Free Beef!!!

I think Les Schwab is doing something right. If case you haven’t seen the ads on TV, Les Schwab is giving away free beef with the purchase of new tires. Free Beef! Are you hearing me people? Buy tires, get free beef. It’s marketing genius, and they’ve been doing it for years. After all, when it comes to closing a tire sale, nothing sweetens the pot like red meat.

I can only imagine how this promotion came to pass:
Customer (hesitantly): “Well, the warranty is good, and the price is right… but I’m just not sure…”
Salesman: “Alright, you’re twistin’ my arm here, but how ’bout I throw in a big hunk of raw meat and we call it a deal?”
Customer: “Sold!!!”

The marketing team at Les Schwab apparently studied their key tire-buying demographic and reached this conclusion:
1. Let’s face it, vegetarians don’t buy tires.
2. The tire-buying public are all bloodthirsty carnivores.

With this in mind, they knew that offering “Free Salad!” with every tire purchase would get them nowhere. And thus, the free beef campaign was born.

To fully appreciate the brilliance of this promotion, we need to understand their use of two seemingly unrelated products. They combined tires and beef into complimentary goods. First of all, this promotion could never succeed with other products. Can you imagine: “Buy a Home Pregnancy Test, Get Free Beef!” or “Buy Tires, Get a Free Nipple-Piercing!” Because of this campaign, beef and tires now go together like peanut butter and jelly. You almost can’t imagine one without the other. And therein lies the genius.

Finally, speaking as a man that eats six servings of red meat per day, this is a dream come true. How many times do I find myself making two special trips for both tires and beef? This promotion by Les Schwab is one stop shopping, at it’s best.

Wait! You Forgot Your Receipt!

The previous post by DA got me thinking about my own issues with receipts:

First, I hate the yellow, carbon-copy receipt some places give you. First, the store is immediately giving you second-class-citizen status. Essentially, they are putting you in your place by saying, “No, you’re not good enough to get the special top copy, with the clean white paper, fresh ink and legible printing. No! That’s our copy! You can’t have the original! You get this worthless, retread copy!”

To begin with, the yellow copy is only readable if there was so much excess ink from the good copy that it bled thru the paper to create your hand-me-down copy. And if it does bleed through, half the time they are impossible to decipher anyway.

Clerk: “Ok sir, here’s your receipt. Have a nice day.”
Consumer: “Uhhh… wait a second. This is just a blank piece of carbon paper… It doesn’t even say anything on it.”
Clerk: “Alright, look… We don’t even have the capability to print receipts. We just give everyone a blank piece of paper because people think they need something after we take their money. People need to feel secure, nestled in at night. This receipt is their security blanket.”

Now, a receipt is essentially a meaningless piece of paper, but somehow it can make any transaction or dealing seem official and legal.

Black-market organ dealer: “Ok, I put the kidneys in the cooler, and here’s your receipt.”
Buyer: “Well, seems like everything is in order… thanks.”

Conversely, not getting a receipt when one is expected makes people very suspicious. It’s an immediate red flag to question the whole operation. The cashier is suddenly as trustworthy as a back-alley three-card Monte dealer. When they do finally present the receipt to me, I look it up and down, pull out a 10-key machine, and perform an IRS-like audit to make sure sale prices, coupons, and all the senior citizen dicsounts I’m entitled to are credited properly.

Finally, I hate it when you purchase a candy bar or something, take your change, and quickly make for the exit, only to have the cashier call after you, “Wait, sir! You forgot your receipt!”

Now, what do I do here? It’s obvious I’m in a hurry. Perhaps the cashier is worried that I’ll be ten miles down the road, realize my gaffe and have to turn around to retrieve my receipt. This person obviously assigns some value to this piece of paper, they are trying to deliver good customer service, and it would possibly hurt their feelings to yell back at them, “Throw it away! I don’t want it! I just wanted to buy a candy bar and get on with my life!”

Instead, what usually happens is I walk back over, and have to endure an awkward moment for all parties involved. The cashier is left holding the receipt out over the counter, knowing in hindsight that she should have just thrown it away. Those waiting in line are annoyed by this unnecessary prolonging of the transaction, and I’m forced to muster an insincere “Thanks” for this worthless piece of paper that I was going out of my way to avoid getting in the first place. It’s just one of the many socially cumbersome moments in our society.

You Call that a Controller!?!

Alright, I think it’s about time we end the debate right now. First of all, I am a man. (This is not what the debate is about)… Anyway, as a man, I demand a man-sized controller when I fire up the Xbox. For that reason, I exclusively use the original controllers designed for the Xbox. However there is a disturbing trend afoot. With the recent development of the new, smaller, style “S” controller, there has become a proliferation of their use across America, and a gathering public opinion that these new controllers are actually superior to the original design… As a public service, I am here to set the record straight.

For those of you unfamiliar with the ongoing debate, I present a brief history lesson: Microsoft was suffering lackluster Xbox sales in Japan, because the tiny hands of the Japanese public couldn’t grasp the gigantic controllers used for the gaming console (this is true). The Japanese were using them like the old Nintendo Power Pad, with several individuals literally running and jumping on the colossal controllers to operate them. Needless to say, it was hurting business. So Microsoft caved. They brought in a focus group consisting of a bunch of three-year-old girls and molded a controller to fit their hands.

The result: a controller tiny enough to be used as a Monopoly game piece, complete with the ergonomic comfort of getting a hand caught in a weasel trap. The buttons are tiny and spaced so closely together that the user couldn’t help inadvertently pushing all the buttons in unison. It is the video gaming equivalent of trying to do your taxes on a Casio calculator watch (Nerdy Metaphor #1).

The marketing team at Microsoft began toying with names for their new controller… They wanted a name that captured both the design qualities of the controller, and described the traits of their target market. At first they wanted to call it the “Ally McBeal” Controller, as she was a person most of their target demographic could strongly identify with. Sadly, Calista Flockhart refused to endorse the product. Going back to the drawing board, it was decided that it should be called: “The Effeminate Controller.” Unfortunately, this name had to be changed when it was discovered that “Effeminate” was already trademarked for every Nintendo Gamecube accessory. Eventually they settled on the “Small” controller, (later abbreviated to the “S” controller), and let the public draw their own conclusions about the makeup of the users… (“Innuendo, take a lap!” – Clay Evans, Former PE teacher).

Now, the first and only time I used a style “S” controller it simply crumbled in my massive American hands like a fortune cookie. I was left holding a few shards of plastic, some assorted wires, and a tiny motor. By all accounts, this new controller had the durability of a Faberge egg and the power of an electric toothbrush (Nerdy Metaphor #2).

In contrast, the original Xbox controller is made of whatever material is used to make the black boxes found in airplanes, and it is powered by a 10-cylinder diesel engine.

Future Dodge commercial: (A car pulls up alongside a giant Dodge truck…)
Car Passenger: “Does that thing have a Hemi?”
Truck owner (sitting in a Dodge Ram): “Sure does,” he begins, lifting his original Xbox controller to their view, “and the truck has one too!”
Car Passenger (awestruck): “Whoa!!!”

Granted, the original controller handles like a jackhammer and weighs about the same. And I occasionally pass out from the billowing clouds of diesel fumes it emits. However, when I regain consciousness, I realize the mounting physical therapy bills are a small price to pay to avoid the ignominy of using the less-masculine version of the Xbox controller.

In conclusion, if you happen to be a three-year-old girl, I have no problem with your use of a style “S” controller. However, for everyone else, I must caution that using the style “S” controller is like riding a girl’s bike, showering with your underwear on in gym class, or going to an N’Sync concert. It’s just one of those things you can never really live down.

A Different Breed of High Roller

Despite what the phrase “Internet Zillionaire” might suggest, we are not the typical Vegas high rollers. While the thrill of moderately high-stakes gambling is exhilarating in its own regard, the Internet Zillionaire finds as much intoxication in the subtle interaction with fellow players, the wry banter with the dealer, the verbal sparring with the pit bosses, and of course, the massive consumption of free cocktails.

As with anything, location plays a crucial role. And when it comes to gambling, we don’t compromise our standards. While the other Las Vegas “whales” will frequent the ritzy and classy establishments, (the kind with marble toilets and velvet toilet paper,) we tend to stake out accommodations with less opulence.

Our criteria are simple. First, the hotel must have a roller coaster. This is non-negotiable. Second, we insist that the hotel staff completely ignore our social status and forgo any special treatment, as we just want to be regarded as ordinary people. (This request is always granted.) Third, the pit bosses must be so desperate for paying players that they will ignore standard gambling etiquette and decorum at the table, and in some cases, ignore the rules entirely. In other words, only the casinos that allow “do-overs” and “take backs” and permit us to call timeouts or technical fouls and request instant replay will earn our business. Finally, and most importantly, all of this must be had (via priceline) for under $39 a night.

Once in the casino, the most critical decision for an Internet Zillionaire occurs before a single chip is laid down. One must scout for a table that is fit for a zillionaire. First, it must be a table with ridiculously low minimum bets, absolutely nothing over $5 a hand. This is to insure longevity more than anything else. You see, part of our gambling strategy is not just to maximize our winnings, but also our consumption of free cocktails.

While the Internet Zillionaire prefers card games to all else, sometimes he can be found at a slot machine. This usually occurs when a zillionaire, strolling through a casino, spots a cocktail waitress taking orders, and immediately jets to the nearest gambling apparatus to put forth the illusion that he’s been gaming at this spot for hours. With an incredulous look, the waitress approaches and begins this exchange:

Cocktail Waitress: “Anything for you?”
Internet Zillionaire (pointing to whoever ordered the most exotic-sounding drink at a nearby slot machine): “Absolutely… I’ll take three of whatever he’s having… on the rocks.”

Scoring multiple free drinks for a 30 second stint at a nickel slot is basically the greatest feat an Internet Zillionaire can write home about, and certainly one for the books. Of course, the Internet Zillionaire always tips generously, and addresses the waitresses by name.

Internet Zillionaire: “Thanks Mandy, I can’t tell you how nice it is to gamble in a place that knows how to take care of their highrollers… That’s why I keep coming back here.”

Naturally, the Internet Zillionaire generates a lot of eye rolls wherever he goes.

After meandering through the casino long enough, the Internet Zillionaire will eventually find a worthy table to set up shop. Of course, an Internet Zillionaire cannot just unobtrusively sit down at the table. Unfortunately, a spectacle must be made. You must make every effort to show anyone within earshot that the actual gambling is secondary to the showmanship of acting like a highroller. It’s good to have an opening line, and get the dialogue going early with the dealer:

Internet Zillionaire: “How’s the drink service at this table?”
Dealer: “Good…”
Internet Zillionaire (deadpanning): “Well, that’s excellent, because I tend to work up quite a thirst raking in all the chips.”

Basking in that moment of levity, the Internet Zillionaire finds a seat and turns to one of his fellow players at the table.

Internet Zillionaire: “Well, I see you’ve won quite a nice pile of chips for yourself… You must have bought my instructional gambling video. I’m glad to see it’s paying off for you.”

To the annoyance of everyone else at the table, the Internet Zillionaire straddles a seat and stakes out plenty of elbowroom. He then begins a protracted series of twists and turns at the waist, arches his back, bobs his head and begins to loosen up for the task at hand. Similar to the warm-up routine of a prizefighter, the Internet Zillionaire is equally meticulous in his preparation.

The first order of business is cashing in. It is important to whip out a sizeable amount of cash to instill a sense of awe amongst the other players and let them know they are squaring off with a true high roller. Twenty dollars (in ones) should accomplish this. Of course, the dealer needs to be made aware that “there’s more where that came from,” lest he doubt your high roller status.

Never one to sit idly by and allow someone to just do their job, the Internet Zillionaire reminds the dealer that he’ll need a receipt from this transaction. With chips in hand, the Internet Zillionaire begins the all-important task of psyching out the others at the table. Instead of neatly stacking his chips, the Internet Zillionaire will use them like Lego’s, and construct a replica of Stonehenge at the table.

With the game about to begin, the Internet Zillionaire gives little concern to strategy. He always adheres to his foremost gambling philosophy: “Bet the minimum, Drink the maximum.”

As the game progresses, one cannot forget to have fun. There are a number of techniques available to prevent boredom at the table. Stop the dealer as he shuffles the cards and announce, “I’d like to buy a vowel,” or insist on using one of your three lifelines at tense moments in the game. If he does lose a hand, sometimes the Internet Zillionaire will remove his pants and fling them onto the table, forcing the dealer to clarify that the game is not strip poker.

When the cocktail waitress finally comes by, the Internet Zillionaire always seizes the opportunity to take care of his fellow gamblers:

Waitress: “Free cocktails, anyone?”
Internet Zillionaire: “Ah Mandy, perfect timing. I’ll have two whiskey sours… and a round of Zimas for everyone else at the table… extra ice in those. And send a bottle of Dom ’78 to those ladies at the blackjack table,” he says with a wink, “Oh, and how ’bout a Sierra Mist for the dealer, he could use it… thanks, sweetheart.”

Now, since the drinks are free, we make it a habit to order a round or two for everyone in the establishment whenever we play. Of course our “generosity” generates a lot of goodwill and usually a round of applause. Being modest, we barely acknowledge their fanfare, opting for an understated series of deep bows at the waist while standing on the Pai Gow table.

When the drink order arrives, the Internet Zillionaire always shows his gratitude.

Internet Zillionaire (raising his drink): “Thanks Mandy, you know, this is just how I like my drink: In a glass, and within reach.”

At various times throughout the game, the pit boss will wander by, peer over at the table and pass an approving gaze over the action below. The Internet Zillionaire always seizes this opportunity to inform the pit boss that “the dealer is doing a great job,” and adding how “he hasn’t knocked over my drink a single time!” The pit boss will nod, maybe utter a “thank you,” and leave you with an insincere “good luck.”

Now, for those that have never ventured into a casino, the phrase “good luck” is simply the most dismissive expression in Vegas. It really means “good bye.” It’s a nice way of saying, “Alright jackass, don’t talk to me anymore.” Believe me, I’ve heard it a million times. So, when you hear the words “good luck,” you know the conversation is over… unless of course, the Internet Zillionaire is on the receiving end of this verbal jab. At this point, the Internet Zillionaire has no other option than to escalate the dialogue. Playing clueless to the slight, the Internet Zillionaire shouts back to the pit boss in a happy, touristy voice, “Thanks, I’ll do my best! I am feeling lucky today!!!”

Anyway, after doling out praise for the dealer in front of the pit boss, the Internet Zillionaire then decides it’s time to call in a few favors.

Internet Zillionaire: “Hit me!”
Dealer: “This isn’t Blackjack sir, you don’t get any more cards.”
Internet Zillionaire (resignedly): “Then I’ll stay.”

Throughout the game the Internet Zillionaire will place a three-dollar bet and nonchalantly remark how he loves all the security in this particular hotel, as it makes his millions feel safer. Unfortunately, the Internet Zillionaire is just getting warmed up. Depending on how inebriated the Internet Zillionaire becomes, he may boast how his fortune exceeds that of Bill Gates and Scrooge McDuck.

At the outcome of every hand, the Internet Zillionaire maintains temperance and restraint, except for when either he wins or loses. In a loss, the Internet Zillionaire will demand a recount, inspect the dealer’s sleeves and pant legs, and ominously warn the dealer that he’ll receive his comeuppance soon. In a win, the first order of business is to taunt the dealer by tossing your cards in the air like a graduation cap, execute a “Chinese fire drill” around the table with your fellow players, and finally stand on the table and muster an impromptu, teary-eyed winning-hand acceptance speech.

While gambling is one of our favorite pastimes, it is merely one of the myriad interests skillfully pursued by the Internet Zillionaire. After spending all afternoon playing $3 Pai Gow in an off-the-strip Vegas hotel, it becomes time for the zillionaire to make his grand exit and attend to his plans for the evening. He tosses a chip or two at the dealer for his trouble and advises him to invest it in the bond market. He makes sure to get a to-go drink order, as the Internet Zillionaire doesn’t want to risk becoming parched during the long walk from the table to his hotel room.

Internet Zillionaire: “Thanks Mandy, you’re the best damn waitress in Vegas. You know, I’m opening a casino on the strip next summer… I want you to come work for me. I’ll double whatever they’re paying you! Think about it…”

He bids his fellow players a heartfelt good luck, reminds them to tip the cocktail waitresses and advises them to “keep it real.” And on that note, he gathers his chips and heads to the cashier, eager to use his winnings to finance a night of adventure and intrigue…