Inspiration from Hoke·E·Geez (My new ‘New York Pro’ Strat copy)


So, I bought a guitar this past Saturday.  I wasn’t looking for a guitar.  This guitar was looking for me.

Hoke·E·Geez | INDOOR FLEA MARKET · CRAFTS

...and SO MUCH MORE.

Some of my extended family had rented out the lodge at our church camp for the weekend.  My cousin & I were out killing time and exploring while the ladies stayed in for their main objective; scrapbooking.  When in the area with time on my hands, a trip to Hoke·E·Geez is an absolute must.  It’s located right on Route 30 in Bedford PA by the Sheetz(Sheetz is a good bright red & yellow landmark, right?)

In what was once (perhaps obviously for people my age and older) an Ames department store, rests the one of the craziest/coolest places I have ever been.  My first trip there was in search of antiques… I collect old Coca~Cola & other glass bottles.  I had no idea what I was in for.  Hoke·E·Geez is full of …Everything. 

Stuffed Squirrel on display (& for sale!) at Hoke·E·Geez (Bedford, PA)

"Help! I'm not dead! Some redneck just stapled my nuts to this driftwood!"

It’s got crafts, antiques (from old pop bottles to the machines), furniture, a weird leather biker-jacket section, a hardware section like someone emptied a Harbor Freight in 1978 and dumped it there, of records, new stuff made to look old (think the store in Cracker Barrel), toys, tools, books, records, a section chock full of cassette tapes (mostly hair metal), musical instruments of all varieties, a stuffed squirrel that my cousin photographed with his phone, nunchucks, swords, toilets, knives, flooring, gun parts, cabinetry, pistol crossbows, stuff you’d see in a thrift store or at a garage sale, a Weinermobile pedal car, … and other scattered oddities/treasures.

Yeah, I said musical instruments.  Of course, I flock nearly immediately to the old guitars.  Hoke-E-Geez also serves as an aged acoustic graveyard.  They have several dried out yet beautiful acoustics ravaged by time & strings that pull the neck past the point of no return. They would be great as decorations, or for this…

Guiar Fail | Acoustic Guitar Recycling

Guiar Fail | Acoustic Guitar Recycling

There I Fixed It | First Smash, Then Season

There I Fixed It | First Smash, Then Season

In fact, if I ever find one for the right price, it might make a cool antique bottle shelf… with some glass shelves & a light or 2.

Back to the story at hand though…  There we are strolling through the wonderland that is Hoke·E·Geez, like a bee doing its “tell the others where the honey is” dance. We were exclaiming “Woah!”, “Look at that!”, or “What is that?” with each erratic hop to the next section.

Toy Accordion (or Button Box?)

I can already play "Iron Man" and "Happy Birthday" (very poorly).

The first beauty I spied was this toy accordion for $12 and change.  It seems ridiculous and awesome.  Maybe I’ve seen The Bloody Seamen one too many times lately.  Looking online, it seems to be a fair price… and not difficult to master. I’m not sure of the name brand.  I have no idea if it’s a Hohner, Schylling, Barcelona, First Act, or something else.  I have found a bunch online that look similar.  This doesn’t match the colors of any others exactly, and of course it has no brand/name/logo in it.  Also, it appears that I have been shorted a book.  Also, is this really an accordion, or is it just a button box?  What’s the difference?  Are the butterfly-like designs up top too girly?

The next thing of interest that I saw was this beautiful New York Pro Strat knockoff…

New York Pro - Natural Finish Strat Copy
“Psst… you, yeah you… buy me. Yeah. I know I’m not a goofy guitar, but you need me. Look at my woodgrain. It’s not fancy or elegant, it’s just ‘there’. Buy me. I probably have really crappy electronics and hardware. Buy me. I bet no one has ever heard of ‘New York Pro’ or knows where we’re made. Buy me!
New York Pro - Strat Copy

New York Pro - Strat Copy

Well, the photo to the left is the photo that I sent to my wife along with the price, asking (only half kidding) if I should buy it.  There was some other black no-name Strat copy behind it.  The body on that black POS wasn’t nearly as solid, hefty,  or well-cut.

My cousin pointed it out I believe, & remarked on the natural finish.  I was stuck drooling over the $95 price tag since the neck was straight, there were no cracks, and it was nice solid body.  This was about the time we got into a conversation with a local cat who was into weird guitars and punk rock… and actually in a punk rock band up that way.  I can’t remember the name of the band.  I need to pop stuff like that into my phone.  The guy stopped & asked if I really had an accordion in the box marked “Accordion”.  I showed it to him & he’s the one that remarked that it was a button box & not an accordion.  After talking forever about weird guitars, rocking out, and goofy venues… we moved on.  He mentioned that there were other guitars “over there” pointing to a little music store-like area within the hallowed walls of Hoke·E·Geez.

This is where we happened upon some beast, made by a local cat that goes by Merle Kegg or Merle R. Kegg.  One of his custom-built axes had the letters “M R K” on the headstock.  The first one I spotted was a doubleneck… one 6 string guitar & one mandolin neck.  Yeah.  You read that right.

Merle R. Kegg - Guitar/Mandolin Doubleneck

Merle R. Kegg - Guitar/Mandolin Doubleneck

I apologize for the horrible quality cell phone photos, but I’m sure you get the point.  I find it an odd placement for the pickups… but then again some people like that neck pickup sound.  I generally stick as close to the bridge as possible.  The custom cases are pretty cool.  Then I came upon this one…

Merle R. Kegg - White Guitar

Merle R. Kegg - White Guitar

It caught my eye, and I believe the price was only $64 or $65… but I didn’t even take it out of the case once I got a closer look.  If there was a Regretsy-like site for homemade guitars, this may top them all.  I mean, I love the shape… and I respect the intent and the labor that went into this beast, but… wow.  The placement of the bridge directly up the neck’s ass is crazy.  The pickguard looks like flooring or wall tile.  I’m hoping this cat is Amish or 97 years old or has 7 fingers total or something.  I hate to be so harsh, but when I think a guitar is ugly, we have a problem on our hands.  There was no attempt to smooth out the edges or anything… the paint is applied like it’s the side of an outdoor shed… not a guitar.  Wow.  I’d like to see more of his work, maybe these were the odd ones out.  If you know anything more about his work, please post in the comments!  There were some other cool guitars (not made by Merle), ukuleles, mandolins & other stuff in that section.

I still hadn’t received a reply from the wife.  I got the accordion, my cousin picked up a few things, and off we went.

When we got back to camp, I asked my wife if she had seen the text with the photo.  She hadn’t.  She checked it out & liked it.  She asked that if I got it I could place it on the stand in the living room instead of my Batman Logo guitar.  She liked the wood (which I have since come to learn is mahogany).  We talked it over and she suggested that I go get it.  I told her it would need new guts, but she was still behind the idea.  After lunch, my cousin went to a nearby farm to hunt coyotes, and I went back to Hoke·E·Geez to hunt that guitar.

I came back with my prize:

New York Pro - Stratocaster Copy

New York Pro - Stratocaster Copy

I also managed to stop by the Bedford Banjo Shop.  It was small but very cool and reasonably priced in there.  They had banjos, guitars, ukuleles, mandolins, & more.  They were also very friendly and quite busy.  I tried to stop by another store nearby, but they were closed as it was after 2:00pm.

I have plans for this guitar… GFS Lil Killer rail pickups, some wooden knobs, a leopard-print pickguard, black hardware (& bridge & tuners), and I guess a leopard-print strap.  As soon as I put away some money, I hope to get all this stuff & have it all set up nice & pretty.  My go-to guitar guy has been Aaron at Lawrence Music lately.  He helped set up the Batman Logo guitar… and dropped in my Seymour Duncans.

Oh what I'm gonna do to this guitar...

Oh what I'm gonna do to this guitar...

You didn’t think I’d leave it alone did you?  It needs something in order to fit in with my other guitars.

I’m still at a loss with any concrete information about the New York Pro brand.  I’m not sure if it’s pumped out of a Chinese factory that puts many different brands on the same guitars?  They do have an odd cut in the top of the headstock that seems to be on every NY Pro guitar I’ve seen online.  I’ve seen them as kit guitars, for $99, for $149.99 and for $279.95.  Maybe they’re made by Galaxy Guitars and the same as their Starfire line?  It looks like they might call it the “Galaxy New York Pro Star Gazer”.  They may be distributed by Lou Capece.  I may have to write to them for more information.

If you have any comments/stories about Hoke·E·Geez, any information about the accordion/button box, any info on that other guitar store in Bedford, any information about the New York Pro brand, or any comments/suggestions about my plans for the guitar… I’d love to hear ’em!  Please share in the comments below!

Boston Market ups the pressure… (a.k.a. What now, Panera Bread?)


Insanity.

http://twitter.com/#!/W_a_L_D/status/136910586947715072

That’s right.  Boston Market not only reached out via my contact form thanks to Facebook, but also had the cojones to do this…

Boston Market RT!

Boston Market RT!

I still haven’t received a reply to my email to Mr. Wakabayashi, but what now Panera Bread? What now?  Clearly, this will pan out to be a bigger rivalry than Neil Young vs. Skynrd, or East Coast Rap vs. West Coast Rap.  Maybe even bigger than me vs. the people that think I’m McDonald’s (At Least Mr. Wakabayashi used my contact form correctly!)

http://twitter.com/#!/W_a_L_D/status/137169033266077696

http://twitter.com/#!/bostonmarket/status/137212008138424321

If you have no idea what’s going on, or if you work for Panera Bread.  You can catch up here…

In other news, did you know that they both cater?  I wish someone would have told me.

Panera Bread (Scott Twp. Greentree Road) on UrbanspoonI actually stopped at the local Panera the other night because the wife was sick and wanted some of that cheese-broccoli soup.  I went in to get some to go, and got myself a half of a turkey sandwich and a cup of the chicken noodle.

The employee (a young girl, of course) at the counter was quite friendly, asked if I wanted lettuce tomato or onion on the sandwich, and even asked if I wanted mustard and/or mayo.  Clearly, someone went over new procedures.  Sadly, I asked for lettuce & tomato… and got neither, but I did get mustard and mayo.  I applaud the effort, and shame on me for not checking before I left the store.

I have to say, after my initial complaint, they have totally stepped it up service-wise.  I still call shenanigans on the new soup.  They ought to let sales do the talking… OFFER BOTH.  It’s certainly a popular item.  Let the consumers decide if they want a great-tasting soup… or the crappy flat-noodled healthy soup.  Clearly, as a leader in the Fast Casual industry, you can afford to test the proverbial waters?  I think more changes have been made, but it’s still not the old soup.  Shenanigans.

Also, I counted 3 signs within  a span of about 8 feet on the counter where you wait for your order advertising the catering… and the pop machine still does it too.  I think the receipt may have even said something about it.

I spend far too much time contemplating fast food & fast casual dining.  If only I could save time buy purchasing already prepared meals.  Does anyone out there do that?

New Catering Advertisement Opportunities! (for Boston Market & Panera Bread)


I’m just sayin’.

Panera Bread  - vs. -  Boston Market

Panera Bread - vs. - Boston Market

From: Waldo Lunar <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, Nov 4, 2011
Subject: New Catering Advertisement Opportunities!
To: & Cc:  A bunch of Panera & Boston Market Employees

Hello friends at Boston Market & Panera Bread,

I assume that the lack of response to my last email about an all-out catering battle at my house was ill-received.  I didn’t get any interest from either camp, or even any kind of acknowledgement of my email.  Not even a coupon.  Isn’t that the typical response?  “Throw ’em a coupon!”  Color me disappointed.

No reply is rather rude, don’t you think?  Batman movie night has come & gone.  We dutifully provided a favorable dining experience to our guests thanks to an incredible local pizza shop.  Roasted red peppers as a pizza topping?  A hit all around, I tell you!  Subs with a homemade feel cut in to bite-size appetizers were also quite delicious.

I’m not sure why neither Panera Bread or Boston Market was willing to enter my catering battle royale.  It would have been an exciting opportunity for both of you.  I realize now… that you need help with forward thinking.  You missed this opportunity to advertise your catering and fight for my dollar.

I believe that I may have come around to your way of thinking.  Perhaps I need to fight for your dollar.  I previously saw advertisements on the pop machine and all over the windows as borderline obscene… but why stop at the border, friends?  Let’s trample the border, deface it on our way through, and not look back!  I have some ideas that you may find attractive.  I really look forward to your feedback.  (Don’t give me any shenanigans about unsolicited ideas and what-not, we’re all friends here.)

  • Advertising on the napkins.  You already do it on the receipts, walls, & windows.  Subway uses their napkins for nutrition information.  Show them up, advertise!  Think of all that clean wasted ad space ripe for the slinging of your delicious wares.  Were one ambitious, this could extend to the “to go” sandwich wrappings, the fancy new plates that you’re both using, and even the trays.  Hell, why not the drink cups?
  • Guerrilla advertising. You could have employees go into your parking lot at regular intervals, and put flyers under the windshield wipers of cars.  If you really wanna get crazy, try bumper stickers!  People would love decorations on their autos.
  • Me.  Send me a T-shirt that advertises your catering services.  I play in a band.  I’ll wear it to shows.  The throngs of bar patrons who rock out with me on a regular basis will be sure to flock to the nearest Panera Bread or Boston Market location.  I might be able to convince my band-mates to do the same.  If we’d like to get really crazy, may I offer to sell my forehead as a billboard?
  • Paystubs.  Your employees get paid right?  Get that money back!  Advertise your catering services on their pay-stubs, and any communications that you need to send.  There’s room on that W2 envelope for a 10% off catering coupon.
  • Right on the food itself.  This is the one that excites me the most!  You’ve seen the toasters that produce an image of Darth Vader, and the irons that brand your initials on to a steak, right?  There are also printers that print right on things like rice paper & cakes.  Why not take advantage of this technology?  Think about it.  Full color printing on wraps?  Toasty images on buns, bread, & bagels?  Delicious meat branded with confidence, demanding that you pick up a catering menu.  It’s never been done.  It’s opulent.  It’s genius.  (If I do say so myself.)

So, what do you think?  Can I help in this new advertising adventure?  These are the next steps in the evolution of promulgation.  Let’s move onward and upward, into uncharted catering promotional territory.  It will be an onslaught to the senses, and an influx in revenue for all involved.  I’m excited for this venture, and especially excited to get some feedback from everyone involved.

Excelsoir!
-Waldo Lunar
[ -YOUR AD COULD BE HERE- ]

incessant emails / incessant advertising

incessant emails / incessant advertising

Further Reading:

Panera responds to my insanity, so I write back…


So after my last Panera-related post, I went a little goofy. I put a post on their Facebook wall

http://www.facebook.com/panerabread/posts/124723480954835

Found this part of that amusing:

…the corporate office (or in your case the corporate office for our franchise partner who operates bakery-cafes in the Pittsburgh area) reviews your email before contacting and working closely with the general manager to try to resolve the issue.

I also tweeted a few times…

http://twitter.com/#!/AiXeLsyD13/status/96920982714990592

http://twitter.com/#!/AiXeLsyD13/status/96949713940643841

…and got this DM from them:

Panera Breadpanerabread Hey, thx for sharing feedback through website. Sorry about your disappointing experience, our CS team is looking into & will be in touch.

Heh.

I got this email from the local general manager…

From: 3497 <panera3497@covelli.com>
To: [me]
Sent: Friday, July 29, 2011 10:50 AM
Subject: Contact Us

Dear Mr. Carroll,

I would like to introduce myself as Carrie Janota, the General Manager at the Greentree Panera Bread. I appreciate all your feedback and coaching. Your response will definitely help us with current and future training to associates, especially this time of year. The company has made several changes with menu items that you expressed in your comments. First, our turkey is now presliced so the consistency is different than when we sliced it in house. We also changed the recipe of our chicken noodle soup, which makes it all natural. Another healthy initiative we have taken is the removal of sauces on all cafe sandwiches. We offer packets of mayo and mustard at the condiment bar or you are welcomed to inform the cashier that you would like the condiments on the sandwich and we will gladly put them on for you. The “no onions” is our mistake and I would like to compensate you for a free meal next time you visit a Panera Bread. If you could please send me your address, I will gladly put the coupon in the mail for you. Again, thank you for your input, I use all issues as a learning tools for our associates.

Carrie Janota
General Manager

So, this is what I wrote back to them…

-餧馕馒-

Thank you Ms. Janota,

You certainly can address me as “Eric”, not “Mr. Carroll”. I appreciate your incredibly rapid and well-stated response to my experience yesterday. I was going out of my mind in disbelief. I would suggest that Panera spend more time asking/telling customers about changes, and less time advertising your catering services. I mean, really… on the pop machine, you’re advertising the catering service? What about a nice big poster that says… “WARNING: WE CHANGED THE TASTY NOODLES IN THAT SOUP THAT YOU LIKE, THE MEAT ON OUR SANDWICHES, AND HAVE DECIDED TO FORGO MUSTARD.” (Or even a nice traditional Coke or Pepsi logo?)

Boston Market is annoying/obnoxious with advertising their catering too. I get it. You guys cater. I know this. I’m here for dinner. You don’t need to advertise for a place that I’m already in. Imagine going into Walmart & seeing a sign in every aisle that advertises the stuff in the next aisle. This could get quote old quite quickly.

  • Attn: Panera – I don’t host any lunch parties or have a need for sandwich rings.
  • Attn: Boston Market – I can cook my own Thanksgiving/Christmas dinner.
  • Attn: Bob Evans – I can handle making my own lasagna or meatloaf.
  • Attn: Chick-fil-A – The only thing I’d do with a tray full of nuggets is eat them all myself.
Since you took the time to write, and you’re obviously concerned and well-written, I’d like to address my concerns & the new issues raised more specifically.

The Onion
– This is not a big deal. I generally don’t even say anything & just take the onion off myself. This is the first time I was ever asked “Lettuce, tomato, & onion?” in a Panera. So, I said “Lettuce & tomato, no onion please.” This is the only reason I took note. It also said on my receipt “NO ONION” – so the cashier took the effort to note it, and the sandwich-maker had to read & ignore it. Just odd. Again, this is nothing that should ruin one’s day.

The Turkey – I call shenanigans. Any foodie will tell you there’s a world of difference between lunch-meat turkey and the freshly-sliced real thing. Why would Panera decide to sacrifice quality like this? Does it save time? Does it save money? Certainly it can’t be healthier… isn’t pre-packaged lunch-meat loaded with salt & preservatives? Imagine my surprise upon looking at my $6 half-sandwich full of lunch-meat where I had expected (and previously received) actual turkey. Where was my warning of this upon ordering? I certainly didn’t get the proverbial memo here. At least there’s no confirmation of turkeys with gold nuggets in their gizzards and fine wine in their gullets. Although, I didn’t get a staunch denial.

The Lettuce & Tomato – Are Panera employees encouraged to look at the ingredients before placing them on sandwiches? Really, that’s all that would be needed to prevent the placement of brown lettuce & green tomatoes. A general rule of thumb could be “If you were going to make yourself a sandwich, would you use this?”

The lack of any condiments – Again, list this in the “things that would be nice to know before I placed my order, or at the very least as I was placing my order” category. I liked the previous dressing/sauce whatever you want to call it, and it was certainly different from the straight mayo or spicy brown mustard available by the drinks (& catering advertisement). Is this really a “healthy” option or a money-saving option? I’m reminded of the “removing one olive from every salad” story with American Airlines. It saved them a rumored $40,000. I imagine all of this no-more-condiments stuff adding up to a HUGE savings for Panera… but my sandwich didn’t get cheaper, did it? No passing along the savings? (I think Steak ‘n’ Shake has done this too… their salads used to be nice-sized with cherry tomatoes… now they’re small & have tomato slices.)

The mysterious thumbprint – The noted lack of condiments has me even more concerned about the yellow thumbprint that was on the top of my sandwich. I had just assumed it was some of the condiment that was supposed to go on the inside. I ripped this portion out of the top of my sandwich before eating, to the bewilderment of my eye-rolling yet tolerant-to-my-neuroses wife. This leads me to wonder what the yellow stuff on my sandwich was… if not mustard, was it some of her broccoli cheddar soup? If so, this is incredibly alarming because it could have easily been clam chowder… and I’m highly allergic to shellfish. How is soup on the sandwich board or my sandwich when it wasn’t even my soup? I suggest you educate your employees on allergens & cross-contamination. Barring all that… it’s just a little gross. That could have been a big yellow booger for all I know.

The healthy soup – Pardon me if I laugh at the “all natural” expression. While I understand the meaning, visions of a supernatural soup come to mind. Was the prior soup possessed by demons? The noodles certainly were homemade-looking and delicious. Were they the result of a tasty pact with the devil or an ancient spell? Did the ingredients float into the bowl themselves? I don’t know what the tiny paper-thin pasta squares in the new soup are, but they are a Ford Focus to the previous soup’s BMW 7 Series. They’re not whole-grain pasta, are they? I hate whole-grain pasta. If this soup was a state, the broth were the land-mass and the chicken bits & noodle-like squares were people… it would be Alaska or Wyoming. Do you see what I’m saying? (Actually, the noodles might be the people, and the chicken may be an endangered species living within that state… but I’ve already pushed that metaphor too far.) I’m not entirely sure if this is the fault of the soup-ladeler or the soup recipe. As far as healthy vs. tasty in soup, I suggest you look up news articles related to Campbell’s. They’re putting salt back into soup to boost sales. I see from your corporate Facebook page that this is apparently an issue that has ruffled some feathers. Perhaps a shift back is in order?

The rusty knife – Poop happens. Have the dishwasher look over some stuff. I’d throw out the rusty ones. This rust was quite prominent on the handle of the butter knife, in the details of the design.


Thank you for your time, I hope you can use my input to your advantage… for your team, and perhaps passed on to a corporate level. I’d like to respectfully decline a free meal. I don’t write these sort of emails in order to get free food… and I’m skeptical of any coupons/certificates flagging me as “oh, here’s that guy”. I may even be done with Panera bread for a while. Bedsides the potentially scary cross-contamination and general utensil-cleanliness issues, our philosophies don’t seem to mesh well. I don’t need you to make health decisions for me, I need you to give me quality meals at the prices you demand. Your new more healthy less tasty soup and lack of condiments disturbs me, and apparently your quality standards aren’t the same as mine at your current menu prices.

I’d suggest taking some of the money saved from condiment rationing, smaller noodles, & catering advertising… and funneling it into a survey system to find out what your consumers want, or at the very least making signs or T-shirts that say “We’re holding the mustard unless you tell us not to!” or “New soup! Less noodles & chicken, but no ghosts!” It would also be money well spent on allergy training or buying new non-rusty silverware. Do you have any corporate contacts whom with I could perhaps take up this discussion?


Supernatural soup supporter,
-Eric

?sretac arenaP taht wonk uoy diD .seitilibasid gninrael fo nuf ekam ot ynnuf ton yllaer s’tI

-餧馕馒-

I for one can’t wait for a reply.

Panera Bread (Scott Twp. Greentree Road) on Urbanspoon

Pittsburgh Chipped Ham BBQ


Pittsburgh Chipped Ham BBQ.

This is how we had chipped ham BBQ when I was growing up…

It was put in a pot on the stove & just heated until it was ready.  It has to be Heinz, it has to be Coke (No Pepsi, RC Cola, or Faygo.)

None of the pre-made sauce either.

It needs to go on a nice roll, like Cellone’s.  I never added cheese as a kid, but I like it with a nice Swiss or Brick cheese these days.

I’ve done a large amount of this in a crock pot… several pounds of meat, then eye the ketchup & Coke.

Chipped Ham BBQ

Pittsburgh Style Chipped Ham BBQ

Score! Free movie passes…


If you read my recent rant about going to the movies, and then read my email to & the response from the theater, they you knew this was coming.  But, it’s cool that they’re actually here.  After the last response, I did reply via email to Mr. Wilson:

From: Eric Carroll <me@my.email.address>
To: Shawn Wilson <swilson@cinemark.com>
Sent: Thu, August 12, 2010
Subject: Re: Contact Us: Quality of service at a theatre

Hello Shawn,

Thank you for the reply.  I understand that you must also be frustrated with the behavior of your patrons.  My wife & I would very much appreciate two movie passes, thank you for the offer!  My mailing address is…

Eric Carroll
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Pittsburgh, PA  XXXXX

You do have a great new beautiful theater… hopefully over time, you’ll be able to have the staff available to spot & weed-out the troublemakers.  Ha… too bad that texting is one of the bans… I’d certainly have no trouble texting the theater to point out moviegoers causing a distraction for others!

Have a good day,
-Eric
.seitilibasid gninrael fo nuf ekam ot ynnuf ton yllaer s’tI

And, then today, this was in my mailbox when I got home:

Cinemark Letter & Rain Check Passes

Cinemark Letter & Rain Check Passes

It’s cool that it can be used for any movie any time.  I had wondered if there would be any odd restrictions. I am serious abut the texting to report troublemakers though.  If there was a “text complaints to this # to alert managers of a disturbance/error during the film” kind of thing… it would work out pretty well… except that texting during to movie is one of those things that’s already frowned upon.  They need those buttons like they have at the bowling alley… ha ha.

At any rate, we’ll have to get back out there soon to catch a free show!

We can’t change the way people act.


So, did you read the one about our last trip to the movies?  I know it garnered more comments than most of my posts.  Comments are always appreciated!  At any rate, we have somewhat of a conclusion.  I let the theater know about our evening via webform:

From: me@my.email.address [mailto:me@my.email.address]
Sent: Monday, August 09, 2010 10:08 PM
To: SiteTheatre
Subject: Contact Us: Quality of service at a theatre

Hello,

I my wife & I recently went to the new Cinemark in Robinson on a whim, and we had an “interesting” evening.  I posted a review of the night online, and it was brought to my attention that I ought to tell you guys about the problem directly.

More and more, a night at the movies plays out like this:  https://aixelsyd13.wordpress.com/2010/08/07/movie-night-for-schmucks/

It’s a shame to have a new beautiful theater with helpful friendly employees go downhill so fast thanks to the rudeness of the patrons, and refusal of management to enforce the theater’s policies.

Should I have gone to management right away?  I would have most certainly missed the beginning of the film.

Would the other patrons have been removed form the theater?  I’m guessing no as they were also paying customers… albeit incredibly rude paying customers.

I hope that you are able to read about my experience and share your thoughts on how I should have conducted myself in that situation.

Thank you for your time, I really look forward to hearing from you!

And, I eventually got a reply:

From: Shawn Wilson <swilson@cinemark.com>
To: me@my.email.address
Sent: Thu, August 12, 2010 1:41:14 PM
Subject: FW: Contact Us: Quality of service at a theatre

Good afternoon,

Thank you for visiting our theatre and for contacting us concerning your recent visit.  I sincerely apologize that your visit was less than enjoyable.

It is certainly our goal to provide the best overall movie-going experience.  We strive to make personal contact with each one of our guests.  It may be saying hello as our guests walk in, holding open a door, carrying concession items, or greeting guests as they exit the auditoriums.  I am extremely pleased that our staff was able to have contact with you and your wife on several occasions.

I can fully understand that the positives associated with a nice theatre and a friendly staff can soon be replaced with frustration when the movie is made less than enjoyable because of the actions of fellow guests in the auditorium.  Unfortunately, it seems now-a-days, some of the public has become very inconsiderate of others.  We can’t change the way people act, but we can have our staff continue to do regular checks of each auditorium and we will correct any problem or disturbance noticed.  I apologize that we were not able to identify and correct the disturbances that you experienced.  I will review this instance with my team.

Thank you, again, for contacting us.  I am disappointed that your visit to our theatre was not perfect.  It would be my pleasure to invite you and your wife back, as our guest, for a much better experience.  If you would be so kind as to provide me with your mailing address, I will place two passes in the mail.

If I can be of any additional assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Best regards,

Shawn Wilson
General Manager
Cinemark Robinson Twp.  #1034
2100 Settlers Ridge Center Dr.
Pittsburgh, PA  15205
Phone: 412-787-1368  Fax: 412-787-1948

Well, at least I got some free movie passes!  It’ll be interesting to see if there are any restrictions on them as far as times or anything.  But hey… a free movie isn’t a bad deal.  Maybe I’ll avoid a weekend night so we don’t get a repeat of being surrounded by idiots.

It is cool that he acknowledged the problem and apologized for the situation, even if he had to concede that there’s really nothing that he can do about it.  Hopefully the staff for that evening gets commended for being personable.

Movie Night for Schmucks


So My wife & I saw Dinner for Schmucks last night.  Great movie, had some really funny parts.  This blog really isn’t about the movie though… more the experience.

I hate going to the theater more & more.  We were out & about in Robinson & decided to hit up the new Cinemark theater.

I always get there early, and get a good seat… almost to the point of ridiculousness.  OK, it is the point of ridiculousness.  I like to get there as soon as it’s seating, so I can get my seat near the back, in the middle.  I realize that it’s not exactly normal.

On the other end… people were filing in up until the very second it started, acting appalled that some people had arrived on time & they couldn’t find the seat they wanted.  All of the “good” spots had been taken by then… of course the front few rows (as always) were empty, but no one wanted to sit there.  We had to suffer a host of  “excuse me”, “sorry”, and “can I get through?” during the pre-movie commercials and previews.  If I owned a theater –  once the previews started, there would be no entry.  You should have gotten there on time, and taken into consideration time to get food or pee or whatever else you need to do before going in to see a movie.

Of course, seconds before the movie began… Immediately to my right, sat an older woman who smelled like she had just sampled every perfume in the mall.  She kept putting her arm on top of mine on the arm rest, and making an audible “uh” of disgust when I didn’t relinquish my claim.  As I stated before, I got there (admittedly) insanely early to lay my claim to my seat… including the arm rest that I paid $9 for, that’s also holding my overpriced half Coke/half blue-whatever-it-was ICEE in the cup holder.

The woman who’s mouth was as loud as her stench opened & munched quite audibly on a smuggled can of Pringles.  I don’t mean the little cans that you can buy at Sheetz.  This was a giant full-sized can of Pringles.  I don’t want to know where she was hiding it.Then came the 20 oz. bottle of Diet Coke, opened with a deafening fizz, and guzzled like she hadn’t drank anything for days.  Her daughter/friend/whatever had a crinkling bag of freaking chips.

When I put my hand in the air with a “WTF?” look on my face and simply said “Really?” to Bethany, she just laughed and shook her head in amazement.  The previously loud olfactory-challenged woman attempted to mutter a “get over it” and went on munching and gulping away like she was a pig at her trough.

I get that the theater food is way-overpriced, and it’s joked about to a cliché level any time the subject is brought up.  But here’s the thing… it’s part of the overall experience.  Either suck it up & get it, or just pass.  Do you really need to munch on Pringles during the movie?

To Bethany’s left we had two guys in their late-teens or early 20’s who were the texting-during-the-movie dunderheads.  They repeated unfunny lines as if they were funny & laughed and kept asking each other what they missed because they were texting.  I wonder how someone makes it through life when they’re at this level of intelligence.

At the beginning of the movie, there was the Sprint commercial that reminded you that movies don’t interrupt your phone calls, so you shouldn’t interrupt the movie.  There were also at least two other theater-generated messages that ask you not to talk, answer your phone, or text during the movie… and even asking you to tun the phone off, or at least silence it.

I had even remarked before the film how it’s sad that Cinemark feels the need to do that.  The only problem is that it doesn’t work on the people for whom it’s intended.  They don’t care anyway.  Apparently, rules don’t apply to them. These are the same people who park in handicapped spots or over yellow cross-hatch lines.  They’re the same people who throw non-recyclables in to the recycling bin (I have an issue with recycling and it’s overall energy waste/consumption in general, but I’m not an ass).  These are the people that don’t return the carts.  They talk on their phones holding up the line at Quiznos.  They don’t double-flush the public toilet after taking a disastrous dump.

I could have gone to theater management and complained… but another remarkable thing about the theater was that we passed two guys in suits & managerial name tags while getting into the concession line, neither of them once looked in our direction or welcomed us into the theater.  Everyone else was quite friendly.  The girl who rang us up at the concession stand remarked about my amusing Dead from Lobster T-shirt.  The one kid who was sweeping up the hallway even opened to door for Bethany as she went to the restroom.  I think the same kid told us to have a good night as we exited the auditorium.

What would management have done in this case?  Would they have thrown out the people on either side of us?  I doubt it.  They were all also paying customers.  Would I have missed the beginning of the movie that I just paid to see?  Undoubtedly.

What would the solution have been here?  Perhaps they need to better police for outside snacks and glaring cell-phone screens.  Maybe you need searched before entry like a ball-park, or like an old saloon where you check weapons at the door… so must cell-phones be relinquished.  In the case of the woman beside me, they’d need her to also pass a test from that smell-detector machine I saw on CSI once.

I think I’d even pay more of my hard-earned money to go to a theater where they would weed out the schmucks.

Learn some manners, Pittsburgh!

Mellon Arena & the Trans-Siberian Orchesrta!


Well, you’ve read my Mellon Arena related Ticket Sales FAIL and Customer Service WIN blog posts, right? This is a nice conclusion to that.  Well, maybe not a conclusion, but the next in the series.  Derek was nice enough to comp us two tickets to one of the upcoming Trans-Siberian Orchestra events.  How awesome is that? I feel better getting two seats than four, and to me it’s more of a comprable show that a circus or the Harlem Globetrotters.

Here are the latest exchanges…

From: Eric Carroll me@myemailaddre.ss
Sent: Tuesday, December 01, 2009 11:16 PM
To: Derek Scalzott
Subject: Re: Horrible seats for Star Wars: In Concert @ Mellon Arena

Derek,

Wow.  Thank you for the well-thought-out and explanatory reply.  It’s rare to have a cutomer-service oriented reply be so frank and sincere.  I can imagine that the tasks faced when putting on each new event are quite complicated, as the arena can be used for such a varying degree of events.

I also now understand that instead of dealing with the ushers, I should have asked to speak/deal with management.  They seemed to give us a “you can do this, but you can’t tell anyone that I said it was OK to do this” kind of vibe, if that makes any sense.  I wasn’t trying to get anyone in trouble or get more than what I felt we had paid for…  I just wanted to enjoy the show.

I would kindly accept your offer of tickets to an upcoming event.  I don’t feel that four tickets are necessary as we had only purchased two seats to the last event, but at the same time I will not look the proverbial gift-horse in the mouth.

The prospect of a circus or the Globetrotters is very cool, but I was wondering if it would be too late and or at all possible to get tickets for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra?  I noticed it in the upcoming events when looking at the Star Wars: In Concert.  I understand completely if this event doesn’t fall within the previously noted constraints, and would like to know when the next circus is coming to the arena?

Thank you again for your time and generosity.  I will be sure to spread the word that Mellon Arena is a champion of customer service.  My last Pens game was the one vs. the Bruins with the tying goal at .04 seconds to go, and the time before that was Crosby’s last hat trick… so trust me, I have a ton of recent great memories associated with Mellon Arena!

I look forward to our continued dialogue.

-Eric

See?  I can write complimentary emails too!

From: Derek Scalzott DScalzott@mellonarena.com
To: Eric Carroll me@myemailaddre.ss
Sent: Wed, December 2, 2009 10:53:45 AM
Subject: RE: Horrible seats for Star Wars: In Concert @ Mellon Arena

Eric,

I have approval to offer (2) two Trans-Siberian Orchestra tickets to our 3:00 p.m. afternoon show on Wednesday, December 16th.  We have no tickets available for the evening show.

Otherwise, we can do (4) four to Harlem Globetrotters on December 26th or (4) four to the Shrine Circus, which will be here in early April.

Please let me know what you prefer and provide your mailing address and a contact phone number in case there are any mailing issues and we’ll take care of it from there.

Thanks,
Derek Scalzott
Event Coordinator
Mellon Arena
66 Mario Lemieux Place
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
email: dscalzott@mellonarena.com
phone: 412.642.2189
fax: 412.642.1905

Score!

From: Eric Carroll me@myemailaddre.ss
To: Derek Scalzott DScalzott@mellonarena.com
Sent: Wed, December 2, 2009 9:20:43 PM
Subject: Re: Horrible seats for Star Wars: In Concert @ Mellon Arena

Hello again Derek,

We’ll take the two tickets to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra!  (Wow!)  We’ll have to take a half-day at work, but it will certainly be worth it!  Thank you once again for your explanation and generosity.

Here is all of my contact info:

____ _______
___ _____________ __
Pittsburgh, PA  _____-____
(___) ___-____

I really appreciate the time and effort that you’ve put into reassuring me that Mellon Arena cares about its patrons!

-Eric

Well, there you have it.  Looks like we get a free afternoon full of entertainment… now we only have to pay for parking (don’t tell me I can take the T)…  and $10 for nachos n’ Coke!

Again, there’s no mention of how or where my media-copied message was obtained, and why it was responded to in lieu of the original.  Ominous!