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Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Cold beer! Get your cold beer!

So, I understand that people raise their eyebrows and tend look askance at me when I start talking. It's the Cold Beer Phenomenon.

It's a hot Saturday afternoon and you're at the ball game. Your favorite ball player has just grounded into a double play and, in disgust, you threw your give-away mini-bat into the head of the octagenarian in the seat in front of you. As the paramedics carry her out, the beer man hoists his beer tray above his head and looks directly at you.

"Cold beer! Get your cold beer!"

You're obviously a little nervous. The security staff is reviewing video tapes to find the hooligan who dented the old lady's noggin and your team is just five innings away from ending another pathetic game. You could use a cold beer.

So, you reach in your pocket, peel off a twenty and buy the one beer you can afford (saving a few bucks for bail, just in case security indentifies you from the video).

With taste-bud-tickling anticipation, you turn up the beer and let it slide down your throat. With a slight gag, you find the will to swallow it.

It's not cold. You knew it wouldn't be. It was simply the sales pitch of a guy with a 40-year beer gut who looks like the fugitive you saw on America's Most Wanted the week before.

Still, you finish the beer, retrieve your bloodied mini-bat and go home to watch TV, where you'll be pitched product after product by Madison Avenue slick-nuts who just love to sell you stuff that you don't need, want, or even recognize as a buyable product.

It's a sad life for consumers in the 21st century.

So, I understand that when I get on one of my sales pitches that my friends and family will look at me with a blank look of disdain and tired consumership.

For instance, just the other day I had one of the best open-face turkey sandwiches I've ever eaten. Moist turkey rested on sourdough bread, covered in a shitake mushroom gravy, accompanied by garlic mashed potatoes. I nearly cried when I ate it. It was the special at Karrie's Kafe, a local deli that puts to shame the Subway a few doors down. Over the past few years, I've come to love Karrie and her cooking. I can't count the number of meals I bought there. Hell, one night my friends abandoned my drunk ass downtown. I ran into Karrie and she gave me a ride home. That's customer service.

So, before I even finished the meal, I sent out a company-wide e-mail advertising the daily special and encouraging all of my co-workers to go have a bite at Karrie's. Within minutes, I was receiving semi-accusatory replies, most of which suggested I must be getting some sort of kickback. The accusations were patently untrue. The only free thing I've ever take from Karrie's was a free cookie on a day I was very ill and Karrie and Dee Dee wanted me to feel better. Again, that's customer service.

But you know what? People still went to Karrie's and nobody will deny that she's one of the best deli-smiths in town.

In short, I'm right.

Isolated incident? Unfortunately not.

On a whim a few weeks ago, I signed up for Yahoo! Launchcast. I was amazed at the ability to chose the bands I wanted to hear, the genres of music I liked. I was further amazed by the ability to rate artists, songs, and albums as they played. Launchcast began to learn what I like and what I don't. It's like satellite radio with my own personal station.

Of course, I shouldn't talk about it, should I? After a few weeks, my friends began to tire of my suggestion that they just try it out. Some of them bordered on hostile. I was playing in a poker game Saturday night and apparently launched into a discussion of LaunchCast. After about five minutes, somebody looked up and said, "What in the hell is he talking about?"

G-Rob responded, "Don't listen to him. It's just a sales pitch."

This morning, G-Rob met me at work and--almost embarassed--admitted he tried out LaunchCast and loves it so much he's going to buy the premium service (something I did myself earlier this week).

G-Rob's admission goes a long way toward proving my point. I'm the most average guy you've ever met. I'm a tired consumer who has been burned too many times by Madison Avenue. However, when I find something I like, chances are, average folks like me are going to like it as well. So, I tell them about it. Simply put, I consider myself a great barometer for what's good and what's not. And you should, too.

Don't get me wrong. I hate most consumer products. They are useless to the nth degree.

Still, there are some things that have found a way to cross the line from usless consumer product to something that you really should enjoy.

Here's just a sampling of regular comsumer things I've found in the past several months that you should look into:

* Yahoo! Launchcast
* Karrie's Kafe
* The Hoover FloorMate (what happens when you combine a mop, a vacuum cleaner, and six scrubbing brushes? You never have to mop again).
* Satellite Radio (oddly, I haven't bought in yet, but I will based on my experience with friends and family who own it. Oh, and if you already consider me to be a shill, this will prove it to you: Take a look at Sirius stock. While it's in flux right now, it's up 48% from when I bought it)
* Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (this film isn't for everybody. If you don't like mind-fucks and actually thinking about a movie, you'll hate this one. But I really enjoyed it. In fact, it was of few films I've seen in recent years that I can say I enjoyed enough to talk about it)
* Desperate Housewives (I hate TV. I really do. With the exception of CSI, poker, and football, I watch very little television. By accident, I found myself watching Desperate Housewives Sunday night and really enjoyed it. For network TV, it's not bad.)
* Nature Valley Trail Mix bars (if you're looking for a healthy snack that actually tastes good, these are the best I've found. I buy them 70 at a time at Sam's Club--incidentally, a place I really hate going).

Now, back to your regularly sheduled mind control, courtesy of the ad wizards of Madison Avenue.

But, remember, I'm right (except maybe about the Sirius stock, which is bound to plummet by year's end based on the rest of my portfolio).

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