Death Taco


Death Taco. No, that’s not the coolest new metal or grindcore band, although maybe it should be.  It’s what I’m (of course) calling the newest Taco Bell menu item.  I have had some inquires as to why I hadn’t mentioned it yet.

Well, I did make a faint mention via Facebook or Twitter a while ago, but had declined to rant here as I’ve been relentlessly trying to contact Taco Bell.  You know how successful webforms are, so of course I got no answer from that, then I fished around for email addresses to send a full email, bugged them via Twitter for an address, and even posted an Ask Yahoo! question.  Out of nowhere, I finally received a reply, and I have no idea if it was in reply to the webform, my emails to random Yum! Brands and Taco Bell email addresses, or some other forum.

I’d like to share my original messages with you.  First the one via webform:

Hola, mis amigos de Titan Taco! Firstly, this isn’t about an incident at a specific Taco Bell, but the form didn’t allow room for general inquiries. I’d like to express my disappointment with a commercial that I saw advertising new shrimp tacos. Well, I guess my disappointment is not with the commercial, but with the product… and the main ingredient.  I don’t think I can express my thoughts in a box with a mere 500-character limit. Do you have an actual email address where I can contact someone?

…And this was to some email addresses that I found after some Googling.

From: ERiC AiXeLsyD <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>
Date: Mon, Mar 8, 2010 at 4:11 PM
Subject: Taco Fail
To: webmaster@tacobell.com (and a bunch of other addresses)

Hola, mis amigos de Titan Taco!

I’d like to express my disappointment with a commercial that I saw advertising new shrimp tacos. Well, I guess my disappointment is not with the commercial, but with the product… and the main ingredient.

I have a severe shellfish allergy, and Taco Bell has been a shellfish-free dining safe haven for me for years.  It’s one of the few places where I never had to worry about shrimp, crab, lobster, oysters, etc. ending up in my food, or worse yet… crossing paths in the kitchen somewhere.

I will sadly have to cross Taco Bell off of my list of places to dine… but I’d like you to know that there are many of us out here with severe shellfish allergies who have an increasingly difficult time finding safe places to dine out.  Fast food joints have long been a safe-haven for those of us with a shellfish allergy… as most fine dining and now even chain family style restaurants have several shellfish dishes prepared on multiple kitchen surfaces.  Formerly, as long as I stayed away from Long John Silver’s, I was OK.  Taco Bell, KFC, McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Chick-fil-A, …were all safe places.

I guess I’ll now have to get my quick Mexican fix at Qdoba or Chipotle.

If you’d like to know what it’s like to dine out with a shellfish allergy, please read this blog post.

Here’s an excerpt…

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

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

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

Well, getting me in to a place with shellfish is an issue in itself.  Why?  Well in with the aforementioned cooking surface issue…

I hope that this helps explain what people like me go through, and I hope that you re-consider selling death-filled tacos!

Running from the border,

-Eric

And, this is the reply, although I’m not sure if it’s the reply to one of the above messages, or in poking around on Twitter:

From: Poetsch, Rob (Public Relations) <Rob.Poetsch@yum.com>
Date: Wed, Mar 31, 2010 at 7:30 PM
Subject: Pacific Shrimp Taco Inquiry
To: “world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com” <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>
Cc: “Hunsaker, Brittany (Contractor)” <Brittany.Hunsaker@yum.com>

Dear Eric,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us about Shellfish allergens concerning our new Pacific Shrimp Tacos.  We want you to know that we take these matters very seriously and that the business of our customers is our top priority.  We value loyal customers such as yourself and would like to take the opportunity to win your business back.

To ,  to our customers who might have Shellfish allergens, we have displayed information at multiple locations in our fish.  These include Shrimp allergen signs that are placed on our window and door clings as well as in our ads where orders are taken.  While the Pacific Shrimp Tacos are offered for a limited time only, all Taco Bell employees have been trained and certified to not have any food products come in contact with Fish and Shellfish during cooking and/or serving.

We would like to send you some Taco Bell Bucks as a token of our thanks, so please email me back with your mailing address.  We hope you will continue to “Think Outside the Bun” at Taco Bell, and appreciate you taking the time to write to us.

Sincerely,
Rob Poetsch
Taco Bell Public Relations

Rob Poetsch
Taco Bell Corp.
One Glen Bell Way
Irvine, CA 92618
O: 949-863-3915
F: 949-863-2252
rob.poetsch@tacobell.com

Of course, I needed to reply:

From: ERiC AiXeLsyD <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, Apr 1, 2010 at 5:15 PM
Subject: Re: Pacific Shrimp Taco Inquiry
To: “Poetsch, Rob (Public Relations)” <Rob.Poetsch@yum.com>
Cc: “Hunsaker, Brittany (Contractor)” <Brittany.Hunsaker@yum.com>

Hello Rob,

Thank you for the reply!  I was beginning to wonder if Taco Bell has a stand on the issue.  While I am pleased to hear about the allergen warning signs along with the employee training and certification, I must say that I still have some reservations about safety.  I am relieved to hear that the shrimp tacos are available for a limited time only.

It is great that you take responsibility in posting signs about allergy warnings.  Your fellow Yum! Brands organization, Pizza Hut, ought to take note.  They display allergen information on their website, noting that the pizza sauce may come into contact with shellfish… but there’s no shellfish on the menu.  When I asked where the contamination may occur (e.g. in the processing/canning facility?) they were unable (or I sadly suspect unwilling) to provide a detailed response.

Back to the subject of Taco Bell… the giant window-clings showing what I’m sure to many is a succulent appetizing piece of shrimp spilling out of a lovely soft taco shell looks to me like a giant Mr. Yuck sticker or the old-time skull & cross-bones “poison” logo that you’d see in cartoons.  They serve as an effective if not spine-chilling reminder as to the presence of shellfish allergens on the premises.  They would also kick my survival instincts into gear, not even letting me enter the presence.  Seriously.  I would wager that right now, it would be pretty difficult to physically get me into a Taco Bell restaurant. My Eustachian tubes are starting to itch just thinking about it.  I realize that this is also a highly personal mental health issue, but one that ought not be taken lightly, as it’s grounded in a very real fear.

Recently I read the blog of a man who almost died when he ordered a vegetarian Indian potato curry dish that he was assured was safe.  Apparently the dish was flavored with a shrimp brine… which ought to be disturbing to vegetarians, vegans, kosher folks, and people with shellfish allergies.  This is alarming to say the least.  I realize that simple cross-contamination may not seem as serious as flavoring an entire dish with shrimp-juice, but I can assure you that it is indeed just as deadly.  Our friends with wheat/gluten and peanut allergies seem to get a lot of attention lately, hopefully it will spill over to the rest of us with the “big 8” and those who aren’t even covered by that umbrella.

Have you taken the allergen training, or do you know what’s involved?  I am finding it hard to tactfully express my concerns about the way that the message was conveyed to Taco Bell employees and the actual willingness of the employees to understand and comply.  We’ve all watched training videos on various subjects and rolled our eyes, promptly taken pamphlets and placed them in the trash, or been angered when someone who doesn’t do our job gives us a new or added process that we must adhere to when we’re sure that the person suggesting the changes has never been in our shoes.

While I mean no disrespect to Taco Bell or any fast food restaurant, have you been to a Taco Bell lately?  Sometimes I am concerned about the personal hygiene and motivation of the employees let alone the cleanliness and efficiency of the kitchen.  Sadly, the low quality and poor service of fast food establishments has become a passively accepted facet of 21st Century life in the United States.  For evidence, I give you the term “McJob“.

I have a theory that for so long now, it has been expressed to kids everywhere to get higher education so you don’t end up as a laborer, janitor, or fast food employee… that fast food jobs have garnered such a negative connotation, the only people left willing to take the jobs are the highly unmotivated individuals, people with no other options, or people using the part time jobs for extra cash with no real pride in their work since there’s no real fear of losing the job or striving to move up the chain of command.

I would invite you to imagine that in the Taco Bell kitchen where you are about to dine there are the standard (and innovative!) sour cream and cheese caulking-gun looking dispensers all loaded on the food preparation area… along side a caulking-gun-looking dispenser filled with a highly toxic pest-control chemical that looks interestingly enough like cheese or sour cream.  Would you still feel safe in eating there?  Sure.  The employees can read.  Sure, they know the difference.  Are they ever rushed in a fast food kitchen?  Do mistakes ever happen?  Of course.  I’m guessing you would at least think twice or watch closely before you dine.

I understand that this scenario is preposterous because I would hope that some sort of federal regulations would forbid any toxic chemicals from being stored in a food preparation area.  No such federal regulations exist for people like me, although Massachusetts is moving forward with this type of thing.

While I trust that your training an certification was put forth with the best of intentions, you must understand that I question its implementation, practicality, and how it’s received and practiced by what amounts to be the first line of contact with your customers… the Taco Bell team member.  What exactly does the certification say?  Does each employee have it, or does a certification apply to an entire restaurant or shift?

I challenge you to quiz the workers at Taco Bells in various locations… inner city, suburbs, malls, and the combo units, and see how much the workers really know about cross-contamination and allergy issues and how they’re observed in a Taco Bell kitchen.  (Hopefully, they fare better than Subway employees.)

All that said, I appreciate and applaud the considerable thought and effort that has already gone into allergen awareness.  Spreading knowledge is the first step.  Did you know that May 9th-15th 2002 is the thirteenth annual Food Allergy Awareness Week?  Now is the time to act and inform, my friend!

I would certainly appreciate some Taco Bell Bucks, if you’ll understand that I may hold on to them until well after the current Pacific Shrimp Taco promotion is over. (Pending reviews, it may not last all that long, eh?) Taco Bell had previously been a shellfish-free Mexican-ish fast food haven for me for many many years.  I can’t tell you how many tacos I ate at the mall nearby to where I grew up when I was a teenager.  A dollar went much further at Taco Bell than it did at McDonald’s, Burger King or anywhere else in the food court.

My address is…

Eric Aixelsyd
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Pittsburgh, PA  XXXXX-XXXX

I would like to thank you once again for your time and the thoughtful informative reply.  I look forward to perhaps what may be a continued dialog about allergy awareness issues in the fast food industry, and more specifically relating to Taco Bell and other Yum! Brands.

-Eric

Wow, do I hope they write back.

Papal Participation in Lenten Lunacy


A while ago, I decided to write a goofy letter to the Pope about shellfish & Lent.  It was surprisingly very easy to find the Pope’s email address online.  I wrote an email, and again got some editing/revision help from Dave, and sent it off to the Pontiff himself.  Here’s that email…

from ERiC AiXeLsyD <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>
to benedictxvi@vatican.va
subject My struggles with Lent & dietary concerns…
mailed-by gmail.com

Good Day Your Holiness,

I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to find your email address with a quick Google search! I find it fascinating as well as endearing that you make yourself so accessible to the world, and embrace this new technology. I’m not sure if this is monitored and directed by yourself, or your trusted staff, but either way… I salute your effort. Also, I’m not sure if this would need to go through translators, or not. Perhaps I should use Google translator and post the results after my message in English?

I’m sure you are quite a busy man, especially in preparation for the upcoming Easter holiday, so I will try to make my point as succinctly as possible.

I would like to express my frustrations with the Lent season and the proliferation of seafood specials on Fridays at nearly every restaurant where I would otherwise be happy to dine. You see, I have a severe shellfish allergy, this makes dining out an adventure under normal circumstances. During Lent, restaurants that normally have minimal or no shellfish selections seem to produce them out of nowhere. This really hampers my ability to dine out comfortably, if at all.

With any cross-contamination, I can go into anaphylactic shock almost immediately. This means if I have a steak or piece of chicken that touches a grill where some lobster was just cooked, or if I have onion rings from the same fryer that was also cooking shrimp; I would begin the process with an internal itching/burning sensation in my Eustachian tube and rapidly closing bronchi.

I would like to ask if you could perhaps add shellfish (and possibly even regular fish) to the list of recommendations of things that one ought to give up in observation of lent. They are part of the “big 8” allergens in the world today. It would really help out a lot of followers & non-followers out there, being able to dine during the Lenten season in complete comfort! I figured that as the Pope, you’re in the best position to propose and act upon a movement of such magnitude.

You might even be able to offer up an explanation at why people have been eating fish for the lent season for so long, now that it’s no longer really an inconvenience. This would be in line with your call to return to stricter Christian values, no? Perhaps it would dispel the rumors that the Catholic Church of yore was in league with a local fishmonger and pushed fish on lent solely (pun intended – would that pun translate well into German? See, “sole” is a type of fish, and is also the root word to “solely” meaning singular…) to raise profits for the fishmonger, who in turn would up the amount of his tithe to the church. I can only assume that this is a rumor, as I find different versions of the tale on the internet, and no real concrete evidence to back any of the allegations.

I’m not Catholic myself, but am a Protestant (United Church of Christ, more specifically). I would say that in recent times we’re “on the same team” though, wouldn’t you agree? Perhaps Peter didn’t intend to include shellfish when he repealed the laws of clean and unclean animals put forth in Leviticus? Perhaps something was lost in translation?

I have one final idea. For Lent, all devout Christians ought to revert to a strict kosher diet. This would certainly strengthen ties with our Jewish friends and put more emphasis on the kind of Passover meal that Jesus would have had with his disciples at the last supper. I would think that this is wholly appropriate for this time of year, and it certainly helps me with my dining problem. Perhaps I ought to just convert and stick to kosher delis and grocery stores? Ha ha ha.

I would like to thank you for your time, and truly cannot wait to hear your thoughts on the subject at hand. I also look forward to a possible continued dialog about faith, shellfish, and allergies.

Humbly,
-Eric

Google translation:

Guten Tag Eure Heiligkeit,

Ich war angenehm überrascht, wie einfach es ist, Ihre E-Mail-Adresse mit einem schnelle Google-Suche finden! Ich finde es faszinierend wie liebenswert, dass Sie sich so der Welt zugänglich zu machen, und die neue Technologie. Ich bin mir nicht sicher, ob dies überwacht wird und von Ihnen selbst gerichtet, oder Ihren Mitarbeitern vertrauen, aber so oder so … Ich begrüße Ihre Bemühungen. Also, ich bin nicht sicher, ob diese müssten durch Übersetzer, oder nicht. Vielleicht sollte ich Google-Übersetzer zu wenden, und nach den Ergebnissen nach meiner Nachricht in Englisch?

Ich bin sicher, Sie haben völlig ein viel beschäftigter Mann, vor allem im Hinblick auf die bevorstehenden Osterferien, also werde ich versuchen, meinen Standpunkt ebenso knapp wie möglich zu machen.

Ich möchte meinen Frust mit der Fastenzeit und der Verbreitung von Meeresfrüchte-Spezialitäten am Freitag um fast jedem Restaurant, wo ich nicht anders ausdrücken würde sich freuen, zu speisen. Sehen Sie, ich einen schweren Schalentiere Allergie haben, das macht einem Dinner ein Abenteuer unter normalen Umständen. In der Fastenzeit, Restaurants, die normalerweise keine oder eine minimale Auswahl Muscheln scheinen zu ihrer Herstellung aus dem Nichts. Dies behindert wirklich meine Fähigkeit zu speisen sich behaglich, wenn überhaupt.

Mit eine Kreuzkontamination kann ich in einen anaphylaktischen Schock gehen fast sofort. Dies bedeutet, wenn ich ein Steak oder ein Stück Huhn berührt haben, dass ein Grill, wo einige Hummer nur gekocht wurde, oder wenn ich Zwiebelringe aus der gleichen Friteuse das war auch das Kochen Garnelen, ich würde den Prozess mit einem internen Juckreiz begin / Brennen in meiner Tuba und schnell schließen Bronchien.

Ich möchte fragen, ob Sie vielleicht könnten Muscheln (und möglicherweise sogar regelmäßig Fisch) in die Liste der Empfehlungen der Dinge, die man aufgeben, in der Beobachtung der Fastenzeit soll hinzuzufügen. Sie sind Teil der “Big 8” Allergene in der heutigen Welt. Es wäre wirklich sehr helfen, von Anhängern und nicht-Anhänger gibt, in der Lage, die während der Fastenzeit im kompletten Komfort zu speisen! Ich dachte, wie der Papst, Sie in der besten Position zu schlagen und die Reaktion auf eine Bewegung von solcher Tragweite sind.

Man könnte sogar in der Lage sein Angebot bis auf eine Erklärung, warum Menschen wurden Verzehr von Fisch für die Fastenzeit so lange, jetzt, da es nicht mehr wirklich ein Nachteil. Dies stünde im Einklang mit Ihren Anruf, um strengere christlichen Werte zurückgeben, nicht wahr? Vielleicht wäre es die Gerüchte, dass die katholische Kirche von einst wurde in der Liga mit einem örtlichen Fischhändler und schob Fisch auf nur geliehen (pun intended zerstreuen – wäre das Wortspiel auch ins Deutsche zu übersetzen? See, “allein” ist eine Art von Fisch, und ist auch die Wurzel Wort “ausschließlich” bedeutet Singular …), um Gewinne für die Fischhändler, der seinerseits würde die Höhe seiner Zehnten der Kirche zu erheben. Ich kann nur annehmen, dass dies ein Gerücht ist, wie ich verschiedene Versionen der Geschichte im Internet zu finden, und keine wirkliche konkrete Beweise vorzulegen, um die Behauptungen zurück.

Ich bin nicht katholisch mich, aber ich bin ein Protestant (United Church of Christ, genauer gesagt). Ich würde sagen, dass in der letzten Zeit sind wir “auf der gleichen Mannschaft” aber nicht würden Sie zustimmen? Vielleicht Peter hatte nicht vor, Schalentiere, wenn er aufgehoben den Gesetzen der reinen und unreinen Tieren setzte sich weiter in Levitikus enthalten? Vielleicht etwas in der Übersetzung verloren?

Ich habe noch eine letzte Idee. Für die Fastenzeit, die alle gläubigen Christen sollten eine strenge koschere Ernährung zurückzukehren. Dies würde sicherlich zur Stärkung der Beziehungen mit unseren jüdischen Freunden und legen mehr Gewicht auf die Art des Passah-Mahl, das Jesus mit seinen Jüngern beim letzten Abendmahl hätte. Ich würde denken, das ist ganz angemessen für diese Zeit des Jahres, und es sicherlich hilft mir bei meinem Esszimmer Problem. Vielleicht sollte ich erst konvertieren und halten Sie sich Feinkostläden und Lebensmittelgeschäften koscher? Ha ha ha.

Ich möchte Ihnen für Ihre Zeit danken und kann wirklich nicht warten, bis Sie Ihre Meinung zu diesem Thema an die Hand zu hören. Ich freue mich auch auf einen möglichen weiteren Dialog über den Glauben, Muscheln und Allergien.

Demütig
-Eric

Yes, that’s a crudely copy n’ pasted Google translation, and I have no idea if it made any sense at all in German.  Judging by some of the bounce-backs that I received, it may have been stopped by some SPAM filters.

As expected, it went a couple of weeks without a response, so I looked up some other addresses at the Vatican, and for national & local Catholic organizations, and wrote this little forward to send to a bunch of them, along with the original email…

Hello Friends,

I recently sent an email to Pope Benedict XVI regarding some allergy concern issues that I have surrounding Lent, and possible modification of policies on the Church’s policy of not eating meat on Fridays.

I realize that the Pope is probably the busiest man in the world.  He is the head of an organization that transcends many country, political, and cultural borders… and he has many important duties, most especially in this holy time of year.

I was wondering if you would perhaps be able to direct me to someone who would be better suited to open a dialogue about my concerns noted below?

Thank you for your time, and thank you in advance for your help!
-Eric

Finally, we have a response, and not surprisingly, it’s from someone at a local level…

from Gretz, Rev James R <jgretz@diopitt.org>
to world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com
cc “Bielewicz, Vy Rev Harry R.” <hbielewicz@diopitt.org>,
“Wagner, Laura L” <lwagner@diopitt.org>
date Wed, Mar 10, 2010 at 1:15 PM
subject My struggles with Lent & dietary concerns…
mailed-by diopitt.org

Eric,

Peace and greetings to you.  Your letter sent to many in the Diocesan Offices eventually came to me as the Director of the Department for Worship.  I will attempt to answer your concerns as best as possible.

It is wonderful that our Holy Father is accessible via the internet.  He did recently challenge priests and the Church to better use electronic media for reaching out to people.  Thus my email response to you!

While I am not in marketing, I do see the proliferation of restaurants attempting to make a profit with the “target audience” each Lenten Season.  I guess that’s how business works.  At the same time, I do sympathize with your allergy plight.  Personally, I do not suffer with allergies, however, my late mother had one to lactose and it was very difficult to take her out to dinner.  I know of others who suffer with “celiac-sprue” – the allergy to gluten and wheat products.  That too is a horrible cross to bear.  My mother and the others solved it by frequenting only the restaurants that would gladly serve their needs.  I would suggest the same.

The discipline of abstinence, refraining from meat products, actually has an ancient history.  I too know of the truly legendary stories of fishmongers and their unions, if you will!  However, the discipline goes back to an extant document of the early Second Century known as the “Didache” or “The Lord’s Instruction to the Twelve Apostles”.  You mentioned the kosher diet.  So, yes, when we think of Jewish people, that dietary style comes to mind.  That was the intent of the Didache.  The early Church wanted to have their own dietary laws to make them distinctive as well, hence abstinence, especially on Friday, the day our Lord died for us, so that we too might suffer a little with Him.  That is our mark on the world, if you will.  I seem to recall that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops back in the 1990’s was discussing this discipline and perhaps returning it to all Fridays of the year.  The objection was that since many are refraining from red meat in general and more people are vegans, what does abstinence mean to the modern world?  Of course, the discipline remains for the Lenten Season, however, it is good to dream as to what the modern version of abstinence might be….

Which, then, leads me to your final thoughts about adopting the kosher diet for Lent.  Actually, if all people really embraced the meaning of the Lenten Season – a time for conversion and returning to the Lord – we would definitely have a much better world.

If you have any additional questions, do not hesitate to contact me.  Until then, I remain,

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Rev. James R. Gretz

Rev. James R. Gretz, M.Div., M.T.S.
Director, Department for Worship
Diocesan Master of Ceremonies
Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh

2900 Noblestown Rd.
Pittsburgh, PA  15205
voice: 412-456-3041
fax: 412-456-3163

+++++++++++

Someone took this letter quite seriously!  I wonder if I’ll hear from anyone else… and I’m wondering how to continue form this point on.  It certainly is fun to see my W(aL)D insanity taken seriously.  It is fun to know that I got a response.  No offense intended here, but I always viewed the Catholic Church as a little “stuffy”.  Maybe they’re mellowing out in this digital age?

Pandora’s Lunchbox


Heh.  Twitter is fun.  So, you may know that I have my W(aL)D Twitter account, and I use it to be goofy.  I think I re-opened the Subway door here.  Mayhaps this time I’ll get some sort of resolution?

Today, Subway Freshbuzz tweeted the following…

Does anybody else out there try to save half of their $5 Footlong for a 2nd meal, only to be called back by its delicious siren song?

So, I posted this in response…

@subwayfreshbuzz Nope. Not when 1 bite is a potential trip to the E.R. thanks to cross-contamination in the food-prep area.

Tonight, I have this in my Direct Message box…

subwayfreshbuzz Thanks for the feedback. It would be great if you could let us know more about this incident on our cust. service page  http://bit.ly/bhSAn

Well, at least I have someone paying attention!  I sent them a link to my original complaint to Subway, but I’d like to list the whole saga here… in case I need them to refer back to the message trail at some point…

Five. Five dollar. Five dollar… foot up your ass.

• October 28, 2009 • 8 Comments (Edit)

Subway Customer ID: 1918316

• October 29, 2009 • 7 Comments (Edit)

Quiznos writes back before Subway!

• November 12, 2009 • 8 Comments (Edit)

So, we have a response from Subway! – Not really a response, if you ask me…

• November 13, 2009 • 2 Comments (Edit)

The Quiznos Toasty Torpedo™ and the diminutive hand model…

• November 17, 2009 • 3 Comments (Edit)

“You never told me you spoke my language, Doctor Jones.”

• November 18, 2009 • 3 Comments (Edit)

If we’re keeping score, that’s Subway 1 and Quiznos 3½. – No doubt.

• November 20, 2009 • 3 Comments (Edit)

Subway®: “First, allow me to apologize.” – Again, this really wasn’t a nice response, or a response at all…

• November 24, 2009 • 4 Comments (Edit)

Allergies, Alliteration, and Annoyance.
– I had to take it somewhere else.

• November 25, 2009 • 6 Comments (Edit)

Allergies, Annoyance, Alliteration, & Acceptance

• December 21, 2009 • 1 Comment (Edit)

A barrage of emails from Pizza Hut


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

Hello,

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

I thank you in advance for your time & help!

-Eric

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

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

Mr. Aixelsyd-

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

Thank you,
Corey Williams
Customer Service
Pizza Hut

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

This is where we begin passing the buck.

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

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

Mr. Aixelsyd,

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

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

Ed

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

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

Eric,

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

Thank you and have a great day!

Susan Burton
KFC Franchise Recruiting
KFC Franchise On Boarding

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

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

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

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

Hi, Eric –

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

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

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

To recap, this is what I’m asking…

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

Thank you Mr. Kronenwetter,

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

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

More interesting to me are the items marked…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I look forward to your thoughts!

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

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

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

Aller-G’s


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peanut Allergy Blocker On The Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wrote back to Pizza Hut…


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

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

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

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

Thank you Mr. Kronenwetter,

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

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

More interesting to me are the items marked…

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

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

canning facility with the sauce?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I look forward to your thoughts!

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not me:  “Well, can you get steak?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not me:   “Sigh, OK.”

[I look/feel like an idiot.]

Then sometimes, one of these gems gets tossed in…

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

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

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

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

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

My favorite comes from family & old friends…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five. Five dollar. Five dollar… foot up your ass.


So last night, I snapped. I have finally seen and heard my fill of Subway commercials.

Granted, there are certainly more annoying ad campaigns out there right now, and there will be in the future. But this snap sparked the ignition of the realization that I used to love Subway, and now I hate it. There’s no one reason, or even a real reason. There’s nothing that a rational person can do to change any of it or for it to make any difference or have any significance.

That’s where World (and Lunar) Domination steps in.  You may have seen my letters to companies on past message boards or blogs… maybe not.  From time to time I get goofy, and take it out on corporate America.  Sometimes the responses are serious, boring, nonexistent, intentionally funny, or unintentionally funny.

I have been encouraged to keep these rants somewhere, hence this WordPress blog.

I submitted the following (with some editing help from my friend Dave) via webform at Subway.com:

Hello Sandwich Art Dealers,

I’d like to start out by saying I find that web submission comment forms are generally a letdown. As the submitter you’re usually sent a ‘form letter’ type of reply that doesn’t address any specific issues, and thanks you for the input. Less often, it’s followed up by a seemingly more caring missive that really doesn’t address anything specific, and sometimes attempts to placate the sender with some coupons, a T-shirt or something to that effect. It’s also generally a letdown, because I can’t cc myself a copy of what I sent, and it’s a 50/50 shot of whether my original comments are to be included in any future correspondence. Then there’s the issue of the dreaded “Your message exceeds XXXX characters” error message. When did someone’s opinion become relegated to a set limit of letters, numbers, and punctuation, my friends?

At any rate, I should move on to the point of my web form submission, as I’m sure you’ll agree by this point. I write to you today to express my general dissatisfaction with the state of Subway as it stands today.

At the top of the list: the inclusion of the seafood sub on your menu. This has plagued me for years. I have a severe shellfish allergy, and will go into anaphylactic shock if any food that I ingest were to come into contact with crab, lobster, shrimp, oyster, etc., or even the same food prep area. I have seen more than a few Subway employees who aren’t exactly sanitary in their sandwich artistry, flinging microscopic bits of crab (or imitation crab) meat all over the adjacent meats, cheeses, vegetables, and cutting board area. The last time I had this discussion with a slovenly employee at the Subway in the Kuhn’s Plaza on Banksville Road in Pittsburgh, PA… as I explained that my sandwich must not touch any shellfish or remnants of shellfish she touched the eternally-damned-to-the-wrong-function ice cream scoop that had been sitting in the red and white pile of mushy death and swung it all around spewing certain doom to the immediate food prep area and all the while exclaiming something to the effect of “Well, that’s OK, no one ever orders this stuff anyway.” I just stared blankly in disbelief as a reply. If she didn’t already know what her sandwich-baggied hands had just touched and distributed the contaminant that I had previously noted was a toxin to my system, then there was no way I was going to be able to impart this wisdom to her. I found myself having to exit on that occasion, to never return to that location.

Are sandwich artists trained in the ways of sanitary work stations, cross contamination, allergens, and general good hygiene? One would hope, but the question has been raised.

How can I complain about Subway if I never eat there, you ask?

— Message 1 of 2 — To be continued

Hilariously enough, their webform did only allow 3000 characters, so I had to split the message into two parts…

— Message 2 of 2 — Continued from previous message

I did discover that I could get my Subway fix due to the limited-menu Subway located inside the WAL-MART in Heidelberg, PA. After all, as I’m sure you know… the smell of your bread baking is intoxicating. Sadly my friends, that is where the romance ends. I used to applaud the meatball sub from Subway, and held it as the standard to which all meatball subs were to be measured. This was once upon a time when the bread was doughy, the triangle was removed from the top, and replaced… keeping the meatballs secure in a blanket of cheese to ensure safe delivery to my digestive system. I know, this was a lifetime ago, but it still burns, amigos. It still burns. (I even remember the waffle fries that went through their own tiny toaster oven which have sadly gone the way of the Dodo.)

Have you seen the Left-Handed Cartoon about Subway, cheese tessellation, and soul-crushing disappointment? A friend of mine posted the humorous drawing on a message board a while ago… and sadly it rings true of the current state of Subway. (It’s located at http://www.lefthandedtoons.com/77/ for your reference if needed.)

Lastly, I find the current crop of five-dollar foot long commercials to be among the most annoying in the world… especially the one with Jared and the football players. What advertising company actually took money for that? Hopefully it was an in house idea. If not, then you were played (as they say in the streets).

As noted in my opening paragraph, I understand that is customary to include a trite reply and coupons in apology for dissatisfaction. If so inclined… please make sure they’re for Jersey Mike’s, Quiznos, or Sheetz. (FYI, Sheetz touts a far superior foot-long sub for only $4… This reminds me of when you guys started toasting subs after Quiznos moved to town.) I would include W.G. Grinder’s, but they recently started serving a crab-cake sub, so they’re also on ‘the list’. Perhaps a Jimmy John’s coupon would work? They’re fairly new to the Pittsburgh area, and I’ve yet to go to one… I wouldn’t mind trying them out! Jersey Mike’s is by far my favorite though. They’re not the cheapest, but worth the price in quality! Being a national chain, you may not be familiar with local Pittsburgh area heavyweights Carhops or Uncle Sam’s. They would be sandwich makers to emulate!

If you’re not comfortable providing a coupon to a direct competitor, I understand completely. I would also appreciate any discounts from Qdoba, Chipotle, or the Pita Pit.

Thank you for your time, I look forward to your personally tailored reply, and perhaps a continuing dialog on Subway’s sandwich artists, advertising, and overall quality of the name brand.

Best Regards,
-Eric AiXeLsyD
W(aL)D

I hope the emails go to the same person, and aren’t split across some you-take-this-one,-I’ll-get-the-next-one kind of automated system.

Thanks again to Dave for the editing and re-arranging help, the chaos needs reigned in every once in a while.

Can’t wait to see if we get a reply to this one!