Anachostic

My tagline, let me show you it.

Category Archives: Rant

He Just Snapped

Just so we’re clear where I’m coming from, I’m old.  In Internet years, I’m a fossil.  But I am an active user of technology, so I do have at least a small idea of what’s going on in the world.  Because of my age, a lot of things fall into the “I don’t understand this” bucket.  Not because I don’t understand how to use it, it’s more an issue of why would you use it.

I’ve only recently gotten into the modern phone game (meaning Android), having been a Windows Phone user for its limited lifespan.  And I recall one must-have app that caused a lot of WP users to move on to Android or iPhone – Snapchat.  So when I did upgrade to a can-do mobile OS, I was sure to install and utilize Snapchat.  Snapchat falls so hard into the “I don’t understand this” bucket, it punches a hole through the bottom.

First, the app offends me from a technical perspective.  I do understand that all modern applications have eschewed any form of friendly UI design and that design quality is called “clean” or “immersive”.  That design style involves removing all identifying command buttons, so you have mystery navigation where you have to randomly tap and swipe to figure out what the apps capabilities are. This app is no different.  Resource-wise, Snapchat is a killer.  I will give this a pass because the real-time video filters are impressive.  But, man, it hurts my phone.

Next, the app offends me as a photographer.  Here is the full text of their website home page:

Snap Inc. is a camera company.

We believe that reinventing the camera represents our greatest opportunity to improve the way people live and communicate.

We contribute to human progress by empowering people to express themselves, live in the moment, learn about the world, and have fun together.

I am painfully aware that the word “photography” is not used anywhere in that manifesto.  And if you wanted to take issue with my issue about Snapchat offending me as a photographer, you could use that against me.  But for the main populace, a camera is the gateway to photography.  And photography is about recording a moment in time.  And what does Snapchat do?  It makes photos that disappear.  That’s the opposite of photography.

An advertisement for Snapchat says: “It’s a camera for talking because a Snap says more than a text.” This is probably true in the sense that a picture is worth a thousand words.  But if that picture disappears, your words have been lost.  You have said nothing of value.  The ad also says, “So, yeah, Snapchat is a camera—where how you feel matters more than how you look.”  This is clearly a dig at Instagram.  I have read elsewhere that Snapchat is intended to be used spontaneously instead of having heavily “produced” photos like those in Instagram.  But that goes back to recording a moment.  You plan and produce an Instagram shot to capture a mood (or feeling) to be shared. So yeah, Snapchat is a camera, where how you look or feel doesn’t matter.

Next, the app offends me as a communicator.  If you haven’t noticed, I blog.  I also email and text.  When I write something, I am creating something.  It’s meant to persist.  And what happens in Snapchat?  It doesn’t.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s a picture or a chat, it’s all disposable.  It’s “living in the moment” as Snap wants you to.  It’s a YO-fucking-LO, get out of jail free card, where your past can’t be brought up to hold you accountable for your actions.  At the same time, it’s an admission that you don’t matter.  The things you create are not worth permanence.  The past is useless and there is no reason to preserve it.  How depressing.  And maybe that’s how things are for the youth of today.

But how about those filters?  I said, they are impressive.  It’s a very clever use of technology, but it’s also pointless.  The issues I take with Snapchat dovetail nicely with the filters.  “…How you feel matters more than how you look.”  Oh really?  I’m going to call bullshit on an app that distorts every face into an anime-grade caricature, smoothing out skin blemishes, enlarging eyes, contouring cheeks – it’s all about how you look.

But it doesn’t really matter anyway, because it’s all transitory.  The silly augmentation filters, while good for a laugh today, are going to be the MySpace embarrassment of the future, if any images manage to survive.  Wait and see.

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Ooo, You’re So Slow and Tasty

Provocative title aside, this is just a post bitching about upscaling at eating places.  You know, where the normal menu, which has existed forever, just isn’t good enough anymore, so the place has to try new, fancy shit and to hell with what we had before.  I’ve said before that I’m a fan of the standards, the basics.  When I go to a place to eat, I usually know what I’m getting, so all this new and better stuff doesn’t really appeal to me.  Yeah, I suck.  Deal with it.

I have read numerous times in articles about how McDonalds keeps trying to attract new customers by making new things.  There’s plenty wrong with this.  First off, as all American investor-driven companies, McDonalds is not allowed to just be.  They must forever be growing.  There is no satisfaction in being good.  You have to be better, quarter after quarter.  So, to that end, McD’s tries to grow their customer base by selling different things.  The problem is, these different things are more complex.  They take time.  They fuck up all the efficiencies that made the McD’s of olden times great.  You want a plain old quarter pounder?  Well, it’s going to be a bit because the party in front of you ordered Flapacheetos and McDonkles and we have to specially prepare each of those.

The exact same thing has happened the last couple of times I’ve been to Dunkin Donuts.  The party in front of me doesn’t want donuts or coffee.  They want, “An everything bagel, toasted, with butter, and bacon and cheese.  And then another one just like that, but a plain bagel.  And what do you want?  Ok, a croissant, no wait, another bagel.  What kind?  They’re all right there.  What’s that one?  Never mind, just make it plain.  And what do you want on it?  Bacon?  No.  No bacon.  Cheese?  Sausage?  You like sausage.  Yes, you do like it.  Just sausage and cheese.  And I’m going to have a coffee, with half and half and two sugars.  And what do you want to drink?  I don’t know if they have that…”  And 15 fucking minutes later, because they can’t take my order until they finish the order before me (FUUUUUUCCCK!), I order my two donuts.

Dunkin Donuts used to be a donut shop.  There used to be a time, and it wasn’t really all that long ago, you could get in and get out.  Now it’s a goddamn café.  It doesn’t need to be one.  In fact, McDonalds also has what they call McCafe.  That’s the trap.  McDonalds also used to be fast food.  There’s nothing fast about it anymore.  The same articles that talk about McDonalds adding new menu items to attract new business also say the restaurant owners hate it because it slows down their service times, which just backs everything up and irritates the customers, like me.

I say fairly often that I have pity for people growing up today because they have no idea that fast food used to be good and tasty and now it’s just processed bullshit.  And now the service has gone to shit right along with the food quality.  You know, Chipotle had something pretty good going for a while, until that whole poisoning thing happened.  That’s another company that is probably going to get desperate and start introducing new items.  You’ll know it when a new menu item has to be built off the conveyer line.  And that will be the next nail in the coffin because it will reduce the efficiency of their service.  Let’s see if they survive long enough to kick themselves in the teeth.

Black Knight Of The Highway

I had an incident a couple of years ago where I was involved in a collision on the highway.  I was going full highway speed and got rear-ended by someone going much faster.  This morning, I had another collision, with slightly different circumstances.

I’m doing my usual morning commute to work and just about ready to turn off at my exit.  Something catches my eye and I look in the rear view mirror and a semi truck is right on my ass.  The truck had moved into my lane to pass another semi that was to my left.  I look in the mirror and say, “You motherfucker.  Why don’t you get a little closer.”  So he did.

Now, I’m saying, “Whatever, fucker.  You can wait until I get off in a few seconds.”  But he didn’t seem to care.  He got even closer.  Even more pissed off, I put on my turn signal to let him know I’d be out of the way soon.  What I did not consider is that I am a tiny, tiny car.  He is a massive semi truck.  Not that it’s any absolution, but he probably never even saw me.  His huge hood probably blocked me from his view entirely.  And so, it’s probably no surprise what happened next.

I got bumped.  My car swerved to the right, into the exit lane and he pulled up alongside me.  I’m still not sure if he even noticed me at this point.  I sped up alongside him and blared my tiny, tiny horn at him, but I doubt he even heard it.  The median guardrail was coming up quickly, so I had to abort and stay in the exit lane, leaving him to go on his (probably) oblivious way.

At the stop light at the end of the exit lane, I immediately jumped out and checked the damage to my car.  It’s just some very minor scuffing on the bumper that can probably be polished out.  I went the rest of the way to work and it was at that time, I realized I left my phone at the house.  This will be a great day.

But you know what?  I have a dash cam.  Granted, it doesn’t have a rear-facing camera, but I still have evidence I was hit.  Just as an aside, a rear dash cam would be outrageous.  Everything scary and crazy always happens behind me.  So, in the parking lot at work, I saved the segment of the incident and later, I reviewed the video.  The quality is pretty good.  I am able to make out the trucking company name and their DOT license.  Hopefully that’s enough of a lead to make this guy’s life miserable.

In the time I’ve had to think about this, my thoughts on the event have changed.  My initial thought was that I got bumped because I was going too slow for this truck driver and he was impatient to pass this other truck.  As I’ve thought more about it, it’s probably just that I was invisible to him.  Again, that doesn’t make him any less at fault here.  But, it does make me extremely lucky that when the truck moved into my lane, I was in the position I was.  If I was in his blind spot when he changed lanes and he was that close to my rear when he came in, it’s not unfathomable that I could have been a foot or two farther back and he would have clipped my rear bumper, sending me into a spin.  Things could have been far worse.

But, in spite of the fortune granted on me, FUCK ALL YOU MOTHERFUCKERS!  YOU SONS OF BITCHES ARE FUCKING MENACES ON THE ROAD AND YOU ALL NEED TO DIE!!  LEARN TO FUCKING DRIVE, LEARN TO HAVE SOME PATIENCE, LEARN THAT IT’S NOT JUST YOU ON THE ROAD!  IT’S NOT YOUR FUCKING ROAD, WE ALL HAVE TO USE IT.  WE ALL HAVE TO WORK TOGETHER TO MAKE THIS EVENT SAFE AND EFFICIENT.  SAFE AND EFFICIENT! GOD DAMN IT, YOU BASTARDS!  I FUCKING HATE ALL OF YOU!!!!

Let me be clear.  I don’t hate you as people, I hate you as drivers and the people you become when you start driving.  Seriously, you do not think of what the consequences could be.  Every time you change a lane, that is an opportunity to sideswipe someone.  Each time you are checking the lane you want to get into, you are not checking the lane you are in and the cars in front of you.  Every time you speed up into a passing lane (especially to the right), you have the chance of finding traffic stopped in front of you in that new lane.  If you’re a large truck, you need to look beside you and not just behind you when changing lanes.

image

And you, Mr. Red Truck, working for Trimac Transportation Inc., you’re going to hear from me very shortly.

The Business Life

Recently, I was given the opportunity to go on a business trip for my employer.  The event required a technical person for the upcoming work and this was supposed to be training and exposure.  I had done business trips in the past, but this gave me a whole different perspective on “the life”.

Another aspect of this meeting was that the host of the event wanted to show off their brand new building.  I didn’t really give it much thought.  An office building is like any other, right?  Nope.  And that all played into the discomfort I felt.  So let’s start at the beginning.

When I was told about the trip, I was also told that the company travel coordinator would handle everything.  So, right off the bat, I’m a little out of my comfort zone.  You know, if I was tasked to go somewhere, I would be looking for the cheapest flight anywhere.  Well, that’s not how business travel works.  I end up on a top-tier airline in what I assume is a decent seat.  As you know, you don’t get decent seats for cheap.  They cost extra.  I don’t know, my airfare was around $500.  That’s more than I would be willing to spend.  And also, there’s six of us going.  Yeah, six.

So we all get to the destination and we Uber to the hotel.  I’m not really a fan of Uber, but that’s for another post, and it’s not my decision to make anyway.  And the hotel is a Staybridge Suites hotel.  Everyone gets a suite!  Now, I don’t expect us to bunk together, but I don’t need lodgings this fancy.  No way.  It’s our first night and we all go out to dinner.  Company expense, of course.  Steakhouse?  Sure.  Longhorn?  Outback?  Fuck, no.  It’s not our money, let’s go to Perry’s.  You can’t eat there for less than $60/plate.  And of course, everyone drinks.  It was easily a $600 bill, I’m certain of it.

Day one at our host’s new office building.  This is not an office building, it is a goddamn resort.  It has a cafeteria, an exercise room, a balcony garden, another café with barista on the upper floor, a game room, and technology that would make most humans gawk in amazement.  Maybe it’s the new modern standard for a national company, but like Perry’s, it’s way out of my league.

The conference goes all day.  We get catered lunch and we get a tour of the building.  They’re quite proud of it.  At the conclusion of the tour, there is a social gathering with beer and wine and snacks too fancy and weird for me to even eat.  I’m watching all these people chatting and mingling, and the cute girls in the short skirts sitting on the bar counter with their wine, and I’m wondering, this is business?  In what world is this business?  This one, apparently.

Our group got dinner reservations for Del Friscos, another $60/plate steakhouse.  I man up and say, fuck all y’all, I’m staying in my room (no, my fucking SUITE) and ordering pizza.  It was a great pizza and only put the company out $25.  I was ordered to save the receipt for reimbursement.  It would have been fine, guys.  You know, you pay me pretty well already.

My point of this rant, which I’ve done before, is that there is this executive life that is not available to normal folk.  I’m kind of in it, right on the cusp, but I don’t agree with it.  I don’t like it.  It’s living in a fantasy, where you get to feel like you’re super rich, but you’re not.  And you only get to act and feel that way because of your employer.  The employer that is putting out gobs of money disproportionately for a select few, when it could be spent on others in the company who are nowhere near that sort of lifestyle.  And who would appreciate it more?

More Food Updates

In another weekend trip to Touristville, the GF and I ended up at our favorite steakhouse (but at a different location).  The last time I had to write about this, the dining experience was up and down.  This time, it was pretty much a plunge into despair.  I won’t bore anyone with tedious details,  I’ll just sort of hit the high points (which are the low points).

When we got there, 6 pm on a Saturday, we were informed that the wait was 90 minutes.  They actually said, “an hour and a half”, which actually makes it sound a lot worse.  At our last touristville experience, we were told there was a 45 minute wait and we were seated pretty quickly.  So, I agreed to wait.  Well, they kept their word and then some.  We didn’t get to the table until almost 8.

When you’re seated at a community table, it’s always a crap shoot as to who you’re going to be with.  In tonight’s group, we had a Hispanic family that included a vegetarian.  But it wasn’t a cool vegetarian, it was a “I’M VEGETARIAN!” vegetarian.  There was also a man so old he couldn’t do anything for himself.  I actually suspected he could, but his female partner ordered (and I use ordered in multiple meanings here) everything.  He tries to speak up for himself and his other half shouts over him.  So you know, a boisterous party.

The other side of the table had what seemed to be a mother and her two daughters and a dude.  At first it was a little hard to tell if the dude was the brother or the boyfriend of the older girl.  And “older” is really pushing it here; she looked like she was about 12 and the dude looked about 15.  But it was made clear that they were a couple in relatively short order.  At one point the girl wanted her mom to take a picture of them and as they snuggled up, the dude kind of raised the girls shirt or maybe tucked his hand under it.  In any regard, it was all a little weird and uncomfortable.

The chefs at this location were fucking spazzes.  I guess you have to be a little over the top to get the attention of tourists who’ve been at theme parks all day, but holy shit.  So much yelling and banging and fire.  And in spite of that, the chefs seemed to not be engaged with the table and would get distracted to chat with other employees walking around.  As far as quality, my extra side dish was overlooked and the food was very light on the soy sauce.  When I asked for extra soy sauce on my steak, the chef tried to talk me out of it.  And in the end, it was just a couple of drips, nothing to really taste.

And the last anecdote comes from the GF on her disastrous bathroom visit.  As it was told to me, there were three stalls.  One had a pile of shit-covered toilet paper on the floor.  The second held an employee, who had her apron off and laid out on the bathroom floor.  The third had an overflowing sanitary receptacle.  There are no good options here.

The whole 3+ hour ordeal made me miss my personal home steakhouse and turned me off from touristville locations.

The next day, I seized the opportunity to verify that Pollo Tropical had changed their operations chain-wide.  And I have confirmed it.  The location we went to had the same cheap white Styrofoam plates, plasticware, and single-size cups.  There were no onions or limes on the chicken and there was no table service or cleanup.

We also had a slight order problem that highlighted a flaw in their new operational procedure.  When you order a meal, you now wait for your order number to be called.  In our case, we picked up the order and when we got to the table, found a side was missing.  So the GF went to the cashier, who ignored her because she wasn’t in line.  After getting the cashier’s attention and explaining the situation, the cashier yelled to the order picker, who ignored her.  GF came back to the table furious.

I went up and stood where the orders were picked up.  The order picker kept her back to me.  And I kind of understood that.  There’s always a crowd of people waiting for food.  You could say her communication was unidirectional.  She called the order numbers and that’s it.  There was no consideration of a communication coming inbound to her.  And when she turned around and called a number, I caught her eye, but she still turned back around, requiring me to verbally interrupt her.  And then we got the problem resolved.

As I mentioned in my earlier post about Pollo, there’s been a significant decline in the customer service department.  The GF vowed that Pollo would become a drive-thru-only option, and I would agree.  There is nothing compelling about the dine-in experience.

So, that’s the report on dining this weekend.  If there’s news, it’s probably not good news.

My Cat Is Suffering Because Of Your Shitty Design

My poor cat, Rump, has been struggling for a while ever since I bought her a new feeder.  Her last feeder was pretty much wrecked and a new one was needed.  She’s a pretty big girl, so I always get the largest feeders available.

The previous feeder that I had was a Le Bistro model.  This seems to be made by both PetMate and Aspen Pet.  Over the years, it was redesigned and it was redesigned in a very shitty way.  See the difference between the old design on the left and the new one on the right.

Old  New

Do you see the major difference?  The bowl on the new model on the right is a goddamn waterer bowl.  The only difference between this and their waterer is the hopper.  The waterer hopper is sealed, but the feeder has a removable lid.

Obviously this was the company saying, “Why do we have two bases for these two products?  We can save a shitton of money here.  It’s the same thing.”  You assholes, it’s not the same thing, and I’ll tell you why.

The first problem is that the food doesn’t come out.  You see the slide on the old model?  You see how the opening of the chute is higher than the lip of the bowl?  That lets the food come out.  Food doesn’t act like water, in case you didn’t know.  On the new model, there is no appreciable slide and you will also notice the new model’s chute opening is half the width of the bowl and the hopper’s neck is more narrow.  That would all be sufficient for water, not so with food.

My poor cat gets noticeably anxious when she sees the hopper empty.  There can be food in the bowl, but she understands what the reserve supply looks like and when it is not there, she starts crying.  Now, she has to deal with the fact that the bowl is empty, because the food doesn’t fall, but there is a visible reserve.  That’s damn cruel.

The second problem with this design is that stupid lip.  Again, for water, yes, you need a lip that is uniformly high all around the bowl.  For food, my cat has to to jam her head down into (I want to stress, into) the bowl to get food.  And when the hopper doesn’t flow the food, she has to stick her head even further in back to get food.  I said, she’s a big girl and she has a big head.  It’s not a good situation.  The bowl needs to be lower in front, especially because the hopper supplies so little food.  One other shitty design aspect is that the old lip rolled to the outside and smoothly transitioned into the bowl wall on the inside.  The new design has a lip that overhangs the interior of the bowl wall.  Why would you ever have that on a pet bowl anyway?  Animals push food against the wall to get to it, they don’t want their face bumping into a protruding lip.

So I’m off in search of a new feeder, but everywhere I look, it’s the same crap as this.  Great job on cornering the market with your shitty new design.

The Haves And The Have-Nots

There’s something I want to bitch about.  It’s nothing new or profound or even really interesting.  It’s the issue with income inequality in America.

The people in charge of America recently made a change to the taxes applied to corporations.  They lowered the top tier from 35% to 21%.  This was promised intended to save a lot of money for businesses and help save jobs and keep business strong and profitable.  Then, recent news says that the corporation Kimberly-Clark is going to eliminate 5k jobs.  And even more recent news say that they are using the money saved from taxes to pay for the costs of downsizing their business, including the layoffs.  That doesn’t sound like the expected result that was sold to us.

For all the bitching that could be done on that specific case, what I want to focus on is the fact that when KC announced they were cutting jobs, their stock price went up.  This is a double-insult to the working class.  I am fortunate to have a 401k plan, but I am acutely aware that many do not.  And those people are not reaping any – ANY – of the growth that has been going on in the last decade.  And that really pisses me off.

Some people, who are oblivious to the pains of the working class, would ignorantly say, “All you have to do is put some money in the stock market and you’ll get the benefits.”  Sure, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a 401k, Roth IRA, or simple mutual fund.  They are correct.  But the part they ignore is “What money?!”

Wages aren’t going up for the working class.  Expenses are going up, though.  Think about that for a minute.  If there was some available money, that money could be growing.  But because there is none, there is no growth.  It has to be the most painful thing ever to see someone making only slightly more than you pull away in net worth because they have that small bit of extra income.  You either have money to invest or you do not.  And there is a world of difference between the two.

That’s my biggest sticking point is that corporations are holding back prosperity from their employees.  They are making changes that only enrich the already-established instead of considering how to enrich everyone. 

Somehow, we need to increase access for everyone to be able to take advantage of growth opportunities.  Increasing pay is the easiest, most direct way for that.  “But, the company will suffer because it’s an additional cost!  The stock price will drop!  My monies!”  But, with more people being able to put money into investments, the stock price will rise from the additional demand.  There is a common aphorism for this: “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

It’s not difficult.  All it takes is is a little less greed.

It’s All Great. Everyone’s Awesome. More, Please.

So, how’s things?  Pretty good?  I understand it’s just so pompous to make the assumption that everyone’s killing it and is successful and is raking in the cash and rocking the job market.  I understand that truly not everyone is doing all that well.  But for all you people who are…  ALL.  YOU.  PEOPLE.

Begone!  Vamoose!  Fuck off!

I remember a time, a seemingly forgotten time, a whole ten years ago (they call that a decade).  In that golden era, there was a reaping.  I felt a great disturbance, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.  In fact, they had all lost their jobs because of the housing crisis.

And you know what happened?  Things got better (for me).  Traffic was much lighter, restaurants were emptier, everything ran smoother.  I even blogged about the employment situation at the time in an insensitive way.  And in other ways, things got better for everyone else, too. (Well, everyone that escaped the wrath of Moros.)

But now, at the frenzied peak of exuberance, we stand.  Have you seen the stock market?  Everyone thinks it’s incredible and wonderful.  I think it’s terrifying.  How about that Bitcoin?  Millions to be made there!  Millions of what?  The only thing that Bitcoin has to justify its value is scarcity.  There’s plenty of scarce things in the world today.  But you know what’s not scarce?

People.  There’s so many, they have lost their value.

The rally cry for 2018 must be, “There is much to be done.  And much of that much involves much less.”

But my point is, there’s a lot of people out there right now being productive.  They’re driving to jobs and clogging up my highway.  They’re eating out a hell of a lot and making me wait for a table.  And they’re buying stuff and causing stock shortages and shipping delays.  In order to fix everything, everything must be broken.  This day is coming.

And even though there are so many people now, it is also a time of extreme self-centeredness, of greed, of narcissism, of pure Americanism.  Indeed, my post is embracing it, too.  We’ve been here before, maybe ten years ago, maybe a decade.

I’ll see you on the highway someday soon.  Or not.

In Retailiation

AK: “When are you ever going to blog again?”

Me: “I just posted yesterday!”

Much later…

Also Me: “When am I ever going to sleep again?”

Still Also Me: “You have to post something today.  Post now, sleep later.”

Today I got to visit a couple houses of insanity, each made further insane by the current season.  The inimitable Pier 1 Imports and its evil cousin Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  In the former, I was searching for holiday placemats specifically.  In the latter, I was searching for a secret Santa gift.

Let’s start with Pier 1.  This store has a very unique atmosphere.  I’ve tried to figure out what uplifting, empowering message they are trying to convey and the best I’ve come up with is: “There are many things you can buy in this world, some are cheap, some are not.  Here’s as many of them as we could fit inside this building.”  I’ve never been to a true “bazaar”, but because bazaar is so phonetically similar to bizarre, I envision that Pier 1 is similar to a bazaar.  Shopping there makes me feel like I have ADD.  It’s impossible to get through the store quickly, because there is always something somewhere attracting your attention.  And at the same time, because you can’t focus on any one thing, you want to get out of there because it’s so overwhelming.

So, thank god I found some decent placements within the first two minutes of walking in.  But as I was standing in line, the ADD hit me and I had a thought of a product I knew they sold that would be a nice stocking stuffer.  I broke out of the line and walked the store, looking for this item.  I never found it.  After checking out, I found I had spent almost 20 minutes in the store.  How the hell did that happen?

Later in the evening, the GF and I went to BB&B.  As we were walking the parking lot to the store, the power turned off in the entire plaza.  That’s not a good omen.  We stood outside the store for a minute or two and determined this wasn’t just a small power blip.  So we moved on to another shopping plaza and came back later.  Power’s back on; we’re good to go.

The atmosphere in BB&B is slightly different than Pier 1.  They are both packed to the gills with shit, but the difference between the two would be, Pier 1 is “chaotic” and BB&B is “claustrophobic”.  BB&B is nicely organized into departments, BUT, there’s a whole bunch of shit that doesn’t fit into any standard department.  That stuff goes in the aisles.  It’s everywhere!  The specific thing I am looking for is one of those aisle things, I assume, because it would be classified as a “beyond” product.  I have to walk all the aisles, which is a misnomer, because there’s only one aisle that loops the store.  So, I make a loop around the store and constantly dodge other people’s shopping carts.  Like Pier 1, the aisles are organized utilizing using the excellent sorting algorithm, “shuffle”.  There’s no rhyme or reason to anything, which means you have to look at everything.

Don’t get me wrong, I love treasure hunting.  Ross, TJMaxx, Bealls Outlet, even flea markets.  That’s all fun.  But when I want something, I want to be able to find it quickly.  And neither of these stores are made for such precision.

And as it turned out, the product I wanted at BB&B was not stocked in store.  It was online-only.  Which makes you wonder why retail stores are having such a hard time against online shopping.  I really wonder why.

“Enhance Hospitality”

Recently a co-worker of mine asked if I’d been to Pollo Tropical lately.  I hadn’t.  The last time I mentioned them in a post was when I found out they eliminated the large drink size and only had medium cups.  I think I’d been back since then, but not very recently.

My co-worker rattled off a list of things that had changed, for the worse.  The list included:

  • No real plates.  Now they use styrofoam plates.
  • No real silverware.  Only plastic forks and knives.
  • No table service.  You have to get your food from the counter.
  • No bussing service.  You have to clear your own table.
  • No onions or lime on your chicken.  They only have the flavor from the marinade.
  • Chicken breasts are smaller.

That’s a pretty significant change and I didn’t believe it.  Even after my visit today to confirm this, I still don’t believe it.  I want to visit a second location and ensure this isn’t chain-wide.  If it is, well…

So today, I did go to Pollo Tropical for lunch.  I stood in line sporting a defensive posture with my arms across my chest as I could immediately verify at least some items from that list.  When I got to the counter, I grilled the cashier on the changes.

“You’ve updated your menu?”

“No, everything still there.  We’ve added blah blah blah and there’s blah blah blah.”

“Never mind.  I see what I normally get.  I’ll have that and a drink.”

As she’s punching it into the register, I begin the interrogation.

“So, no plates anymore?  just styrofoam?”

“Yeah.”

“And only plasticware?”

“Yeah.”

I look at the sign on the counter near the wall that says you have to listen for your number and pick up your order. “You have to pick your food up now?”

“Yeah.”

“So, do you have to clear your table now?”

“Well, we only have the one trash can in the back… so…”

”So. It’s not as nice.”

“Huh?”

“It’s not as nice.”

“Oh, yeah.”  You’re not listening to me at all, are you?

As I filled my drink and got my plastic knife and fork, I noticed one other change.  Each table used to have its own napkin dispenser.  No more.  Also, I had noticed while I was standing in line, that they removed the community bulletin board from their wall.  How curious.

As I stood and waited for my food impatiently, the customer in front of me came back up and complained that his side dish, maybe fries, maybe plantains, was “super stale”.  The person behind the counter took them and threw them out, probably saying he’d get him some fresh food.  That’s not promising.

My food came out and I was able to confirm no toppings on the chicken and smaller portions.  I took the tray with my white styrofoam 3-portion plate to a table and ate my meal in subdued silence.  The change in atmosphere was significant.  Pollo used to be at an atmospheric level of Panera Bread.  Now it was like a no-name food court place.  I mean, to use generic styrofoam plates and not even branded plates is a major faux pas in brand image.

In my quest for answers, I searched online and ended up getting info straight from the horse’s mouth: The 3rd quarter corporate earnings call.  In this conference call you hear from all the top people at the company and what they are proud of and what they are planning to make the company profitable in the future.  I read a lot of things in that transcript that worried me for the future of Pollo, despite how they touted them as huge improvements. (Fried chicken?  What the fuck.)

But here’s the quotes that made me bristle:

We have implemented new labor models at both brands. These models will ensure speed of service and accuracy, enhance hospitality, ensure that we are delivering consistently high-quality food. We have also optimized staffing, so that managers can be intensely focused on the guest experience.

New labor models: They are reducing the amount of work that their employees have to do.  This means they don’t do table service anymore.  They also don’t have to wash dishes anymore.  This means they can…

Optimize staffing: Cut their workforce and/or reduce the number of labor hours.  The only benefit of this is reduced cost, and is completely incompatible with customer service.  So, when I read “speed of service” and “enhance[d] hospitality”, I’m going to call bullshit on that one.  And I will say they succeeded in optimizing staffing while I was there.  One cook, one counter person.  No one working the lobby.  Manager must have been in the office intensely focused on the guest experience.  Especially when a customer complained about stale food.  Super stale food.

One other relevant quote buried in pages of financial bukkake:

We’ve been working on evolving our brand culture so that our teams will truly embrace our high standards for food quality, hospitality and restaurant environment.

Again, with the hospitality, and restaurant environment.  I already mentioned my impression of the new and improved environment, but let me say it again.  There are two things that are going to come from this major shift.  One, the customers that came before (me and my co-worker, and many others) are going to say, “What the fuck happened here?”  You can’t maintain a level of service and suddenly lower it thinking no one’s going to notice.  The other thing is that new customers are not going to be as impressed with your environment as your older customers were when they first came.

Now if that’s the ballpark you want to play in, that’s fine.  But understand you don’t capture Panera Bread-grade customers when your presentation is shit and your service is non-existent.

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No tipping allowed.  For what?  For fucking what?