Pittsburgh to me; “Slow down.”


So this morning when trying to get to church, we had an adventure.  We cross the city to go there, because it feels like home when we do make it, and it is where I grew up going.  Generally, it’s not a bad drive on a Sunday morning.

This morning, we left a little later than we like to because… we have two small children.

I knew that there was some sort of work in the Fort Pitt Tunnel this weekend, so I decided to take the Liberty Tubes instead.  Why?  No respectful yinzer takes the posted detour, and it was going west when I wanted to go east.

No work in the tubes, or even on the Liberty Bridge… except when we got to the ramp for the Blvd. of the Allies and we couldn’t go towards Monroeville.

Up Bigelow Blvd. to Craig St. through Oakland to try to get to Forbes Ave. and get on the Parkway in Squirrel Hill, and we ran into this along the way:

Lady Pittsburgh

Lady Pittsburgh

I have no idea what this was.  She was oblivious to the world around her, happily rolling down the middle of the street on her scooter with absolutely no regard for safety or traffic laws.  She eventually got on to the sidewalk, but she was rolling along at about a ½ mile per hour when I pulled up behind her.  All I could do was start a “What the…” phrase that I couldn’t finish with children in the car and laugh.  We laughed for the rest of the ride to church, and we weren’t done with the obstacles.

Apparently, Forbes was closed off right after the CMU campus for a race today.  Out & around to the Edgewood/Swissvale on-ramp to the parkway it was.

Seriously though, I know I’m not a resident of Pittsburgh proper, but I am a resident of Allegheny County.  Can we pass some sort of local ordinance that you can’t work on or around two major through-ways to the city at the same damn time?

We got there, and were only a little bit late.  The universe was testing my patience today.  I hope I passed.

 

At my signal, unleash a $3 VHS cassette.


So, browsing one of the local flea-market/yard-sale type groups on Facebook, I discovered this post…

Gladiator on VHS for sale. Only $3.00 American!

Gladiator on VHS for sale. Only $3.00 American!

As you can imagine because I’m blogging about it, many questions came to mind.  It’s hard to even know where to begin.

We’ll start with the obvious.  Who would pay $3 for a VHS cassette of any movie, let alone this movie?  I mean Gladiator was a good film… but here is a shortlist of better values available online…

This is just for physical media.  I didn’t even look into streaming.  I get that not everyone is set up to stream and that some people (myself included) like to put their hands on physical tangible media.

Who has a working VCR?  OK.  I do, but I’m odd.  It’s a VCR/DVD-recorder, and someday I will transfer all of my VHS tapes to DVD (which is already a dead format).  Who is still watching video tapes?  I mean, watching the old 4:3 aspect ratio drives me nuts these days.

The other side of this… who goes through their stuff, decides they can part with this, and assigns a $3 value to it?  I mean, I could see if this was a collector’s item.  I have Star Wars on VHS and I’ll probably have it forever, but The Gladiator?   Sure, it was a good movie… but not that good. Why were they even still making video tapes in the year 2000?

What do you need that badly that costs $3?  This wouldn’t be worth the gas money or the bus fair to meet someone to make the sale.

I have been strapped for cash, but never would think to list what essentially amounts to garbage for a negligible value on a Facebook flea market group.  If this sells, I really have a lot of stuff that I need to be listing for under $5 amounts.

Wait. What? (The Bob Evans saga continues.)


I never emailed these names.  Seriously.  Someone must have sent Jon the text of my blog, or a link to my blog.  My original email contained the names which I then changed to something I thought would be ridiculous and obvious, so I didn’t accidentally call out another real employee.

Am I being trolled?

On Thursday, November 19, 2015 8:54 PM, “0503, BER” <Unit_503@bobevans.com> wrote:

Hello,

                I am following up on a bad review that we had charge to our store.  I was hoping to get some more information, as we believed our location received this review in error.  We don’t have servers by either name mentioned in the review (Maleficient and Lincoln), and would like to find out which store you were actually at.  Then we can send this along to them, so that they can address these issues.  Thank you for your time.

Jon Herrmann
General Manager
Bob Evans #503
Bridgeville, PA
(412) 257-1369

Shenanigans. ☘

I wrote back.  Nothing interesting besides pointing out that I never sent those names in an email.

I also got an email from LeAnn confirming our Dormont address, so I passed along the new one.  I wonder if I’ll get a T-shirt?

If it’s gift certificates, does anyone know of a charity that accepts them or of a family in need?

Maybe they’re sending someone to dispatch of me.  Maybe I should ask King’s to weigh in?

This still makes me laugh uncontrollably:

YOU GET A CRAYON!

Smiling & coloring rule.

I did get a really insightful comment on the last post though. Doesn’t seem like it’s gone down that way so far.

 

All we wanted were some crayons.


So, this past Saturday night we had an interesting experience at the local Bob Evans.  I have blogged about one of our experiences with an angry server there before, but haven’t touched upon the 3 or 4 other times that “the kitchen held up the order” while she talked to other customers at great length about slot machines at the Meadows, or the time that she rolled her eyes at me while the wife and I were discussing the seasonal shrimp on the menu in regards to where it was cooked and my allergy.  This time we were most likely doubly annoying as we had two small children with us.  The saga begins…

From: Eric Carroll <me@my.email.addre.ss>
To: Leann D. Purdy, Nathaniel A. Riggs, BE-mail

Hello Leann and Nate,

I hope this message finds you well, and that you’re both still with the Bob Evans team!  You may remember that I had contacted you in the past about the #jelly3x rule and a bad experience at the Bob Evans in Bridgeville Pennsylvania, and blogged about that alongside your enthusiastic response, and even more thorough follow-up.

We have since had a few other experiences with that waitress, including one where she rolled her eyes at me and said “well, you don’t have to order it” when I was discussing the shrimp stir-fry available seasonally.  Clearly, she has absolutely no grasp of cross-contamination.  The running theme with her seems to be that the kitchen is always late & to blame with any service issues.

Being that we have generally excellent food & service at the Bridgeville location, and it’s now even closer to home since we have moved to Bridgeville, we have gone in to dine and simply requested with the host or hostess to not be seated in her section.

Sadly this weekend, we didn’t spot her upon our arrival and did not inform the hostess of our preference.  We were quickly welcomed by the hostess, seated in her section and decided to go with it as it had been a while since we had Maleficent as our server.

Nowadays, we have a 2½ year old and a 7 month old in tow.  Bob Evans is a great place to get a full meal for a family without breaking the bank, yet another notch in the proverbial “pro’s” column.  (I mean, have you spent the same amount of money at Panera or Steak n’ Shake? It’s not even half of the food.  Maybe local heroes Eat’n Park can almost compete.)

Maleficent quickly came to the table and took our drink orders.  Our eldest ordered apple juice, I asked for an iced tea, and the wife went for water.  Our drinks were brought quickly and our waitress shot a nasty look to the table beside us as the hostess sat another family with 3 older children as she set our drinks down.  She came back a bit later to take our food order and my wife politely asked for straws which we didn’t get with our drinks and some crayons that weren’t included with our kid’s meal place-mat menu.

Maleficent Immediately huffed as she slammed down the straws and remarked that she didn’t have time to get crayons because she just had two other tables seated in her section.  We were only wanting crayons because it had taken her a while to come back and take our food order, well before anyone else had been seated in our section.

I forget exactly what the exchange was that followed.  I know my wife had mentioned that we had had several problems in the past with her service. I was pretty much shocked into jaw-agape silence at that point.  My wife ended with standing up to go speak to the manager, and Maleficent yelled (yes, yelled) “Lincoln, take tables 54 and 56!” or something to that effect.

After my wife came back from a conversation with the manager, one of the aforementioned customers beside us said “Wow. I can’t believe she told you no on the crayons.”  We gave the super-condensed version of our history with Maleficent as they continued in their wide-eyed disbelief.

Maleficent continued to serve that family, but we and another nearby table had been reassigned to a young man named Lincoln (Linkin?), on either Maleficent or the manager’s authority.  I wasn’t present for my wife’s conversation with the manager, but it was apparently full of knowing nods and angry head-shakes as she regaled the manager with tales of our past adventures with Maleficent.  I do know that my wife apparently characterized me as a madman about to lose all patience to bolster her point.  Perhaps that’s why the manager never came to the table to offer either an apology or an explanation.

Now, reading back on this, the story so far does sound like we are being absolutely ridiculous over the exclusion of two crayons for the amusement of our child who’s behavior, rearing, and amusement are wholly our responsibility.  Do you also see how the past history and an apparently poor attitude towards customers and a potential tip factor into this moment?  It must have been some serious shenanigans in order for the next table to notice.

The lesson I have learned is that we will keep crayons and a coloring book in our family vehicle for just such a purpose.  It is not Bob Evans’ responsibility to develop my child’s creativity and fine motor skills, nor to provide a means to pacifying the insatiable need for constant activity or the lack of patience to wait for a delicious prepared meal.  Despite evidence to the contrary, we were indeed prepared parents with our own plastic mess-prevention and environment-sterilizing place-mat for our son.  He can’t color yet, but he can shovel tiny bits of food into his mouth at a rate destined to require another kid’s meal sooner rather than later.

This leads us to Lincoln (Linkin?). Lincoln was certainly on top of his game after being saddled with two more tables in addition to his already presumably busy/full section.  He came through and delighted our daughter with a two-pack of pink and purple crayons. Lincoln took our order with a smile, brought the food out quickly with no conspiratorial kitchen issues, and was just all-around pleasant.  We even had to ask for a replacement fork as we had somehow lost one.  It was brought out amid a flurry of what I presume to be normal Saturday restaurant activity with no hesitation, and rather quickly.  We even got jelly on one request.

After our meal, we thanked him for being such an incredible server, and I remarked that I was glad he was so understanding because I was nervous about being labeled as some sort of problem after requesting a new server.  He indicated that it was not a surprise, happens regularly, and that he didn’t come to us with any preconceived notions.  He also added that people inexplicably (my words, not his) come in and request to be seated in Maleficent’s section and Maleficent’s section only.

We will request Lincoln’s section in the future, and barring that option we’ll just request not be seated in Maleficent’s section.  I can play that game.  We cleaned up as best we could from our inevitable child-induced mess, left close to a 50% tip, and found the errant fork before we left.  The table directly beside us (I assume the other table taken by Lincoln at the same time we were handed over) also rather audibly and publicly thanked Lincoln for being such a great server.  I’m not sure if they also had issues that we weren’t aware of?  I told the cashier how happy we were with our service upon checkout.

I don’t want to pick on a server.  I do want to illustrate the contrast between what I see as poor service as it relates to incredible service and how it didn’t seem to be any more difficult than you make it.  I do hope Lincoln is rewarded for a job well done and his overall attitude.  I’m sure it reflects in his work effort and in his gratuities.  I would hope that you can again pass this email along to all of the appropriate parties.  Area coaches and the store management, correct?  I really feel like we were nothing but polite and reasonable up until we were denied crayons, and we remained polite and reasonable immediately after that whole exchange.  That seems like an absolutely insane sentence for one adult to write to another.  Do I have a valid point, or am I just super way out of line here?

I would just drop the entire issue and move on, but Bob Evans is one of the few places that I can safely get a meal with my shellfish allergy, I can comfortably order anything on the menu (outside of the seasonal Lent-deathfish), it’s very close by, and I feel like we really get great value for a dollar when we dine at your establishment.

Last time you sent out some gift certificates.  Please save them this time.  I don’t want free food, I just want a stress-free dining experience.  If you must send gift certificates, can you direct them to a Pittsburgh charity that can give them to people who do perhaps need a free meal?  Thankfully I can put food on the table for my family while many others struggle to do so.  We need to get our butts out on a kids-eat-free promotional night if we want a free meal.

I realize that in the grand scheme of things, my complaints are trivial.  I realize that some would enjoy any meal regardless of the way in which it was delivered.  What if though, this had been that meal for someone?  What if this was one night out that they looked forward to and it was met with the kind of service that we regularly receive from one apparently disgruntled waitress?  Is this how Bob Evans wants to be perceived?

I plan to blog this adventure also.  I do less of that these days, but this seemed to be appropriately entertaining.  Of course, the names will be omitted or changed.

I also look forward to your response and insight.  Thank you once again for your time and assistance!

Just crayons?

-Eric

https://aixelsyd13.wordpress.com

me@my.emailaddre.ss

I can’t wait for a response.  Sadly, I see from the Yahoo! mailer daemon that Nate is no longer with Bob Evans.  I think I knew he outgrew them a while back.  I may try to ping it out to a few more people.  I have contacted others at Bob Evans in the past, during my pre-Wordpress days.  I even had someone send me a “safe” list of where things were cooked and what would be OK for me to eat while they had shellfish on the menu.  Overall they have stellar corporate customer service, but we just have this continual issue with a crazy server who reminds me of the mailman in the movie Funny Farm.

Bob Evans - Tuesday Night is Family Night

Tuesday Night is Family Night

Magic Shell, Magic Poop?


I bought some Magic Shell a while ago, and I thought I’d have some fun with Smucker’s.  It really did have a bad aftertaste, but I decided to take the goofy up a notch.

I submitted the following to their webform:

Hello Friends,

I’d like to start out by saying I’m a big fan of your jellies. Of course I like grape, and we use the apricot preserves in a barbecue recipe. Mixed fruit jelly is my favorite by far. I’m always quite pleased when a restaurant has it in those little packets, and we usually buy 2 jars at a time for home. Why don’t they come in the big jars? That’s a question for another time though. I’m also a fan of your hot fudge topping. It’s the only brand we buy. You guys have it right.

This brings us around to why I am writing… This past weekend, I picked up some Chocolate Fudge Magic Shell at Walmart, because the shelf near the ice cream was void of your hot fudge topping & Hershey’s syrup. I remember having magic shell as a kid, but I’m unsure of the brand. I think I’ve even had the dipped cones at Dairy Queen too.

I didn’t get around to enjoying the Magic Shell until last night when I poured it over some Edy’s Slow Churned Cookie Dough ice cream. I’m not embarrassed to tell you that I was easily amazed at how the shell froze in a few seconds. I have to say it was also quite delicious and a good combination… except the after taste. It came on slowly, but it tasted like what I imagine licking cigarette ashes would taste like after you had just chewed an aspirin and left it on your tongue. It was odd, but I figured it may have perhaps been some artificial sweetener. I didn’t think much else of it.

Excuse me for being frank, but this morning, I had some constipation issues. My wife would attest that I am generally quite regular… or she may even say I heed nature’s call too often. The only thing that I ate out of normal yesterday would be your Magic Shell. I checked the ingredients to see of there was some sort of wax or anything that may be setting up camp in my colon, and I was surprised of the lack of anything sinister. Well, I’m not a fan of coconut, so the oil or even the alkali-processed cocoa may account for the aftertaste that didn’t agree with me. I’m not sure what whole milk solids are… and how they’re different from cheese. Have you guys ever had someone write in with the same problem? Do milk solids or soy lecithin cause blocked bowels? Have you done any research in this area?

I think I may stick with the regular hot fudge topping from now on. Even if there’s no issue with the Magic Shell, it has me kind of spooked.

Obstructed but Optimistic,
-Waldo Lunar

And, I got this boring reply:

From: consumer.relations@jmsmucker.com
Date: Thu, Mar 14, 2013 at 8:26 AM
Subject: Reference Number: 10026410
To: world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com

March 13, 2013

Mr. Waldo Lunar
1111 Street Rd.
Earth, PA 22222

Dear Mr. Lunar,

Thank you for contacting The J.M. Smucker Company regarding Smucker’s® Magic Shell® Chocolate Fudge Topping. We greatly appreciate and value the input we receive from our consumers.

In order for us to best assist you, we would like to obtain some additional product information. Please, contact us toll-free by calling 888-550-9555, Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. When you call, it would be helpful to have the product available and to provide the representative with the reference number located at the bottom of this message. This product information will assist us in thoroughly reviewing your inquiry.

BIUB (Best If Used By) date
Production code (Located near the Best If Used By date)
City where purchased
Storage information
Detailed description of the issue

Thank you again for contacting The J.M. Smucker Company. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

Sincerely,
Carla
Consumer Relations Representative

Ref # 10026410

So, I wrote back:

From: world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com
Date: Mon, Mar 18, 2013 at 8:22 PM
Subject: Re: Reference Number: 10026410
To: consumer.relations@jmsmucker.com

Thanks Carla,

I prefer email to the telephone, hence why I used the online form in the first place. I can, however, provide the information requested:

BIUB (Best If Used By) date: SEP 2014
Production code (Located near the Best If Used By date): 10 0459
City where purchased: Bridgeville, PA
Storage information: On the kitchen counter.
Detailed description of the issue: Well, since I wrote with the issue already, & just received this seemingly standard reply, I’ll again give you my original missive…

[original email]

If you need further details, I’m not sure I’m prepared to share. So, have others emailed or called to complain? I can only assume so if you’re looking at a lot number. Does Magic Shell induce constipation on a regular basis?

Puzzled,
-Waldo Lunar

This came in the mail this weekend:

March 20,2013    Dear Mr. Lunar,  Thank you for contacting The J.M. Smucker Company with your inquiry regarding Smucker's® Magic Shell® Chocolate Fudge Topping. We greatly appreciate and value the input we receive from our consumers and take very seriously any comments pertaining to product quality.   Since we greatly value your comments and your loyalty, your experience has been brought to the attention of our quality assurance department. We want to assure you that our products are made of the best quality ingredients available and by the most carefully controlled procedures known in the food industry.   We appreciate the time required to share your comments with us and are enclosing coupons that we hope you will use to again try our products.   If you have any additional questions or comments, please contact us by calling 888-550-9555, Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.     Sincerely, Carla  Consumer Relations Representative   Ref# 10026410   Enclosure: 2 Smucker's® $4.00 Coupon(s)   THE J.M. SMUCKER COMPANY· STRAWBERRY LANE, ORRVILLE, OHIO 44667-0280 TELEPHONE (330) 682-3000 • FAX (330) 684-3370 • www.smuckers.com

Letter from Smucker’s

Along with some coupons:

I found it quite amusing, but they never did address the constipation.  I won’t be buying any more magic shell with these coupons.  It really did have a horrible aftertaste.  Maybe I’ll buy some hot fudge, or more mixed fruit jelly.

On an unrelated note, I’ve never understood their slogan;  “With a name like Smucker’s, it’s got to be good.”  Are they implying that their name us stupid or sounds unappetizing?  Odd.  I’d be all like “If you don’t like Smucker’s, you’re a sucker.”  …or something.

Your favorite pizza sucks, my favorite pizza rules! (Part 3)


CHAINS.  I wanted to tackle the prominent area pizza chains for part 3.  (You read parts 1 & 2, right?) I’m really not supposed to eat pizza right now thanks to recently diagnosed GERD/Acid Reflux/Barret’s Esophagus, but I have eaten many pizzas from these many chains over the years.  I’m going to be extra picky about my pizza from now on.  I’ll probably stick with Slice on Broadway and Aiello’s.  But the event may come up where I need to pick a chain place again, and here’s where they fall…

Fox's Pizza Den on UrbanspoonFox’s (or Fox’s Pizza Den) is pretty good.  The different locations aren’t always consistent, but when you find a good one… stick with it!  I really dig the one in Bridgeville as of late, but the one closest to home is the one in Brookline.  I grew up on Fox’s in Murrysville, as it was the only place who would deliver to my house out in the boonies.  I don’t know if Fox’s recently revamped their UrbanSpoon profiles or what, but I know I’ve reviewed the one in Brookline, but it’s not there.  Their pages all seem to have little to no reviews or votes.  I remember going on & on about the wedgies.  In fact, I found it at another source

WedgieGimme a Wedgie!
It’s not the sick twisted fantasies of a nerd that likes being dominated by bullies…  It’s a call to order the best #%@$ing sandwich you’ve ever had.  It’s served up on a pizza crust instead of a bun.  How awesome is that?  The steak one is my favorite, but I’ve never seen one that doesn’t look appetizing.  Just make sure you’ve got plenty of napkins on hand.

Their pizza is pretty damn good too.  There was a Fox’s near where I grew up in the suburbs, but they never had a menu this vast.  I sometimes end up getting the fried zucchini or the potato wedges… but really can’t ever eat anything after finishing a whole wedgie.  In fact, my wife & I even sometimes just split one to avoid over-stuffing.  Ordering for delivery is usually the standard half hour to 45 min., and they’re usually there before they said they were going to be… so that’s a plus.  You can’t go wrong with Fox’s.

Vocelli Pizza (Dormont) on Urbanspoon

Vocelli Pizza is another one that must have purged old UrbanSpoon reviews.  There’s virtually nothing there.  I used to love Vocelli’s, even if they’re just named after a made up Italian sounding word.  The service at the local one went down hill, and this is what it used to say on UrbanSpoon:

I used to love this place, & would order quite frequently.  But, the last time we got a Buffalo chicken pizza, there was hair on it.  My wife called & told them, they said they’d send a coupon for a free one next time.  We never got any coupons, and were hungry for their food again… so I got a stromboli and the wife got a buffalo chicken pizza… and the pizza had hair on it again.  She found it (luckily) on the first bite.  So, she called the call center. She of course, didn’t eat any more, so we could show them.  The delivery boy showed up… was incredibly rude, didn’t look at the old pizza, and practically threw the new one at my wife.

I don’t know why he took it personally… I was gonna tip him for coming out the 2nd time because he didn’t put hair on the pizza… but with actions/service like that, they can shove it.  I always tried to tip well too, as we (used to) get pizza form there all the time.  This was enough to end it.  There’s plenty of other pizza shops around, apparently they don’t need our business, anyway.  Hair in a pizza once?  I can see it happening.  Twice within the span of a month or two?  That’s just absolutely ridiculous.

So… in closing, I’d say what used to be a great place has now sunken to a.) being filthy, and b.) having terrible customer service.

…but in all fairness, after a while we did go back & they seemed to have weeded out the bad employees.  I’ve also tried their artery-clogging Alfredo sauce on a pizza, and loved it.  My triglycerides did not.  I do like Vocelli’s normal sauce, and they generally make a consistent pie & decent subs.  If you’re ordering for a crowd, I’d say Vocelli Pizza is an across-the-board crowd-pleaser.

Vocelli Pizza

''Vocelli?'' Sure, that sounds Italian enough!

Papa John's Pizza on UrbanspoonPapa John’s rules with their online ordering.  The sauce isn’t quite as good as Vocelli’s, but they do always give you the tasty garlic dipping sauce and a Peperoncini.  They do rock as far as consistency.  You know what you’re getting every time.  I wish they had subs, I always like to get subs… especially turkey, or sometimes you’re in the mood for a pizza-shop Italian sub.  But then again, maybe they just want to focus on pizza & doing it well.  Check out these amusing blog posts about Papa John’s:

Little Caesars Pizza on UrbanspoonLittle Caesar’s, what the hell happened?  When I was a young lad, we would pickup a pizza after we left Network Video (a place where you rented VHS tapes for the kids out there), we’d pop into Little Caesar’s for what I think was called a Bigfoot… two big-ass square pizzas side by side?  I’d always want breadsticks, because I have an unnatural love for carbs.  I was sad when Little Caesar’s all but disappeared and was relegated to Kmart stores for some strange reason.  When there was a recent resurgence, and a subsequent person paid to stand on West Liberty Ave. and sling a Little Caesar’s sign… I was excited.  We tried the new incredibly cheap pies one night… and they were terrible.  The sauce is definitely much more bitter than I remember, and perhaps in my old age I forgot about all the grease that adorns (soaks) their crust.  I still like the breadsticks, and $5 is pretty good for the amount that they give you, but $5 of crap is still crap.  If I’m in the mood for punishment, need an immediate meal, and it’s a week where I need to pay for dinner with couch change, I may go back.

Cici's Pizza - Bridgeville on UrbanspoonCiCi’s ought to change the name to CaCa’s.  I’ve only ever been there once, but that’s all I need.  Wow.  It was like eating wax & tomato soup spread out over crackers.  Who cares if it’s cheap and all-you-can-eat when it’s absolutely terrible nutrition?  My high school cafeteria served better pizza, and even better pizza imitation food.  I think there was a salad bar, and an unholy “mac n’ cheese” pizza.  I don’t remember much other than the dried crusty partial pies getting tanned under the hot lights and maybe even someone shouting a welcome when we walked in.  I just wanted to leave but had paid and tried to just stay & eat my few dollars worth.  CiCi’s won that day.  There’s no way I had eaten more of that crap than hat I paid for.

Pizza Hut on UrbanspoonPizza Hut causes me great gastrointestinal distress.  Every few years, I forget and enter a Pizza Hut thinking “ah, it wasn’t that bad”.  Yes, yes it is.  Perhaps I hit an age long ago where Pizza Hut was no longer compatible with my intestines.  Perhaps I was really slow to learn the pattern.  We didn’t do Pizza Hut too much when I was growing up.  Maybe I never built up a tolerance/immunity.  The pizza itself isn’t bad, I’ve had the personal pan, the normal pies, a few lunch buffets… they generally have a good crust & good flavor… albeit greasy.  It’s just that their pie unleashes itself like an assault team on my digestive system.  The one in Greentree is the last one that I visited.  The service was slow, and I didn’t feel welcomed at all.  Hopefully it steels my resolve to skip Pizza Hut in the future.

Pizza Hut Maze

A letter within a maze, for my pals at Pizza Hut. (They never did write back!)

I’ve dealt with Pizza Hut many times in the past…

Ridiculous.

Avoid the Noid

Avoid the Noid!

I know I missed Domino’s, but I was never impressed with their pies… and there’s never one around where I’m ordering.  I did like the Noid commercials back in the day though.  I haven’t tried their revamped pies.  I don’t feel like I’m missing anything.

Did I miss your favorite chain pizza?  Did I miss your most reviled?

Take the poll, it’s only open for a week!

Bob Evans Follow-Up Bob Evans Follow-Up Bob Evans Follow-Up


Jelly! Jelly! Jelly!

Jelly! Jelly! Jelly!

You read about the Bob Evans fallout and follow-up, right?  In the interest of fully full disclosure, we went back, got a free meal, and had a nice normal dining out experience.  It went well.  LeAnn from Bob Evans wrote to check on me, and I thought I’d share the dialogue.

From: “Purdy, Leann D”
To: [Me]
Sent: Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Subject: RE: Bob Evans – Reference # 720520 / Blog post about Bob Evans

Hi Eric!

 I wanted to follow up with you to see if you had been back, if not I understand.  I do hope that you do at least use your gift certificates to get some of our amazing Wildfire BBQ sauce!

I know you had concerns with what action was taken after your call/email, I can assure you that all of your feedback is used for training purposes, we did forward your comments to the area coach and general manager so that we can ensure that we are providing excellent service.

Have a great day!

Jelly Jelly Jelly!

bef.gif

LeAnn Purdy
Representative, Guest and Consumer Relations

Supporting Bob Evans Restaurants, Bob Evans Food Products & Mimi’s Café Restaurants
3776 South High Street
Columbus, OH 43207
Bob Evans Guest and Consumer Relations: (800) 939-2338
Mimi’s Café Guest Relations: (866) 616-6464
Fax: (614) 492-4971
Bobevans.com

And, my response:

From: [-mE.]
To: “Purdy, Leann D” ; Riggs A.
Cc: [The Wife]
Sent: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Subject: Re: Bob Evans – Reference # 720520 / Blog post about Bob Evans

Hello LeAnn,

Thank you very much for the follow up!  We actually did get the opportunity to take advantage of a free meal last Thursday night, at the same Bridgeville location.  It was a wonderful experience.  It wasn’t too busy when we arrived… and we seemed to get there right at a shift change, but the service was smooth nonetheless, and we only had to ask once for jelly!

Asking once for jelly & receiving it struck me as a possible bad omen.  Upon arrival, the first thing we heard as we were seated was the waitress at the table next to us (oddly not our waitress) telling her customers that something had been comped or removed from their bill… and the customer was spouting off about something unintelligible.

We had an excellent waitress then waiter, there was no shouting from the kitchen, the food was prepared well.  Some of the carrots with my turkey dinner were dry/cracked, but you’ll get that anywhere.  I didn’t see a manager on duty or patrolling the dining room, but things were running quite smoothly without their presence.

If you talk to the area coach/general manager/managers/team there again, please pass on our thanks for another great meal that was back to what we would call a normal Bob Evans experience.  I didn’t present my BE gift money until the end of the meal, but it didn’t produce any speed bumps and we still have one left!

Thank you for the gift, and both you & Nate for your time, and sincere follow-up!  (Follow-ups?  Follows-up?)

“Jelly! Jelly! Jelly!” may be a good ad campaign.  “Pizza! Pizza!” worked for Little Caesar’s.

Thanks again,
-Eric

Bob Evans Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Bob Evans’ Follow Up


A Bob Evans Restaurant

random BOB EVANS image from the web

Bob Evans Restaurant on Urbanspoon

After posting my recent tale of insanity during a Bob Evans visit, I received some almost immediate follow-up from Nate Riggs via Twitter DM:

nateriggs
– Eric – I work with Bob Evans. Saw your blog post. Would you shoot me your email so I can help make this right? 🙂

nateriggs
Thanks. Ill email you in a few and make sure we make this right By the way – love your blog and your writing style. 🙂

Twitter is awesome.  Instant responses.  These were followed up with another quick flurry of emails:

From: “Riggs, Nathaniel A.” <Nate_Riggs@BobEvans.Com>
To: <me@my.email.addre.ss>
Sent: Thursday, September 22, 2011 1:52 PM
Subject: Blog post about Bob Evans

Eric,

Thanks so much for your email address and for your post. We always try to deliver the best guest experience that we can, but sometimes we mess up. We’re truly sorry for the wait time and hassle that you and your wife experienced in our restaurant.

On a personal note, I dig your blog and was just in Pittsburgh yesterday. This is week 3 for me at Bob Evans leading digital and social so I’m working through some on boarding before I can really work on tightening up our digital presence.  I’m a blogger as well – http://nateriggs.com – and I always appreciate when bloggers are so respectful, even when we messed up. J

The next email from me will refer you to Leeann Purdy in our guest relations department. She will email you and take it from there.

Again, thank you!

BEFarmslogoemal

Nate Riggs
@nateriggs
Digital Marketing Strategist, Restaurant Marketing
3700 South High Street
Columbus, Ohio 43207
Phone: (614) 497-7447
Droid: (614) 348-2646
www.bobevans.com
We like you. Like us on Facebook!

and…

From: “Riggs, Nathaniel A.” <Nate_Riggs@BobEvans.Com>
To: “Purdy, Leann D”
Cc: <me@my.email.addre.ss>
Sent: Thursday, September 22, 2011 1:55 PM
Subject: Contact information for Eric Carroll – Pittsburgh Blogger from this morning

Leann,

Hi there.

I’ve copied Eric Carroll on this message. He is the Pittsburgh blogger who posted on our Facebook page this morning as we discussed. Would you please reach out to him when you have a moment?

Thank you!

BEFarmslogoemal

Nate Riggs
@nateriggs
Digital Marketing Strategist, Restaurant Marketing
3700 South High Street
Columbus, Ohio 43207
Phone: (614) 497-7447
Droid: (614) 348-2646
www.bobevans.com
We like you. Like us on Facebook!

and…

From: “Purdy, Leann D”
To: <me@my.email.addre.ss>
Sent: Thursday, September 22, 2011 2:32 PM
Subject: Bob Evans – Reference # 720520

Mr. Carroll,

I would like to first, thank you for taking the time to share your experience regarding your visit to our Bridgeville location, and also sincerely apologize for the overall unacceptable food and service you received.  I also appreciate that you were so candid as most people will not complain, the will just not go back, and we would not have the opportunity to try to make it up to you.

Our company places great emphasis on training our employees to satisfy our guests, so we appreciate that you have brought this to our attention.  We expect our servers to be attentive, timely, and attend to all of our guests needs, and I am very sorry that we let you down.

I would like the opportunity follow up with you by mail to invite you back to our restaurant, and if you are willing, I would like your address so that I can formally apologize to you by mail.  I also have shared your comments with the general manager and area coach of this location also so they can ensure that any necessary action is taken.

Again, Mr. Carroll, we appreciate your comments.  We value your patronage and appreciate your interest in Bob Evans Farms Inc.

LeAnn Purdy
Guest Relations
Bob Evans Farms, Inc.

and…

From: “Purdy, Leann D”
To: <me@my.email.addre.ss>
Sent: Thursday, September 22, 2011 3:24 PM
Subject: RE: Bob Evans – Reference # 720520

Mr. Carroll,

I wanted to send a follow up because I researched our records and did find where you had sent us these comments on our website with your mailing address included.

I have updated our records and a letter will be going out to you tomorrow.

Have a great day!

bef.gif

LeAnn Purdy
Representative, Guest and Consumer Relations
Supporting Bob Evans Restaurants, Bob Evans Food Products & Mimi’s Café Restaurants
3776 South High Street
Columbus, OH 43207
Bob Evans Guest and Consumer Relations: (800) 939-2338
Mimi’s Café Guest Relations: (866) 616-6464
Fax: (614) 492-4971
Bobevans.com

Then a week or so later, I got this in the mail…

Bob Evans Letter

Bob Evans Letter

Bob Evans Coupons

Bob Evans Coupons

How cool is that?  That’s enough for a meal & a half for the wife & I.  I have to say, I applaud their quick followup, perceived excitement, blatant flattery, and sincerity.  I do have to say, I’m a little afraid of returning to the Bridgeville location if someone was reamed by a regional manager as slyly implied by the emails and letter.  I mean “I also have shared your comments with the general manager and area coach of this location also so they can ensure that any necessary action is taken” seems pretty serious.  I don’t want to go back with Bob Evans bucks in hand and have them be all like “Oh, this is that butthole who wrote a blog and got me a lecture while I was just having a really bad day…”  Or do you think it was calmly presented as “OK, we obviously have some sort of breakdown, what can we as a management team do to help”?  I mean, that’s how it should have gone… right?

The didn’t comment on the asking 3 times for jelly code, so I can only assume this is a real thing.  Next time you’re at Bob Evans and you want jelly, ask for it thrice and ye shall receive thereupon the third asking.

Where’s the balance?  I’m really looking for input here.  Was I right to complain?  Am I safe in returning?  Should I just go to the Bob Evans in Robinson?  Think they have the same area coach & general manager?  How good is their Wildfire BBQ sauce?

Can I have jelly? Can I have jelly? Can I have jelly?


Bob Evans Restaurant on UrbanspoonI submitted this to Bob Evans’ contact form:

Last night we had a ridiculous visit to what is normally a decent restaurant.

We arrived shortly after 5:00pm, were seated quite quickly, and were alone in our section (the farthest away from the entrance).  The waitress came to us right away, seemed a little frazzled, and brought us drinks.  By this time another table had been seated in our section.  Our order was taken, a Rise & Shine breakfast for me, BBQ chicken for the wife.

We had actually just dined at this location on Friday evening and had discussed how despite otherwise excellent service & great food, generally my wife has to ask 3 times for jelly.  The standard procedure is that when we order and she gets biscuits, she asks for jelly.  When the biscuits come, with honey and butter but no jelly… she again asks for jelly.  When the meal comes, it’s the 3rd time that she asks for jelly… and usually we get jelly with the check.  It’s like you have it under lock & key or there’s only 1 magical jelly carrier.  I actually suggested that perhaps it’s like the movie Beetlejuice.  One must say “Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse!” to get the title character to appear.  Perhaps one must break the Bob Evans jelly code and ask for jelly three times at once.

No matter how much I wanted her to, she wouldn’t try it last night.  She asked for jelly just one time, and surprisingly, it came with the biscuits.

At this point, the manager walked by and asked if all was OK.  Truthfully, at this point, it was!  We nodded in satisfaction as we said “yes”.

Eventually, shortly before 6:00pm (yes, an hour later) after several other customers had been seated, had ordered, and been served, our waitress apologized for the wait and offered us more biscuits and a free dessert.  We told her the wait wasn’t her fault as she seemed to indicate it was due to a problem in the kitchen.

About the time where I was ready to get up, pay for our drinks, biscuits, jelly, and then leave to go to the nearby Sonic… our food arrived.  I understand that breakfast foods are greasy but my eggs & home fries were sitting in a pool of some oily or buttery liquid, and one of my over-easy yolks was already broken.  The bacon was fantastic.  The potatoes had so much grease on the outside, that when I dipped them into a pool of delicious Heinz ketchup they came out absolutely clean & ketchup free.  I managed to get the yolk out of one of the eggs with the biscuit that had sat there daring me to eat it for an hour.  I left the second egg and most of my potatoes out of disgust for the food and the service.  It had been a particularly trying couple of days and we chose Bob Evans because of the general consistency of the quality & service.  My wife indicated that other than the chicken being slightly over-done, her meal was excellent.  It’s crazy to believe that Bob Evans (the breakfast-food people) messed up such an incredibly simple breakfast.

Bob Evans

Bob Evans

The waitress had indicated some problems in the kitchen without any specifics, but we could hear arguments in & around the kitchen area for our entire visit.  I have no idea why we didn’t just get up & leave after the first 2 tables seated after us had received their food.  Perhaps we were in awe at the chaos.

I declined my free dessert, and my wife decided to get an apple pie to go just because it had been offered as compensation for our wait.  I was too disheartened for dessert, my friends… free or not.  Our waitress offered to refill my iced tea.  I said “no, thanks.”  She came back 10 minutes later & filled my iced tea anyway.  Still no pie.  I just wanted to go.  I was on the verge of just freaking out at the ridiculousness of it all.  We sat for another few minutes as the waitress took care of others around our section, before standing up to just finally go.  My wife just asked for the check as I was exasperated.  The other customers couldn’t wait for 2 minutes while she put a pie in the to-go container, since we had waited over an hour for a simple simple meal?

The waitress had apparently just placed my wife’s apple pie on a plate as we stood to make our escape… my wife said, “Never mind, we just need to get out of here.”  The waitress insisted on sliding the now decimated piece of pie into the Styrofoam box.  We went to pay, and for the first time ever were not asked something to the effect of “how was everything tonight?”  I believe there was small talk about my wife & I coincidentally wearing the same color green.  I think I remained silent for fear of just snapping.  We left a 15% tip, & took home a comment card.  (As a person with a severe allergy to shellfish, I have a small circle of places where I feel safe…  Bob Evans currently has no deathfish on the menu, so we frequent there and I generally tip 20% or more as I’m confident we’ll be returning soon & often.  I have even received excellent communication from your corporate level regarding food allergies & where things are prepared in the kitchen.)

This rant is obviously too long for a comment card.  I may blog it.  I may just leave it in the contact form at the Bob Evans site.  I may print & mail it.

Something was going on last night at Bob Evans in Bridgeville that was not good.  It was a comedy of errors.  The kitchen apparently had trouble producing eggs & home fries in a timely manner, keeping yolks whole, and draining grease/oil/butter from the fried meal.  The waitress was visibly and audibly frazzled as she complained to the customers that she was excessively busy even as most of the section was empty… at dinner time.  Perhaps she was covering two sections?  I’m not sure.  We saw her quite often… just not with our food.  How many others were seated after us & served before us that we couldn’t see?  We heard her arguing with a mysterious voice yelling out from the kitchen.  The manager did not appear to intervene or even suggest that perhaps they not argue so loudly within earshot of the guests… or even to step in, assert her role as a manager and solve the problem.  There was a waiter who appeared to be training a new waitress, happily ignoring all the chaos around them.

We did, however, receive jelly after asking only once.

[Funny note… upon posting this & grabbing a link to UrbanSpoon, I saw an old somewhat bad review that I posted… but we’ve had perfectly reasonable service there since that visit in ’08.]

Turner Dairy products at Giant Eagle stores?


Turner'sGiant Eagle

I’m sure you remember my last post about Turner’s with the pretty picture.  I decided to ask Giant Eagle why all of their stores don’t carry Turner’s products…

From: Eric Carroll [mailto:me@my.email.address]
Sent: Monday, February 01, 2010 1:46 PM
Subject: Turner’s Dairy | Charie’s Old Fashioned Buttermilk

Hello Friends at the Big Bird,

I’m writing to you today to request that all of your Giant Eagle and Market District Stores carry products from Turner Dairy Farms, Inc.  I know that some locations do already carry Turner’s products, because I’ve written to them trying to track down some of Charlie’s Old Fashioned Buttermilk… and they clued me in to the Giant Eagle in Brentwood.  I know that the Giant Eagle in Murrysville also carries Turner’s Iced Tea.

I’d love it if the Cochran Road, Bridgeville, and Parkway Center locations had Turner’s buttermilk, chip dip, and tea varieties readily available.  I’d add them to my order virtually every time we shop there… much like I do now with the tea when I find myself in Rite Aid on Banksville Road.

I also find it hard to believe that with the myriad of products and name brands available at the new Market District in Robinson… Turner’s is nowhere to be found!  Have you tried the chip dip?  It’s incredible.  It puts the Kraft and B L brands to shame.

You’ll find in the attached photo all of the Turner’s bounty that my wife & I picked up this weekend while just passing by the Brentwood Giant Eagle.  I can assure you, these products would be on every grocery order if available at the Giant Eagle locations where we typically do most of our shopping.  Not only these products, but the raspberry & lime tea… and just about everything that Turner’s offers!  (Sorry, I don’t do diet drinks.)

Thank you for taking the time to read my email, and I hope that you give Turner’s products serious consideration for inclusion in your fine establishments.

Sincerely,
-Eric
me@my.email.address

And, they responded…

From: “Frey, Brian” Brian.Frey@gianteagle.com
To: “me@my.email.address” me@my.email.address
Sent: Tue, February 2, 2010 10:39:21 AM
Subject: RE: Turner’s Dairy | Charie’s Old Fashioned Buttermilk

Eric,

Thank you for taking the time to write to us regarding Turner Dairy Farms and some of the items that you obviously like as detailed below.

I can understand your frustration related to these items that you feel passionately about not being readily available and convenient to purchase.  However, I must honestly inform you that we don’t have any upcoming plans to carry additional Turner Dairy Farms items at any of our corporately owned Giant Eagle and Market District locations.

We get contacted by customers on a daily/weekly basis requesting us to carry a variety of items from local dairies, and we just cannot support all of these local dairy item requests in our limited dairy cooler space in our stores.  To manage the limited space we have in stores, we try to partner with dairies and vendors that can provide us item programs that accommodate the needs of the majority of our customers.  If we were to carry a representative sample of all the local dairy items that we get contacted about, we would have to eliminate a large portion of our current item mix that a significantly larger customer base demands us to carry and also asks us daily/weekly to expand upon but we cannot as a result of the same limited space challenge.

Sorry I could not give you better news here.  There are a lot of items that I am personally fond of that I have decided to not carry as well due to our limited space and need to satisfy the largest amount of our customers.  In the meantime, some of our independently owned and operated stores such as Brentwood are allowed to carry the Turners Dairy Farms items as you note below.  We allow those owners to have some flexibility in their item mix, and some stores have elected to carry Turners items based on customer demand or geographic proximity to the dairy.

Sincerely,
Brian Frey

Category Buyer
Giant Eagle, Inc.
101 Kappa Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15238
412.963.2592
Fax: 412.968.1706
E-mail: brian.frey@gianteagle.com

D’oh!  Well, it doesn’t hurt to try, does it?  Apparently Giant Eagle has no intentions of widely carrying Turner’s products, but at least they’re honest about it.  It’s just annoying that I can’t do all of my grocery shopping in one store (or even at one chain), especially with the vicious circle of fuelperks and foodperks and whatever other kind of perks they come up with next.

Interestingly enough, I just sent an email to all those with whom I’ve shared communication with in the past at Giant Eagle, but the “To” address was cut out of the original inline reply… so I have no idea which one actually got through.

I’m assuming they’d have to have an onslaught of messages in order to even consider carrying the Turner’s products.  If you’re so inclined, you can…

Not that many of you are that adamant about the Turner’s brand… but if you are, or you know someone who is… please feel free to direct them here.