Taco Bell has purchased my gratitude!


I got a letter in the mail today from Taco Bell.  You may be familiar with my emails to them concerning the death-filled tacos that they were recently peddling.  This is perhaps the best reply I’ve ever received to any of my either serious or goofy letters to any company.

I’ll dispense with the usual long-winded introduction and get right to it…

Letter form Taco Bell about Shrimp Tacos and Taco Bell Bucks!

You can see that along with the letter, I received five $5 Taco Bell Bucks certificates. That’s $25 in death-free Taco Bell food. That’s got to be the coolest thing I’ve ever received besides my T-shirt from Turner’s.  I’m not sure if they’re buying me off, rewarding me, if they make so much profit per item that it really doesn’t matter if they give this much away for free, or what.  This almost makes me want to write back to Pillsbury/Totino’s and make them feel ashamed for sending me three 35¢ coupons.  In fact, I may add that to the list.

The best, and I mean absolute best thing about this letter is that they’re forwarding my request to Pizza Hut.  Wow.  I trust you’ve seen my unanswered letters?  I can’t even express how hilarious and ridiculous and absolutely gratifying that is.


A barrage of emails from Pizza Hut


After getting no response to my last message, I decided to try again.  I re-sent the message, this time to a bunch of email addresses that I obtained upon a quick Google search or two, and added this little forward…

Hello,

Recently, I’ve been trying to obtain some more specific allergen information on some Pizza Hut products to no avail. I’ve sent the message(s) below, and as of yet haven’t had a real reply. Are you able to help pass this along to an individual who would be able to provide answers in writing, or even better yet… provide some answers yourself?

I thank you in advance for your time & help!

-Eric

Oh boy, did that work.  Mr. Williams’ latest message almost made me title this blog “Pissy Hut”, but I eventually decided against it.  Perhaps I’m reading too much into it… it is nearly impossible to pick up inflection via email.  I’ll let you make your own inferences.

from Williams, Corey Corey.Williams@yum.com
to “world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com”
date Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 5:55 PM
subject RE: Pizza Hut Customer Service
mailed-by yum.com

Mr. Aixelsyd-

We’ve provided you all the information we have available regarding your inquiry. If you’d like to discuss further, please provide your phone number and a customer support representative will contact you. Otherwise, we’ll consider your question resolved. Additionally, correspondences sent to multiple e-mail addresses at Pizza Hut can actually slow us down in responding to you. Please send your messages directly to me so that we may best address your concerns.

Thank you,
Corey Williams
Customer Service
Pizza Hut

Passive aggressive emails?  I’m guessing “correspondences sent to multiple e-mail addresses at Pizza Hut” is the only thing that prompted a response this time.  Again, my concerns were clearly laid out in my original response, and re-forwarded and included in its entirety with the last message.  They have yet to be addressed.

This is where we begin passing the buck.

Below, Ed is agreeable to some sort of feedback, and wishes to remain in the loop, but is clearly unable to answer any of my inquiries with any sort of direct response.  I’m guessing this cross-contamination stuff is just not common knowledge within the Pizza Hut organization.  He signed his name in large bold text.  There’s no point to pointing that out I guess, I just found it interesting.

from Ed Holt edholt@aurorahuts.com
to ERiC AiXeLsyD
date Tue, Feb 23, 2010 at 4:28 PM
subject RE: Pizza Hut Customer Service
mailed-by Ed.

Mr. Aixelsyd,

Your questions have been elevated to Pizza Hut Inc. With your very specific requests, they are best capable of providing the information requested and have committed to assisting you.

I am the best contact locally and will continue to be in the communication loop. I have asked for an update to your request.

Ed

Next, Susan offers a solution, and says that she forwarded the message to the appropriate parties.  The only problem is that I still have no contact information for those parties, and I sure hope it’s not Mr. Williams or Mr. Holt.

from Burton, Susan Susan.Burton@yum.com
to ERiC AiXeLsyD
date Wed, Feb 24, 2010 at 8:51 AM
subject RE: Pizza Hut Customer Service
mailed-by yum.com

Eric,

Unfortunately, I am the contact for KFC Franchising. I will forward your request to my counterpart in Pizza Hut hoping that she will be able to identify who would best answer your questions.

Thank you and have a great day!

Susan Burton
KFC Franchise Recruiting
KFC Franchise On Boarding

1900 Colonel Sanders Lane
Louisville, KY 40213
Office: 502-874-8201
Fax: 502-874-8848

What is “Franchise On Boarding”, I wonder?  Should there be a “-” in there?  As in getting someone on-board?  There is hope in her counterpart being a “she” that it’s definitely not Mr. Williams… so we may yet one day have a resolution to all of this madness.

Not even sure where or how I got the next email address, but it seems to be the one that holds the most promise.  Perhaps this is Ms. Burton’s Pizza Hut counterpart.  If so, is KFC the “evil” alternate universe?  I can only assume so, as Colonel Sanders has a goatee (and was never really a Colonel).

from Hiring Zone Candidate sites HZAdministrator@yum.com
to ERiC AiXeLsyD
date Wed, Feb 24, 2010 at 10:49 AM
subject RE: Pizza Hut Customer Service
mailed-by yum.com

Hi, Eric –

Thank you for your email. I am sorry that you’ve had so much trouble getting in touch with the right person to handle your inquiry. Unfortunately, I’m not that person either; however, I have forwarded your question to one of the brand leads for Pizza Hut as a way to get in touch with the person who has this information to answer your questions. If/when I hear anything back from them, I will let you know, unless they confirm that they will be getting in touch with you directly.

Thanks,
Amanda E. Herde
Hiring Zone System Administrator
Yum! Global Talent Management
100% Customer Mania … It Starts With Me!

Maybe it’s the positive attitude and non-condescending tone, maybe it’s the exclamation point, maybe it’s the bold + italics power punch, maybe it’s the “100% Customer Mania” tag-line… I want to believe our friend Amanda.  Global Talent Management sounds impressive… much more impressive than Area Coach or , Region Coach.  Perhaps we shall have some answers!

To recap, this is what I’m asking…

from ERiC AiXeLsyD
to Dave Kronenwetter
cc Ed Holt
date Thu, Feb 4, 2010 at 2:17 PM
subject Re: Pizza Hut Incident Eric Aixelsyd
mailed-by gmail.com

Thank you Mr. Kronenwetter,

You are, as of yet, the only representative from Pizza Hut or Yum! Brands that has answered my original query.  I applaud your dedication to service and customer satisfaction.  I used the contact form on the website, and acquired some email addresses from around the web when I discovered that was to no avail.

I am interested in the linked allergen information though.  I do have a severe shellfish allergy, and it concerns me that items with an “•” are notated with the ominous “products are prepared in common equipment and therefore may contain allergen” warning.

More interesting to me are the items marked…

  • SAUCES; All-Natural Pizza Sauce, All-Natural Sweet Pizza Sauce, All-Natural Old World Pizza Sauce
  • TUSCANI PASTAS; Lasagna, Chicken Alfredo, Meaty Marinara
  • APPETIZERS Served with dipping sauce; Breadsticks
  • WS Bone Out Wings; Garlic Parmesan
  • WS Crispy Bone In Wings; Garlic Parmesan
  • WS Traditional Wings; Garlic Parmesan

I see from the menu & nutritional info available online that there’s no shellfish available to order, so the “prepared in common equipment” line really really confuses me.  Am I to assume that the common equipment is in the manufacturing/processing/canning facility with the sauce?

Are the breadsticks & garlic Parmesan wings listed simply because they’re served with the sauce?  Are the wings breaded alongside shrimp at the factory?  Are the breadsticks marinated in butter beside lobster at the processing plant?

Are the pastas listed simply because they contain the sauce?  But then, there’s the Alfredo… which is a wholly different kind of sauce.  Are the noodles the culprit?  I must say that the whole thing has me befuddled.

Basically, you’re telling me that if I’m allergic to shellfish… I might want to avoid everything that contains pizza sauce …from a place called Pizza Hut?

Also, the text from the bottom may require a little clarification…

The allergen information displayed on this site is based on standard product formulations and is current as of March 2009. Variations may occur due to differences in suppliers, ingredient substitutions, recipe revisions, and/or product production at the restaurant.

Anchovies (Fish) are offered in many Pizza Hut restaurants. Shrimp (Shellfish) is offered in a very limited number of Pizza Hut restaurants. Customers with concerns should contact their restaurant directly to determine if these ingredients are handled in the restaurant.

Huh?  How is one to be made aware if there are different circumstances regarding  suppliers, ingredient substitutions, revisions, or product production?  I’ve never had a hostess seat me, list the specials, then divulge any information about new suppliers, possible substitutions, or about new preparation methods.  I’ve never seen it written on a dry-erase board inside the door, or in a menu insert.  How am I supposed to be sure that Pizza Hut isn’t going to inadvertently send me into Anaphylactic shock?

Does the second line about shrimp make all the above listed possible concerns no longer a concern… or is that in addition to already existing concerns?

Please, don’t take my questions as lashing out at you personally, but really… can you understand the frustration I have at learning of these menacing shellfish issues?  Certainly you can appreciate the humor of having to go to Pizza Hut only to avoid pizza sauce?  Perhaps the allergen information page needs updated and clarified?

I realize that I am sending a lot of questions your way at once.  I would like to thank you in advance for your time and I hope that you will give all of my concerns some serious contemplation, and perhaps pass it on to others at Pizza Hut or Yum! Brands for their additional input.

According to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Alliance website, “Approximately 12 million Americans suffer from food allergy. Food-induced anaphylaxis is believed to cause 50,000 emergency room visits and about 150 deaths annually.”  I really don’t want to be one of those 150, or even one of the 50,000 any time soon… but I would like to be able to enjoy some fantastic pizza (without the aforementioned disastrous after-effects).

I look forward to your thoughts!

Inquisitively,
-Eric
world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com

Yes, Mr. Williams, I have additional questions that have gone unanswered.  No, my issue is not resolved.  No, I do not wish to discuss this issue over the phone… as discussed in my original response to you.

I hope someone out there knows the answers to my questions!  At least we can amuse & confuse the companies responsible until I have a straight answer to this cross-contamination problem.

Aller-G’s


…Saw some more cool tweets about allergies today, again from pnutfreeworld.  They all caught my eye, and put me in a slightly better mood.  I’m not allergic to peanuts, but a lot of other people out there are.  I’m allergic to shellfish, and all of us that suffer from severe allergies need to stick together… so I’ve been following allergy issues on the web more & more.  I thought I might share with the hopes that if you’re out there suffering form allergies, and you happen to stumble upon this blog… you’ll know that there’s a bunch of us out here… or if you have a friend or family member that suffers form allergies, this may offer you some insight into their world.

The first one that jumped out at me today, was this one…

Law Makes Allergies a Restaurant’s Responsibility, Too – A Massachusetts Regulation Requires Restaurants to Get Food Allergy Training

If you saw my blog the other day about the two thrilling tweets, this would be the conclusion.  Apparently it passed! I know… this is odd for me to celebrate.  Normally, I’m anti- anything that has to do with making more rules & regulations or expanding government.  But, this just hits too close for me on a personal level to not be behind it.  I just hope they go about it efficiently.

Basically, the law says that if you’re a customer, you need to speak up and inform the restaurant of your allergy, and if you’re a restaurant, it’s your responsibility to have all of your employees trained and certified on allergy safety and cross contamination issues.  I realize that this is not a fool-proof system, and that I don’t even live near Massachusetts, but it gives me hope that other states may one day follow suit.  I now have something concrete to write about to my local politicians… and say “hey, look… they’re doing something that makes sense”.

Sadly, the legislation doesn’t seem to point to chain restaurants… like Subway, where cross-contamination with the seafood sub is a major issue.  It does, however, give me hope that I will someday be able to dine in an upscale restaurant with no abnormal concern for my safety.

If you’ve read my trifecta of tirades on the food industry & cleanliness & allergy issues, (That’s 1, 2, & 3) then you know that there are others out there who think that implementing such training would not only be impractical, but it would be just not done at all or treated like a joke from all concerned parties.  I really, really hope that’s not the case once this is put into effect.  I would hope that this would be an issue that’s handled quite seriously… it is, after all, a life-or-death issue.

The second article’s title made me think, “damn right”…

Food on the road can be a minefield – Taking steps to minimize the risks from allergies

Now, this is from a Canadian publication, and they seem to have a lot more government regulation already… but I don’t really support banning things like they seem to want to do.  Education and training is what we need. This article is a nice list of websites and literature that you can look to for support in dining out while traveling abroad.

I’m going to have to look into these sites a little more, and see if there’s anything worth noting or sharing.

There are two not mentioned in the article that look promising… but they really need their databases updated if they’re going to be useful at all:  Can I Eat There? & Shellfish Free

I’m also hoping UrbanSpoon.com one day makes note of more than just gluten-allergy friendly restaurants… and picks up on the big 8.

This last one is cool on a geek front as well as an allergy front…

Peanut Allergy Blocker On The Way

The concept just blows my mind.  I’ve said before… even if I was given a cure tomorrow, I doubt I’d ever even want shellfish at this point… but at least I’d be able to eat food off of the same grill or out of the same fryer without hesitation or anaphylactic repercussions.

I’ve read a lot about the causes of allergies… and asked a lot of questions of doctors.  It’s amazing how much they don’t know… but this article is very enlightening, and it’s all broken down so it’s easy to understand:

Dr Suphioglu said that the work being done by his team also has potential benefits for all allergy sufferers. “Taking a step further back in how an allergic reaction occurs, we are also carrying out research into how we can prevent the allergen specific antibodies from being produced at all.

“In an allergic reaction, the body produces cell signalling molecules called cytokines to trigger the production of antibodies. If we can neutralise the cytokines involved with the allergic reaction, we can potentially block or reduce the production of the antibodies. In recent preliminary results we have successfully identified a substance that interacts with one of the key cytokines involved in the allergic reaction. We are now assessing the capacity of this substance to block or reduce antibody production in the allergic reaction.”

Dr Suphioglu is confident that his team’s allergy research work will result in better treatments for allergy sufferers. “I believe our research into understanding the molecular and allergenic properties of major peanut allergens together with our work on how to prevent or inhibit allergic reactions will contribute to the development of safer and more effective methods for peanut allergy diagnosis, prevention and treatment as well as benefit sufferers of other allergies.”

I’ve read a bunch of articles pertaining to the links between asthma and dust mite allergies and their relation to the severe shellfish allergies.  It’s really interesting stuff.  I hope all of these studies merge in the near future, and perhaps there will be an end to all my allergy-related rants!

Two Thrilling Tweets


Well, maybe not thrilling… but pretty damn cool.

  1. pnutfreeworld pnutfreeworld

    State urges food allergy safety in restaurants – The Boston Globe http://shar.es/mnumS via @sharethis #foodallergy #peanutallergy about 16 hours ago from web

  2. pnutfreeworld pnutfreeworld

    wbur.org: State Proposes New Food Allergy Rules For Restaurants http://www.wbur.org/2010/02/11/allergy @WBUR #foodallergy #legislation about 16 hours ago from web

What’s so thrilling?  Well, people in the US are being made more aware of allergies.  Of course it has to start in Massachusetts, not Pennsylvania.  I’m also fully aware that proposed laws aren’t actual laws… but there is some hope some more awareness being raised in public kitchens.  Sadly for me, they keep citing peanuts, soy, wheat, milk, & fish.  What about us shellfish people?  Ha ha ha.  I guess ‘fish’ is supposed to cover that.

Thanks to pnutfreeworld!  If you’re on twitter, and have allergies… check out this list.

I wrote back to Pizza Hut…


A while ago, I wrote to Pizza Hut, just being goofy for the most part… commenting on how Pizza Hut’s sauce rips through me like… well, have you ever seen a cat with its head stuck in something & it flailing round to try to get it out?  Yeah.  It’s like that.

They wrote back, and the message from Mr. Kronenwetter actually raised a little concern for me.  I noticed that some of their foods may contain shellfish allergens, although there is no shellfish to be found on the menu.  If you’ve read the background on my shellfish allergy, you’d know that it freaked me out a little.  I say just a little becuase I’ve eaten there without any allergy-related problems (that I know of)…  so far.

I don’t have a response yet, but I thought I’d share my most recent email to them…

from ERiC AiXeLsyD
to Dave Kronenwetter
cc Ed Holt
date Thu, Feb 4, 2010 at 2:17 PM
subject Re: Pizza Hut Incident Eric Aixelsyd
mailed-by gmail.com

Thank you Mr. Kronenwetter,

You are, as of yet, the only representative from Pizza Hut or Yum! Brands that has answered my original query.  I applaud your dedication to service and customer satisfaction.  I used the contact form on the website, and acquired some email addresses from around the web when I discovered that was to no avail.

I am interested in the linked allergen information though.  I do have a severe shellfish allergy, and it concerns me that items with an “•” are notated with the ominous “products are prepared in common equipment and therefore may contain allergen” warning.

More interesting to me are the items marked…

  • SAUCES; All-Natural Pizza Sauce, All-Natural Sweet Pizza Sauce, All-Natural Old World Pizza Sauce
  • TUSCANI PASTAS; Lasagna, Chicken Alfredo, Meaty Marinara
  • APPETIZERS Served with dipping sauce; Breadsticks
  • WS Bone Out Wings; Garlic Parmesan
  • WS Crispy Bone In Wings; Garlic Parmesan
  • WS Traditional Wings; Garlic Parmesan

I see from the menu & nutritional info available online that there’s no shellfish available to order, so the “prepared in common equipment” line really really confuses me.  Am I to assume that the common equipment is in the manufacturing/processing/

canning facility with the sauce?

Are the breadsticks & garlic Parmesan wings listed simply because they’re served with the sauce?  Are the wings breaded alongside shrimp at the factory?  Are the breadsticks marinated in butter beside lobster at the processing plant?

Are the pastas listed simply because they contain the sauce?  But then, there’s the Alfredo… which is a wholly different kind of sauce.  Are the noodles the culprit?  I must say that the whole thing has me befuddled.

Basically, you’re telling me that if I’m allergic to shellfish… I might want to avoid everything that contains pizza sauce …from a place called Pizza Hut?

Also, the text from the bottom may require a little clarification…

The allergen information displayed on this site is based on standard product formulations and is current as of March 2009. Variations may occur due to differences in suppliers, ingredient substitutions, recipe revisions, and/or product production at the restaurant.

Anchovies (Fish) are offered in many Pizza Hut restaurants. Shrimp (Shellfish) is offered in a very limited number of Pizza Hut restaurants. Customers with concerns should contact their restaurant directly to determine if these ingredients are handled in the restaurant.

Huh?  How is one to be made aware if there are different circumstances regarding  suppliers, ingredient substitutions, revisions, or product production?  I’ve never had a hostess seat me, list the specials, then divulge any information about new suppliers, possible substitutions, or about new preparation methods.  I’ve never seen it written on a dry-erase board inside the door, or in a menu insert.  How am I supposed to be sure that Pizza Hut isn’t going to inadvertently send me into Anaphylactic shock?

Does the second line about shrimp make all the above listed possible concerns no longer a concern… or is that in addition to already existing concerns?

Please, don’t take my questions as lashing out at you personally, but really… can you understand the frustration I have at learning of these menacing shellfish issues?  Certainly you can appreciate the humor of having to go to Pizza Hut only to avoid pizza sauce?  Perhaps the allergen information page needs updated and clarified?

I realize that I am sending a lot of questions your way at once.  I would like to thank you in advance for your time and I hope that you will give all of my concerns some serious contemplation, and perhaps pass it on to others at Pizza Hut or Yum! Brands for their additional input.

According to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Alliance website, “Approximately 12 million Americans suffer from food allergy. Food-induced anaphylaxis is believed to cause 50,000 emergency room visits and about 150 deaths annually.”  I really don’t want to be one of those 150, or even one of the 50,000 any time soon… but I would like to be able to enjoy some fantastic pizza (without the aforementioned disastrous after-effects).

I look forward to your thoughts!

Inquisitively,
-Eric
world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com

I really hope to get an actual response with some clarification.  It is worded/displayed in a goofy manner, don’t you think?

This tiny sign made my day…


It’s simple, really.  It’s a small, simple act that’s a symbolic gesture, and may be complete and total BS in all practicality or reality… but it made me feel comfortable today.  I have discussed my shellfish issues before, and have been ridiculed for suggesting that the food service industry take any more action on allergy issues, awareness, and cross-contamination than they already are.  I can’t explain why or how, but this one little sign put me at ease.  Why?  Because it was simply acknowledgment, I guess.  Maybe that’s all I want or need.  At any rate, kudos to you, Market District Cafe in Robinson!  What am I making such a big fuss about?  Not much really, just this…

Photobucket

That’s all.  No biggie.  But, to me, it means so much.  I did happen to ask the guy behind the counter about what all was cooked on the grill that I can see, and he was happy to inform me that there is indeed no shellfish that touches said grill surface.  It’s not a big deal to you most likely, but it is to me.  So I blogged about it.

In a related note…  The Market District in Robinson is ridiculously awesome… the grocery store and the restaurant side.  I popped up a review on UrbanSpoon.com, here it is…

photo prime

“It’s like a food amusement park…” by ERiC AiXeLsyD (100 reviews)

January 16, 2010 – Really likes it – I really never thought I’d be this excited about a grocery store. The team at Giant Eagle/Market District that put this place together are geniuses. It’s not the first time I’ve been to the store, but today was the first time eating in their cafe. Floor layout plan and traffic flow not withstanding, this is a great place to eat! It’s almost a cross between a food court and hospital cafeteria… with really really good food. You can choose form a bunch of little islands or counters of food… Pizza, Crepes, Rosti, Salad Bars, Hot Bar, Grill/Rotisserie station, and more that I haven’t really looked into yet.

My wife went for a really nice-looking Italian panini with the thickest slice of mozzarella, I’ve ever seen and a nice little side salad with assorted greens, and dropped it off with a Market District brand peach oolong iced tea. She really thought the sandwich was fresh and filling, and is looking forward to trying of the other options. (They had some nice-looking reubens there too!)

I went right to the rotisserie/grill/BBQ area (of course) and my eyes were drawn to the brisket. I got a combo which included the brisket & side… I chose the grilled vegetables… normally for $6, but I got $1 off with my Giant Eagle advantage card. I also snagged a roll (gotta get those carbs!) and a Boylan’s Birch Beer. I chose a St. Louis Style BBQ sauce with the brisket that was a perfect compliment t the juicy beef, and the grilled veggies were perfect. They were just vegetables, the taset wasn’t hidden with a sauce or too many spices. We got an excellent meal IMHO for just over $14.

The thing that impressed me the most was when I was asking the chef/cook behind the counter about what all was cooked on the grill due to my shellfish allergies, he was very patient, kind, and even double-checked with another employee. Then, when I got to the edge of the counter, I spied a sign noting possible cross-contamination listing all the major allergens, and how one should be sure to ask the staff about any cross-contamination. It’s an odd and very small gesture, but it means the world to someone like me who’s generally in a constantly worrisome state when dining out. I applaud their taking note, and to me it says a lot about the company & the people.

Photos of the sign & both our meals have been uploaded to the photo section.

And oh yeah… they have BEER! In a Grocery Store! in PENNSYLVANIA! Genius. I didn’t get any this time, but I saw 6-packs of Straub Special Dark for $6.97 and the wife was eying up the extra large bottles of Raspberry Lambic for only $12.99. We will be back to get some beer!

We’ll definitely be back when we’re in the area!

1 person likes this review Recommend

And, here are the photos I mentioned…

Giant Eagle Market District Restaurant

Giant Eagle Market District Restaurant

A close to all the food rants… maybe.


I’m sure this isn’t the last you’ll hear from me on the subject, but this is just to close out my recent rants about the bad habits of restaurant employees out there everywhere.

If you need a recap, here’s how it panned out on my end…

Admittedly, I was just “going off” in reaction to the mentioned articles, but it doesn’t excuse any of the deplorable actions described within.  I really appreciate the blog hits, feedback, & discussion on the issue… whether it was here on this blog, or via Facebook, Twitter, Pittsburgh Beat, or whatever venue a link was pimped upon.

In the last blog, I was tagged and deemed it by an entertaining blogger  named Charity that sits on the server side of the fence, and some things were explained to me.  She was one of the ones quoted in my rants, although she wasn’t confessing to disgusting behavior, just complaining about customers (which she has every right to do).  Apparently I’m adorable in a “oh my, isn’t he so naive” kind of way.  I commented there, really saying all I have to say on the subject for now.  I even saw a few encouraging words from another commenter, teleburst, who provided some cool links to his blog on being more accommodating to customers with special dietary needs.  Let’s hope he does eventually blog about allergies!

I love the blogs about how to be a better customer that are out there… I wouldn’t imagine that people would actually do some things like share drinks with free refills or leave a mess after their kid makes one…  But I guess it’s happening out there everywhere.

I know I mentioned discussing tips, but the mood has passed for now… I’m sure I’ll dive into it someday.  I need to do another goofy W(aL)D post soon.  Hits have been skyrocketing for my Sprint Short Codes post, there’s apparently still a problem that Sprint refuses to admit!  Oh well, until next time… Remember to tip your servers at least 20% for good service, unless they slip you some regular instead of decaf or beef stock when they tell you it’s vegetable stock.

A little background on my shellfish allergy before I write my next rant of a blog…


Note: I started writing this the other day, and got to a point tonight where it’s so wordy that I’d like it to simply serve as a background to the next blog to show you where I’m coming from, or as the first part to a sort of “To be continued…”


So, Sunday night we had just come home from our 3rd day of Christmas celebration in a row.  Needless to say, we were in a great mood, but pretty tired.  I got online to check my email and see what was up in the world of Facebook, and Yahoo! pointed me to an interesting article from Reader’s Digest that made me wretch in horror and disgust.  This also pointed to several other articles and blogs around the web that divulge the disgusting inexcusable practices of the people who handle your food daily.

Granted, the actions & situations described are certainly not representative of the majority of your wait staff, servers, managers, cooks, chefs, etc. out there… but I find any number of this kind of attitude and described behaviors to be unacceptable.  I was so flustered, I decided to pop some things up on an old message board just so I could sort them out later.  I’m not even sure I’m at a point where they’re all sorted out, but I wanted to get writing while this was still somewhat of a fresh topic to me.  This was initially just an allergy issue to me, but several other side issues have popped up upon further review.  Please, bear with me if I jump form subject to subject before I try to reel it all in.

Generally, I’d like to think that my blogs are mostly amusing… any complaining is usually done within the context of humor, and only marginally serious.  I have used this & other platforms to comment on the state of customer service in the food industry before… generally at the “bottom rung” of fast food places as this is where I usually end up due to dietary needs (no shellfish) and budget issues.

This one, however, is serious to me… and I hope I don’t come off as just ranting, and that the seriousness of these issues is conveyed.

If you know me in person, have dined out with me, or have ready any of my lunacy online… you most likely know what I have a severe shellfish allergy.  What does that mean exactly?  Well, it means that I can’t eat any shellfish, or I go into anaphylactic shock.  Not only can I not eat the shellfish (that’s crustaceans & molluscs including but not limited to ,shrimp, prawns, lobster, crab, crayfish, oysters, mussels, clams, scallops, octopi, squid, snails, and probably even scorpions and pill bugs), but I can’t eat any food that comes into contact with it.  That means, if you cook shrimp on the grill, take it off, and put my steak on  without washing the surface, it’s the same as me eating the shrimp.

I certainly can’t expect the restaurant to clean the grill in between every meal, as that’s certainly not productive on their end… I just usually try to see where the shellfish is prepared, and eat from another cooking surface.  That seems easy enough, right?

I get that it’s my responsibility.  Yes, I’ve had an epi pen.  But I’d really love to not ever have the need to use one.  I’ve even considered getting Allergy Cards, but they seem a little pretentious or something… like my verbal reminder isn’t enough.

Well, getting me in to a place with shellfish is an issue in itself.  Why?  Well in with the aforementioned cooking surface issue… there’s just all kinds of stuff that can run through one’s head.  Like not washing a knife when it cuts one thing then another, shares spaces in refrigerators where things may drip on to other things, places where you might grab pizza toppings like crab meat or shrimp without washing your hands before dipping into the next topping, a friend of mine has even told me he had a piece of shrimp show up in his scrambled eggs at an IHOP once… and I believe the same friend even told me that they had a long and heated argument with the servers at a Chinese place where the ‘vegetarian’ eggs rolls contained crab because “crab is not meat”.  Oops… Death!  (Usually I sadly avoid any Chinese places anyway because of the shared cooking surfaces & probably delicious sauces that can be made with oysters or ground brine shrimp.) This basically makes me never able to completely relax in a restaurant where I’m supposed to be out enjoying myself… it’s an odd paradox.

Generally I can find a safe dish if pressed, and especially if I call ahead… but I need to be in an adventurous mood.

Dining out is an important social activity… a very common social activity that brings with it high levels of anxiety for someone like myself.  Not only from the aforementioned game of Russian Roulette Kitchen Edition, but from explaining my allergy to people.  Yes, anxiety from explaining to friends, family, business associates, your server, and anyone else who may inquire as to why you don’t want to try a great new seafood place or even Red Lobster or Long John Silver’s.  Not only can it be embarrassing where it really shouldn’t be… but it inevitable goes down something like this…

Not me:  “Let’s go to T.G.I. Friday’s”

Me:  “Well, I can’t really eat much there besides a salad or a baked potato.”

Not me:  “Huh?” [Looking at me like I’m an alien.]

Me:  “Well, I have a severe shellfish allergy.  I can’t eat anything like shrimp or lobster, or any cooking surfaces that it touches”

Not me:  “Oh, well just don’t order any.”

Me:  “Well, that’s not enough.  I’ve had a trip to the hospital just from eating onion rings fried in the same fryer as shrimp.  If they have grilled shrimp, I can’t get anythign off of the grill… if they have fried shrimp, I can’t get anything out of the fryer.”

Not me:  “Well, can you get steak?”

Me:  “No, they probably make that on a grill.”

Not me:  “Well, can’t you get chicken?”

[Mind you, I have ad this conversation with seemingly intelligent reasonable people.]

Me:  “Well, no… if it’s grilled, well… we covered that, and if it’s fried… that’s a no go either.”

Not me:  “Well, that sucks.  What about … [Names 400 other restaurants, all with prominent shellfish dishes on the menu]… I don’t think they have any shellfish.”

Me: “No.  No.  No.  Nope.  Unh-uh.  No.  No. Nope.  No… ” ad nauseum.  I suggest somewhere else, usually less “classy” because let’s face it… those are the places with no shellfish.

Not me:   “Sigh, OK.”

[I look/feel like an idiot.]

Then sometimes, one of these gems gets tossed in…

Not me:  “Well, that’s just stupid.  I’ve never heard of that.” or “There’s no such thing as food allergies.”

Yes, because you have never heard of it, I must be wrong.  Off to Joe’s Crab Shack!

Not me:  “My uncle Jim’s wife’s neighbor’s cousin’s roomate’s gerbil’s vet’s dry cleaner’s podiatrist was allergic to jelly beans, and he ate a quarter of a jelly bean and swelled up and went to the hospital and stuff and just kept eating bigger pieces until he built up a tolerance”.

Not me:  “Have you tried it lately?  My mechanic’s wife’s niece’s ex-husband had a neighbor who outgrew his allergy to strawberries.”

First off, this type of behavior is stupid… even if the story is real.  It is possible to build up tolerances (allergy shots), and to outgrow allergies… I am well aware of my limitations and have been told by more than one allergy doctor that my allergy is to great to attempt allergy shots and that I’ll never outgrow it.

My favorite comes from family & old friends…

Not me:  “You used to eat at Long John Silver’s!  You can’t be that allergic.”

I know. It’s WEIRD. I get it. Believe me, I get it.  I ate shrimp like a madman when I was young, and each exposure to shellfish since I discovered the allergy kind of seems like the bee sting thing to me, each “attack” gets worse.  After the last one… I don’t want another one.  But science seems to lean toward this being more random and not a straight road to a deadly end.  I really don’t want to be the guy to solve/prove that one.

And, please… if I do go to a restaurant to eat out with you… don’t orders shrimp or lobster and ask me if it’s OK.  Every fiber of my being is screaming “No, it’s not OK.  What are you, a psychopathic masochist that’s into mental torture?” while I tell you it won’t bother me.  Again, clearly my own demon to wrestle with… but really, do you want to be that person?

Still, I feel pressure all the time to just go with the flow, deal with it, and order a salad.  Believe me, a salad more often may be a good idea in my case.  It’s still just not an enjoyable or relaxing thing for me at that point.  We may be conversing, but I’m obsessing over every unidentifiable piece of everything in the dressing and really not processing much of what you’re saying.  Imagine that I told you there’s a box of rat poison in the kitchen right on the shelf between the flour and the sugar, they’re all in identical unmarked jars and there’s only one scoop used in all of ’em.  Do you wanna eat there?

This is really just to show you where I’m coming from.  I realize that it’s not your problem.  I realize that I have some real issues to deal with surrounding my problem.  I realize that this is not a terminal illness or anything that serious.  I’m not trying to get a pity party going for myself.  This is simply to let you know what’s bouncing around in my mind.

It hopefully won’t be long until my next not-unrelated blog… basically pulling quotes form the aforementioned articles and responding one by one.

I’d really like to hear everyone’s opinions of my rant here… am I out of line?  Over-dramatic?  Illustrative?  Insane?  Do you think like me?  Do you have an allergy?