Friday, February 27, 2009

The Days of the Free Lunch

Back in early 1991, when Randy and I were doing everything we knew to do to get our Grandy's to actually become a viable, money-making business, we sent a certificate for a FREE MEAL to every member of the Lamar County Chamber of Commerce.

Every. Single. Member.

A free meal. No other purchase required. Just come in to our restaurant, let us give you your choice of one of four different dinners with a beverage of your choice, and we will so amaze you with the quality of our food, and blow you away with the fabulous-ness of our service, that you will eagerly come back again and again and purchase more of the same.

It worked. Seriously worked. That year, we turned the corner on a business that had been on the verge of closing up and going away, and made it so successful that it led to building new Grandy's and buying others in several other cities around east Texas and Louisiana.

There were a couple of hiccups involved. We actually had one guy just go off on us, because he had his one certificate, brought his wife in to eat lunch, and expected that we would give him not the one, but TWO free meals. Really. I was at the register, I took their orders, he handed me the certificate, which I deducted from the total, then asked him for the...oh, I dunno...five bucks for the second meal and drink, and he said,

"It's supposed to be free."

Yes, sir, I said, I took the price of your higher-priced meal off, and the cost for the second meal and drink is $x.xx. And he said, quite a bit louder this time:


At first, I kinda thought he was just kind of joking with me, but as it became more apparent that he wasn't, I looked to Randy for help.

You know, generally speaking, we've always tried to take the advantage:guest attitude, but this guy was so jerky about not getting enough free food that we dug in our heels and they actually left the restaurant without eating anything. I hope they enjoyed whatever it was they ended up having to eat that day. Bet not, though. Some folks, you can just tell.

But I digress.

The point I'm trying to make here is that we chose to take the BIG chance of giving away food, when we were supposed to be in the business of selling food, in order to try to make a difference farther down the road. And it paid off. A risky move, to be sure, and we sweated over it, let me tell you. But drastic times called for drastic measures.

This past Monday, Quiznos announced a Million Subs Giveaway. All you had to do was to go to the website, register, and you'd get a coupon for a free small sub. Take it to your local Quiznos, and we will so amaze you with the quality of our food, and blow you away with the fabulous-ness of our service, that you will eagerly come back again and again and purchase more of the same. Sound familiar?!?

In Lubbock, it worked like a charm. Certainly being a college town helped - because the college kids put the word out on Facebook and Twitter, by text message and phone call - so that by 5 p.m. on the first day we had taken about 50 of the coupons between the four restaurants. And that total has increased as the week has gone on. Our own kids ate well in Tuscaloosa, and I heard that Rachel enjoyed her sub in San Angelo also ;-). Overall, it's been a great event for us.

Unfortunately, not all of our fellow franchisees embraced the idea. All week long, I've gotten Google Alerts to different blogs and message boards, where people are complaining that they have tried at their local outlets and either been refused altogether, or required to make another purchase in order to receive their "free" sub.

And so now, in many folks' minds, we have ALL been painted with the same broad brush: "Worst...promotion...ever," read one. "Fake, fake, fake," said another. "What a scam," from another. "I will NEVER go to another Quiznos" from still another.

And it goes on and on - given the ease and speed with which unhappy customers can make their voices heard, we ALL now have a stigma attached to us. No matter that, in our stores, we have happily redeemed the coupons and done our best to exceed our guests' some people, all Quiznos everywhere are now suspect.

And, not to sound like a child or anything, but: THAT'S NOT FAIR.

LOOK. I know it's a risk. I know it's hard to imagine that giving away food can be a good thing. But, I'm here to testify that it can be a good thing. And in dire circumstances - like determining whether your business will thrive or fold - a very good thing. In these uncertain, and very frightening economic times, we're all looking for something to count on, something to be sure of.

Here's one thing I'm absolutely sure of: in Lubbock, in Hot Springs, Bossier City, San Angelo, Tuscaloosa, and in hundreds of other communities across the country - most of us franchisees of Quiznos Sub EXPECT to succeed. Not succeeding? Not an option.

And that's the thing that those other franchisees don't get at all. And it's why, long after those other folks have closed or sold or been kicked out of their businesses, we'll still be here...amazing you with our food, and blowing you away with our service.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Kids and Dogs

If you are even a casual reader of this blog, you have surely discerned by now that I'm a sucker for dogs. Mostly my own, but generally anyone else's dogs.

I've never been a huge Tiger Woods fan - not much of a golf fan in the first place, but I always thought Tiger was kind of a...cold person. Then I saw this picture:

I've always felt that you can tell a lot about a man by how he is with his kids and his dogs. So now? Consider me firmly in Tiger's corner.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Trophy Sofa

At the beginning of the living room/dining room remodel, we donated the old "Cinnamon Sofa" to the Salvation Army. We always called it that because that's the sofa that Cinnamon used to sleep on, and as a result nobody ever wanted to sit on it because of all the dog hair. We never spent much time in the living room anyway, so it really didn't matter. As the guys were taking it out to the truck, I had the Shop Vac going and I was still vacuuming dog hair out of the bottom as they moved it. It was awful.

So we needed a sofa to go in the living room now that we've finished the new floor. We were looking for something small, inexpensive and simple. Straight, contemporary lines. Absolutely no poofy arms. We went to every furniture store in Paris (okay, so that's not very many, but still.) and couldn't find one we liked. Well, there was something at Reep's that would have worked, but the days of Walt selling us furniture at his cost are over, now that he's our Financial Advisor and not our furniture store-owner friend.

Every sofa for sale in the city of Paris has poofy arms. And if you're a lover of poofy-armed-sofas (as opposed to a sofa lover with poofy arms), no offense. But that's not what we want.

So we saw a picture in the paper of a sofa at Rooms to Go in Plano that we thought we might like, and I drove down to take a look.

Liked it.

Wanted to buy it.

Trouble ensued.

And...long story short (for a change): after three, 180 mile round trips within a week, a long, unhappy email to Rooms to Go Customer Service, a couple of phone calls between the RTG manager and me, and many, many Facebook profile updates...


I feel kind of silly to go to so much hassle for this one piece of furniture. It's a $400 sofa, for crying out loud, not a vintage Eames chair or anything. But it's ours, and it's coming home to Paris in 10 days. Here's a picture so you can see what all the fuss is about (I plan to lose the pillows):

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Hairy Situation

Sammie sleeps on the bed with us. That's really not something I'm crazy about, but that horse left the barn the first night she spent with us. We've reached most of an understanding about how she needs to behave, and only occasionally do either of us kick her off during the night for poor behavior.

The BIG problem, though, is the hair she leaves behind. Now, we had a Golden Retriever, so I know from shedding dogs. It never occurred to me that a short haired Lab would ever shed so much. BOY was I wrong. So every morning for the last 14 months, I have spent way too much time de-hairing the bed. I have gone through countless lint rollers. I even got a blister on my thumb from using the rollers so much. I've bought every little mitt, "miracle" brush - even a "Pet Hair Removal System," all with varying degrees of success.

And at last: I think I've found The Answer.

The Pledge Fabric Sweeper. This is a nifty little roller/container that works like a charm. It sweeps the hair into a little closed container - no muss, no fuss - and when it's full you toss it and get another one.

Love it, love it, love it! And if Pledge (a part of SC Johnson - A Family Company) were to send me a case, I'd share it with all of my pet-loving friends.

I'm just sayin'.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sammie Down Under

Amid the horror of the Australian wildfires, this has got to be one of the sweetest pictures I have ever seen:

And after they rescued her, they named her...."Sam."