Those Darn Thanksgiving Eve Pitches

 Jeff Jarvis has an amusing tirade against the lame Thanksgiving eve stories of TV (“The lead story is that the roads and airports will be crowded this morning. Now that’s news!”) to which I’d add: how about the lame PR pitches this time of year about the dangers of shopping online? I’ve had half a dozen this year and I don’t even pretend to live in the U.S. Here’s a sampling (all follow with pitch to talk to client, needless to say):

  • As Black Friday and Cyber Monday near and the holiday shopping season kicks into high gear, consumers still appear to have the jitters when shopping online through unfamiliar, lesser-known merchants. (Pitching online security software)
  • With approximately $56.6 billion stolen so far in 2006 as a result of personal ID theft, all shoppers should be aware of ways to make their online experience more secure. (pitching a fingerprint reader)
  • With recent research suggesting that 60% of consumers terminated or considered terminating a relationship due to mishandling of their private information and new laws in place that levy stiff fines against organizations that have consumer data slip through their networks, it is more important than ever for retailers and payment processors to secure and safeguard consumer data. (Pitching data privacy service)
  • As Black Friday approaches, identity theft is not the only concern keeping shoppers offline this holiday season – trustworthiness of the retailer, non-delivery, quality of merchandise, and shipping costs are all concerns, especially when buying from smaller, independent online retailers (pitching online security software; actually same product as the first one, different pitcher and angle)
  • The 2006 holiday shopping season kicks off today. This is also the high season for pick-pockets, department store thieves and Internet marauders. (pitching something or other, I’ve forgotten.)

Yadayadayada. It goes on. Not an interesting or original line among them. Admittedly, I’m not desperate for story ideas, but these are a) so lacking in imagination and b) so steeped in the assumption that us journalists write the same kind of story as each other, year in, year out, I want to weep.

So if you find yourself reading tired stories about the ‘dangers of shopping online’ stories in your mainstream media diet, you’ll know where the idea for them came from. I better start working on mine to be ahead of the rush.

The Technology Of Hotel Breakfasts

I hate, for the most part, hotel breakfasts. They’re dreadful, overpriced affairs in over-airconditioned caverns offering buffets of dried-out, re-heated mush which has to be labeled so guests can figure out what it is they’re eating. There has to be a better way.

Two pet peeves:

  • The buffet toaster: usually a conveyor type machine where you slot a piece of bread in one end and it disappears, coming out five minutes later barely toasted on one side and black on the other. Chances are that if you haven’t been standing over the machine in the meantime, someone else has either stolen your piece or fingered it.
  • The over-eager waiter/ress: Not their fault, because they’re told to do it, but what is it with the need to hover over guests as they’re eating, swooping in and swiping any plate, spoon, cup or yoghurt carton as soon as it’s put down by the guest? This behaviour drives me nuts as it’s impossible to relax and read the paper for fear that by putting down a spoon for 10 seconds to turn a page, a waiter will descend and grab your plate away from you. This morning I lost some yoghurt, some Rice Krispies (I’m a sucker for them, still) and a half-glass of grapefruit juice because I wasn’t quick enough.

This is a solution-oriented blog, so here are my solutions:

  • The buffet toaster: Toasters need serious work by technology companies. Even the kitchen toaster could do with a makeover. But in the meantime, hotels should have one of the over-eager waiters cut fresh bread on request and toast it for guests. Either that, or small kitchen-style toasters should be installed around the restaurant so guests can more easily identify which is their toast, and don’t have to walk halfway across the restaurant to retrieve it.
  • The hovering waiter: Don’t clear away anything until the end of the meal, or until a guest puts the plates, cups or whatever right at the edge of the table. Don’t refill coffee cups unless the guest asks for it. A good waiter should be invisible but available, hovering at the corner of a guest’s eye. To counteract these dawn-raids, guests should get T-shirts made with the logo ‘Don’t take away my plates until I ask you to. I’m trying to have breakfast, not a heart attack’.  I’m thinking of having some made up. Anyone want to order one?