Joe Consumer

In the past year or so I’ve found myself becoming a consumer advocate with my primary focus on food. This is mainly because as I grow older and versed in the world of marketing and sales, I value my dollar and want what I pay for. I’m also the type of guy who would want someone to tell me if I had spinach in my teeth or if my capri pants made my hips look too big.

I’ve been relatively soft spoken in the past, now I’m inquisitive and willing to offer my two cents. I like to think that feedback is appreciated. I value the feedback I get from my own customers. Most of the time it’s something I don’t want to hear, but what better way to learn?

Adrian and I went to HEB on Sunday. I bought in to the point of sale cola cooler (which is very rare). The reason I bought in was because of the new Dr. Pepper bottle. I opened the cooler and reached for their new product and quickly realized it was a diet drink. I recently saw someone drinking a Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper and thought “Wow – I want to try one of those”

HEB didn’t have Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper in their POS on Sunday. I e-mailed the people at Dr. Pepper on Monday night and told them that some of us aren’t on a diet and ended up buying HEB’s house brand. I’m waiting to hear back from the folks at Dr. Pepper.

Earlier this year Elise and I had a horrible dining experience at Austin’s popular Chez Zee. I sincerely and politely filled out a comment card detailing our dinner outing. Never heard a word from Chez Zee and because of that I tell our friends not to eat there.

Elise recently had a frustrating experience at a neighborhood Thundercloud Subs store. Just today we received a friendly apology letter and a voucher for a free sandwich. When I think submarine sandwich, Thundercloud would ordinarily be the last on my list, but because of their quick response to a customer complaint, I’d entertain the notion of giving them another try (the voucher being obvious enticement).

We had chips and salsa the other night with dinner. I hadn’t had good ol’ chips and salsa in a while and quickly remembered why: our last lunch at Texadelphia. Here’s the e-mail I sent to Texadelphia this evening:

My wife and I (used to) enjoy eating at Texadelphia.

Our last visit was to the store on Brodie Ln. in Austin. Your sandwiches have always been great and if we support a chain, we would prefer to support a chain that started locally. On this last visit (I think it was in early March of this year), the chips and salsa left a bad taste in our mouths. Pun intended.

I think serving chips and salsa is a fantastic idea – very Texas. The chips and salsa we had were absolutely terrible. The chips tasted as good as wet cardboard. They were dry, semi-stale and tasted cheap. The salsa tasted like the cheapest generic brand mixed with watered down tomato paste. You guys are unique – I think you should have unique chips and salsa. Why not your own salsa recipe? If what we were served is your recipe, then Cysco and US Food Service have you beat by a long shot.

I think I’m safe in assuming that the chips and salsa hadn’t been left out or contaminated. What we tasted that day was the result of too many corners being cut.

I think you should represent Texas with your novel side of chips and salsa. Offer a variety… chipotle, habanero, cilantro, peach, roasted garlic, sun dried tomato, black beans, corn, carrot… big, bold flavors with fresh ingredients. Or perhaps partner with a local purveyor who specializes in salsas.

Maybe fry your own chips or find a new vendor that offers a better, if not premium chip product. With your current product, I’d rather drive down the street and settle for a boring burger with fries.

That being said, I’d be interested in hearing back from Texadelphia if there are any plans to change or expand upon the chips and salsa side concept.

We’d love to have a nice lunch at Texadelphia again but would feel weird sneaking in our own bag of chips.

Given my current record, I’m not expecting to hear back from Texadelphia.

I wrote to Chick Fil A this evening. Not because of a bad experience… I just had to question their old marketing tactic:

was driving to my Tae Kwon Do class this evening via HWY 620 in SW Austin, TX and saw an employee in a cow suit wearing a sandwich board. This Chick Fil A store is located on a Texas highway with the speed limit set at either 55 or 65 mph (I don’t remember which). Most of us drive somewhere around 70-75 mph past this store.

I saw the same cow an hour later on my way home from class. I jovially waved. The cow was there, bouncing, waving and probably thinking: “Hopefully I’ll look back on this job one day and laugh.” The cow waved back.

I’ve seen this cow outside of the restaurant a few times. It’s mildly amusing to see a person in a cow suit with an unreadable sandwich board or a posterboard-sized banner but honestly, it’s not getting me in the door. Yes, this advertising worked because it stuck out in mind enough to write to Chick Fil A, but I’m not going to seek a franchise tomorrow for lunch. Instead, I’m still going to wonder: “Does this kind of marketing still work?” How many years have I seen cows painting backwards letters on billboards? How many more minimum wagers are going to have to put on the suit and bounce on the roadsides? How many people are going to drive by, laugh and stop at Wendy’s for dinner instead?

I must note that I’m not some sort of humanitarian advocate. High school kids wearing a mascot suit for a chicken sandwich fast food joint is funny, but again, I’m going to stop at the grocery store on my way home instead of Chick Fil A. I’d rather have something new, fresh and homemade.

My main question is: Does this marketing strategy still work effectively for Chick Fil A? I love advertising and will buy in when the ad is clever and appeals to me. Beating a dead horse with a cow on the side of the road makes me think burgers or a newer, fresher product.

I’ve loved Chick Fil A since I was a kid. It was such a treat when my mom and I would go to the mall in Houston and we would have Chick Fil A for lunch in the food court. Your original sandwich is on my list of all-time comfort foods.

What are my options as a loyal consumer now? The cows are worn leather. Chains have bought into the low carb frenzy and that campaign is getting old (there are some of us who aren’t obese overconsumers). I look to the local guy now for fun, original and foolproof ideas.

I would like to hear your thoughts.

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