise monotonous daily commute.

First recommendation: CBC Radio has a regular broadcast program called “Ideas” in which they explore a stunningly broad area of topics. Regular broadcast reception is limited to Canada and the northern U.S. But courtesy of podcasting, you can enjoy all these programs at your leisure.

A year or so ago CBC ran a 24-part series entitled, “Ideas: How to Think About Science.” Great material, and very thought-provoking. From Episode 1 (“Leviathan and the Air Pump”) to Episode 24 (“From Knowledge to Wisdom”) this series presents a fresh perspective on science, research, and the nature of what we consider truth and knowledge. Whether you agree with every point made or every interviewed guest, the program is bound to cause you to examine the way you think about the world.

My preferred access is via iTunes subscription with content synchronized to my iPhone. Total running time is about 24 hours, which took me approximately two months to work through during my modest commute and occasional pedestrian meandering. (For those of you in the Bay Area, you should be able to bang this out in about 3 commuter days… ;)

Enjoy!

quietube: YouTube without the distractions

Like a lot of things I encounter surfing “the InterWebs” these days, I have a serious love/hate relationship with YouTube. The positive value is fantastic. The negative skank factor is a huge turn-off, and frankly… almost impossible to turn off. Even when you visit a video with redeeming value, there’s inevitably some goofball from Peoria using the comments section to demonstrate via effusive expletive his lack of expressive verbal power. So dumb. So unnecessary. And let’s not forget the video response spams enticing the viewer to explore skanky content, and the “related” videos on the side, in case there wasn’t enough skank elsewhere on the page.

Enter quietube (www.quietube.com). The concept (and the execution) is brain-dead simple. Go to the page. Here’s what you’ll see.

quietube.png

Drag the little box that says “quietube” to the bookmark toolbar in your browser. The next time you are looking for something on YouTube, as soon as you find it, just click the “quietube” button in your bookmark toolbar, and you’ll be taken to the same video on the quietube site, where you’ll see… (drumroll please) … just the video. No comments. No video responses. No skank. You can then copy the URL of this quietube version of the video and email that link to friends and family, knowing that you are providing them with some cool and/or valuable entertainment without thrusting them into a skanky Internet back alley.

You need to understand that this isn’t a YouTube replacement. You can’t go to quietube and surf YouTube from there. But you can at least watch without undesirable garbage, and send links to YouTube videos with greater safety.

As an example, I present to you, one of my favorite viral videos of all time, “Charlie Bit My Finger,” courtesy of quietube.

For the Twitter community and others concerned with URL length, you can click the link entitled “TinyURL for this page” and be taken to TinyURL which will deliver you an even shorter link to the same video. So for the TinyURL afficionados, you can check out the example video here.

Internet slogan for the decade with no name: “Less is more.”

Memo to the industry: There’s a market for non-skanky content. :)

Shopping for a Professional to Write Your Thesis? Keep Looking.

As a professor, a published author, and a graduate advisor, I’m intimately familiar with the challenge (and occasional frustration) of learning how to write well and publish one’s way to academic glory. I’m also familiar with the challenge of teaching students how to express themselves in writing. I’m confident it’s one of the most significant takeaways from the graduate school experience.

So I’m intrigued at the rationale that would drive a student to purchase a graduate thesis or dissertation. I stumbled on a website recently, quite by accident, and was struck by the irony. Here’s a snip from the page. (No, I will not provide the URL.)

thesis-writing-specialist.jpg

Here are my favorite tidbits from this literary masterpiece:

Already hundreds of students and business organizations have experienced excellent writing procedures, so you are not going to be a new one.

Whew. Thank goodness. Always makes me nervous to be a new one. Especially at my age.

We professional help you on Custom Thesis or Dissertation Writing or Rewriting.

And I grateful appreciate them for this.

Every member of out team is expert in knowing the best compiling quality regarding thesis and dissertation writing and well aware to provide such superior quality thesis and dissertation that will ensure to get high grades.

Huh? Wait… I get it. My turn… “All your base are belong to us. You have no chance to survive make your time.”

Finally to say, it is our quality that makes students returning back to us.

No doubt. And it is my blogging quality that makes readers returning back to me.

The Walmart Cashier and Cell Phone (Dis)Courtesy

Tonight I made a quick stop at the local Walmart on my way home from campus. Standing in line with my items I noticed the lady in front me in one of those self-absorbed cell phone trances. You know the trance. You’re in the zone, speaking too loudly, oblivious to anything around you, sharing your personal conversation with a host of perfect strangers, and yet sleep-walking through the physical world in which your oblivious body moves.

As I watched with interest, I saw the Walmart cashier looking at the cell phone trance lady with an amused but detached look, as if daring the cell phone trance lady to acknowledge the Walmart cashier’s humanity. I also noticed that the cell phone trance lady never once made eye contact with the Walmart cashier or exchanged a single word of verbal communication. The cell phone trance lady took four tries to get her PIN correct (she seemed distracted somehow) and then scuttled off, sharing her animated conversation with all in the path of her oblivious sleepwalking.

As the cell phone trance lady vacated the space in front of me, I turned to the Walmart cashier and somewhat enthusiastically said, “How are you this evening?” She was gently jolted out of her detached revery, and returned my warm greeting. I then told the Walmart cashier that I was a university professor with a research interest in the interplay between technology and society and asked her two questions: 1) How frequently does a cell phone trance person (such as we had just witnessed) come through the line? 2) How does it make you feel?

In answer to the first question, she guessed that about 10% of all the people that came through her check-out line in a given day were in a cell phone trance and failed to make eye contact or exchange a single word with her. 10% is not a huge number per se, but the cultural implications of 1-in-10 people in a check-out line at Walmart failing to simply acknowledge the humanity of the person taking their money is staggering. The Walmart cashier commented, “I could charge these people double and they’d never even notice.”

In answer to the second question, she waxed a bit more reflective and said with some emotion, “It’s VERY rude. What are people thinking?!” Then a pause. She continued with some resignation, “It’s VERY VERY rude.” She was being honest and a bit tender in her communication at this point. I could tell that she hadn’t intended to get a little emotional, but I could see it welling just beneath the surface. The sleepwalking cell phone trance people will never notice their impact on the Walmart cashier and others around them because they can’t be bothered to connect even for a minute while performing the transaction at the cash register.

Dr. K sez: If you are talking on a cell phone in a store, when you approach the cashier, either terminate your call or tell the person on the other end that you need to interrupt the conversation for a minute or two. Then pull the phone away from your head and interact with the cashier. It’ll only take a couple minutes. Repeat after me… “People in my physical space are as important as people in my virtual space.” Smile. Say, “Thank you.” The Walmart cashier is a real person, worthy of your validation. Baby steps…

The BCS and the “grass ceiling” or “Welcome to the NCAA. No you can’t play for it all.”

The single most glaring inequity in the Biased Cash System is the “grass ceiling” that grants to a little more than half of the teams in college football the right to play for a national championship, while the other half simply doesn’t get to. You have a situation this year with currently six teams from four non-BCS conferences in the top 25 (four have been in the top 11, three in the top ten), and at most one with automatic access to a big money bowl game come January. That’s bowl game, not to be confused with having a chance to play for it all. Meanwhile mediocre (but anointed) conferences get to send their barely-ranked champ to a large payout bowl as long as they can muster six wins. Repeat in your mind… This is not a problem. Have some Kool-aid.

In 2004 the season ended with four undefeated teams. Of the three anointed teams with a right to play for it all (USC, Oklahoma, Auburn), two were given the chance to suit up and let the players and coaches decide who was best. Auburn got shafted (no sympathy — they’re in the family by their own choice). The BCS Kool-aid vendors spouted about Utah getting to play Pitt in a BCS bowl as proof that “the system works.” Works for whom?! USC and Oklahoma play for the crown while undefeated (and never-challenged) Utah got to play Pitt, mediocre champion of the mediocre (but BCS-anointed!) Big Least. If your goal is to keep the championship inside the family, then the system works. Urban Meyer had to go to Florida to put a national championship on his resume. Can’t do that in the Mountain West. Not permitted by the cartel. You got to play Pitt for $13M. The system works. You should be happy. Go home and celebrate that we let you ride at the front of the bus. Once. The system works. You love big brother. The system works. More Kool-aid?

The poster children for why the BCS is not only broken, but monopolistic, segregated, and un-American are (this year) Utah, Boise State, Ball State, (and in years past) Marshall, Tulane, and every other great one-loss team in the NCAA College Football Non-National Championship Division that went home after the holidays without having a prayer of playing for it all (or even showing just how good they really were).

If the BCS were Microsoft we’d already be in anti-trust hearings.

Learning to Weld :)

I really like the feature that Amazon.com provides, where they send you emails about books you might be interested in, based upon other books you’ve purchased. It’s a great value add for me as a customer.

I recently received the following email from Amazon. Really made me smile. :)

amazon-learning-to-weld.png

In case the picture is too small to read on your browser, here’s the first sentence:

We’ve noticed that customers who have purchased or rated The Internet and Your Kids: Healthy Habits for a Safe Online Home have also purchased Learning to Weld on DVD.

I’m now left wondering what the connection could possibly be between the people who purchased both items… :)

Burger King — Most Valuable Bag?!

It’s Saturday night, I’m on the way home with approximately half of my kids, it’s late, I have no idea what to feed them once I get home, so I make a semi-irresponsible decision to buy burgers at the local fast food joint rather than whipping up something more nutritious and cost effective in my own kitchen.

This is when I hit pay dirt, and realize it’s been far too long since last I blogged. About anything.

I’m sitting with the kids, inhaling my Whopper Junior (trademark, copyright, patent pending), when I begin to read the brown paper bag that the food came in. Don’t ask. I’ve been a compulsive reader since I was first a reader, and I sort of read anything that passes before me, mostly out of instinct (and compulsion).

To assure you that I’m not making this up, I’ve included a photo of the side of said bag.

Most Valuable Bag

MOST VALUABLE BAG

Huh? OK. I’m game. Let’s read on.

In football, the “twelfth man” is a crowd that helps a team to victory through cheer.

What the?! Yeah, I know what the “twelfth man” is, but “helps a team to victory through cheer”?! Who writes like this? Nobody that follows football. Now the “Valuable Bag” has my full attention.

This bag, emblazoned with a #12 on its bottom, is like the twelfth man of your lunch.

The twelfth man of my lunch?! Helping my lunch to victory through cheer, no doubt. Of course, this is dinner, but let’s not get too picky.

Because while you can’t actually eat it, the meal you are about to enjoy wouldn’t be possible without this MVB.

Um. OK. Several problems here. First of all, the dangling “it” leaves me wondering whether it’s the meal or the bag that I can’t actually eat. A few seconds of thought, plus one re-parsing of the sentence, leaves me with the inevitable conclusion that it’s the bag that I can’t actually eat.

But now, a logical fallacy has stopped me mid-Whopper (trademark, copyright, patent pending). This meal wouldn’t be possible without the bag?! What about the traditional “For here? Or to go?” question, which, if answered, “For here” would cause the food to be served on a plastic tray, rather than in a bag (valuable or not), thus providing an existence proof against the claim that the meal I am about to enjoy wouldn’t be possible without this MVB? Huh?! What about that, SmartBag?!

Still one thing sticking in my craw. The Most Valuable Bag claims that emblazoned on its own bottom is “#12″. This I gotta see…

#12

Multiple problems. 1) Is this what you would really call “emblazoned”? 2) “12#”? Don’t you mean “#12″? I think “12#” would, strictly speaking, be read “twelve pounds,” which makes no sense whatsoever. 3) What the heck does “1-5″ have to do with anything? Is this the snap count? An expression that evaluates to -4? The number of eligible receivers? 4) If “12#” is “emblazoned,” what do you call “1-5″ which is similarly “emblazoned” on the bottom of the MVB, but in a font size twice as large?

What can all of this possibly mean?! I’m struggling with explanations.

I can only come up with one possible takeaway from this experience…

Whenever possible, don’t outsource your advertising campaign to non-native English speakers who don’t follow football, and have never actually ordered fast food from your establishment.

Second possible takeaway… During this Fall football season, the Most Valuable Blog recommends that you help your team to victory through cheer. Twelve pounds. Negative Four.