Thursday, April 9, 2009

Random Bits: Bread Crumbs and Chicken Chow Mein

Pet Peeve Alert! Frying my synapses lately is the annoying trend for grocery store clerks to hold up the flow of checkout traffic by giving a time consuming, pre-rehearsed spiel that they perform for each and every customer who comes through their line.

For example, yesterday at Alberstons, the girl handed me my receipt and breathlessly announced something like, "Okay sir if you can go ahead and look at your receipt you'll see you can earn a free loaf of bread if you go online and fill out our brief customer service survey and be sure to answer the first question because it's the most important question because it asks you what you thought about your customer service experience here today and we would sure appreciate a good response from you so just go ahead and go to this web address printed right on your receipt and do the survey and we'd sure appreciate it, okay?"

Whew! I couldn't help but feel sorry for the clerk having to say that whole thing over and over again all day long. Actually, being a telemarketer, I can sorta relate. Of course I had to make a pissy comment on this when I filled out the survey later, writing that the service was fine however my experience would have been slightly better had I not been forced to spend the afternoon listening to a survey solicitation by an already overworked employee, thereby making me late for my appointment with Judge Judy and Chester Cheetah.

Even more disdainful are the checkout aisle charity drives. There's always a photo of some adorable sick child handy. "Would you care to donate a dollar today so that (fill in the charity) can help cure poor little Tommy's tragic case of (fill in the disease)." Now, I'm not totally black hearted and/or cheap. "Yes, of course. Poor Tommy" I said for awhile, I mean it's just a measly dollar, right? I still will donate a buck now and then if I can. Problem is, if it's right before payday and I've got $5 to my name for groceries, I'm not gonna share with poor Tommy. I sometimes drop in the grocery store once a day and I if I donated every time, eventually poor Tommy will have more money than I do, and I'll be in the poorhouse.

"No, not today." The first time I said it I could feel the bitch glares from the people behind me in line. "What a cheap asshole," they were probably thinking. "I mean...poor Tommy!" Still, it felt liberating to say no. At Safeway, they at least spare you the public humiliation by asking shoppers to donate while processing a credit or debit card. Just hit the "no" button with that unwieldy black stylus and it's "Sorry, Tommy. Getcha next time. Maybe."

Tapas. Seems like only last summer it was all the rage. Wait, it was only last summer that it was all the rage. The trend appears to be waning, if the closure of short-lived Tapas place "Le Piastre" at 5th and Sherman is any indication. I'm thinking there just wasn't enough support from the meat-and-potatoes local crowd during an especially rough winter. I can't speak for the food itself since I never did make it in to check the pace out, but I'd heard from those who had been that it was OK but overpriced.

Bistro on Spruce didn't get the memo that Tapas is so like, nine months ago and maybe that's a good thing because they seem to be doing it right. They've introduced a new
menu of "little plates" that are appetizing, adventurous and affordable and they even appeal to those of us whose idea of gourmet is putting a swipe of Grey Poupon on a chili cheese dog.

Bistro on Spruce Tapas Info (click to enlarge):

Last month the CDA Press/North Idaho Business Journal came out with it's annual "Best Of" awards for 2009. Supposedly this is voted on by their readers (all 114 of them), but by the number of entities and associates in top spots that happen to fall under the Hagadone corporate umbrella, I'm a wee bit wary of the validity of some categories. Still, it is quaint; kind of a fun read and naturally, I have a few stray thoughts and catty comments:

Best Burger
(1) ARBC Catering
(2) Hudson’s Hamburger

Uh, who?? Ah yes, it's that kooky guy in the blue and yellow truck that I read a bizarre article about about in the CDA Press a few weeks ago. How could I forget; he named his trademark burgers in honor of his two children who died of miscarriages. How's that for appetizing? To top Hudson's in a Coeur d'Alene poll, he must be doing something dramatically fantastic. I've yet to encounter his rig in person but from what I hear he only stops at a handful of workplaces and offices around town, so if you can catch him, you're lucky. I'm going to make it my new mission to track him down so I can try one of these infamous angel-baby burgers..

Best Seafood
(1) Red Lobster
(2) Fisherman’s Market
(3) Cedar’s Floating Restaurant

For reals? Sorry, Red Lobster is straight up nasty, except for those yummy rolls with cheese and onions all up inside 'em. Mmm. Fisherman's Market kicks their corporate booty any old day.

Best Chinese
(1) Bonsai Bistro
(2) Golden Dragon

I really don't get this one. There's little to love about the "Pan-Asian" bland-ola fare at Bonsai Bistro. Also very coincidental that a certain Mr. H owns both this restaurant and this Business Journal, eh? Golden Dragon is closer to a regular Chinese joint, but the Appleway dive doesn't really make me want to scream Hosannas and Hallelujahs either. I'd have thought that 2008 winner Chinese Gardens would have been a shoo-in this year as well what with the new remodel and a much improved menu.

(1) Syringa Sushi
(2) Bonsai Bistro

Best Asian
(1) Bonsai Bistro
(2) Thai Bamboo

Three separate categories for Chinese, Asian, and Sushi and somehow Blasé Bistro scores high on each one? Hmmm. Syringa and Thai Bamboo deserve the love, but where's Takara? Pho Thanh? Any local sushi face knows that Travis Whiteside at the Fisherman's Market is king of the scene, hands down.

Best Breakfast
(1) Michael D’s Eatery
(2) Breakfast Nook

This one is exactly correct, actually.

Best Dance Club
Shore Lounge

Best Karaoke Bar
Shore Lounge

Not even any runners up? The Shore Lounge has the fugliest decor and spendiest, weakest drinks in town. Nothing against Tequila Leah, who runs the Karaoke down at the Shore, but there are SO many other places where karaoke is wild and weird, like the Corner Bar with Marj, or even Mik-n-Mac's. Shore Lounge karaoke night can be crowded, but it's about as rowdy as a school board meeting. Also, referring to the 80's cover bands they hire for the weekends as "Dance music" is stretching it a bit when compared to other local places that have actual Club DJs. Hmm, another Hagadone place...interesting isn't it?

Best Book Store
(1) Borders
(2) Hastings

I'm way more of a Hastings kid than a Borders kid. I still hang there for hours and hours, sitting in the comfy chairs looking at art books or reading magazines. I worked at the Spokane Valley Hastings in my early 20's and was fired for a very silly reason, but I got over my bitterness years ago. Hastings is way cheaper than Borders, plus they carry used books and have incredible clearance deals, a decent selection of vinyl and oddball novelties like blow-up toast and Octomom dolls. I still miss George Nolan's book store; life really hasn't been the same without it.

Best Music Store
(1) Long Ear
(2) Hastings

“We have sassy customer service,which brings people back,” Long Ear employee Danielle Combs is quoted as saying in the accompanying article. Truth. Having switched to mp3s ages ago, I never buy CDs at all anymore. I do go to dig through the vinyl rack or pick up some incense there now and then, but mainly I stop in for the "vibe", that casual friendliness that's been the norm at the Long Ear since I was 10 years old and Terry and Deon were just a couple of lovable old hippies with a mission to bring cool music to North Idaho. Mission definitely accomplished.

Best Candy Store
Wild Idaho Chocolate

Clearly, this honor belongs to Hermine's Old World Confections, the little German candy store I wrote about a few weeks ago. Wild Idaho Chocolate doesn't even exist anymore, thankfully. They used to be located next to Hermine's shop and terrorized her because they didn't like the competition. They relocated to the ghost-townish Resort Plaza shops last year and quickly suffered the curse that leads so many in that mall down the path of doom. Serves 'em right for messing with my homegirl.

If I don't advertise my birthday, who else who will? Tomorrow, April 11, is the big day and I'll be older than Miley Cyrus but younger than Carol Channing. Somewhere in there. I'm excited because my mother is taking me out to Grumpy's, Joe Chapman's new place which I've yet to visit. I heard the menu is the same as the old Henry's menu, so I'm hoping for the chicken salad with the wagon wheel pasta or that gorgeous seafood fettuccine I used to love like a brotha.

We did a little pre-birthday shindig for Karaoke at Mik-n-Mac's on Tuesday and it was a blast! Q. decorated the place all up in a pink flamingo theme and he made everyone wear a pink shirt. Everyone bought me so many little drinkies, I didn't have to spend a dime and I left SO tipsy (with a sober driver, of course). Billy made pink frosted cupcakes which didn't really have a given flavor per se but definitely tasted "pink". Christa, the best bartender in C-town, even made up a new cocktail called the "Pink Flamingo" to go with the theme.


Christy Woolum said...

We tried the CdA Thai Bamboo and weren't disappointed. I loved your review and agreed 100%. I was fascinated with sky with the changing colors.

Huckleberries Online said...

Question: Do you get annoyed when grocery clerks ask you to contribute a dollar to this cause or that one?
10 comments on this post so far. Add yours!


Liz on April 11 at 1:50 a.m.

or what if it is a cause you don't fully support??? Just recently I said “no” when I purchased some soccer cleats for the boy at Big 5. I don't fully embrace the MO of the March of Dimes so I would rather donate elsewhere. The checker said “maybe next time then” when I declined the offer. GRrrrr

I also bought daughter a betta and the paraphenalia to go with it at Petco. One could also donate to the Humane Society. Again, I have some philosophical disagreements with the KHS so I would rather just send my $$$ elsewhere. But then you have this clerk looking at you like maybe you are just cheap or something.

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Bree on April 11 at 7:39 a.m.

No. They're just doing what they're told to do. It's part of the job. They probably don't even like having to ask.

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marmitetoasty on April 11 at 8:19 a.m.

Cant say Ive ever come across that over here in our shops…. the scouts do a 'bag pack' once a year… and of course I always give to that cos I let them pack the whole lot :) and wind them up….. but, I have found I only give to our scout group and not the others that do it at other times lol….. oh well, charity begins at home right?


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danj on April 11 at 8:36 a.m.

:it absolutely frosts me. I'm not agravated at the clerk but the store that promotes it. I want to say something but don't want to sound cheap or petty so I usually just pony up. Which is what they count on no doubt. It's poor policy though and shouldn't be condoned. (it's nice to know I'm not the only one. I thought I was just me….whew.)

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JBelle on April 11 at 8:57 a.m.

Avista's Project Share is the one that makes me mad. As I see it, they are just getting the public to write down their bad debt. If they are so empathetic about people's unpaid utility bills, why don't they just write them off?

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jazzyvandal on April 11 at 9:22 a.m.

It doesn't bug me too much. I usually just donate a dollar.

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Escapee on April 11 at 9:07 p.m.

This isn't a big issue for me. Whether it be buddy poppies or white canes or Salvation Army kettles or MS or anything else, I give when I can and no, the checkstand stuff doesn't bother me. I think folks understand more than ever these days if someone can't contribute…

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Steve Sibulsky on April 11 at 10:45 p.m.

now at Safeway, the “would you like to donate a dollar…” is built into the credit card machine!!!

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M on April 12 at 10:47 a.m.

Hmm, Why be angry?
If someone is in need of help - they should ask for it.
Simply say no if you choose not to, or cant.
There's no harm in asking.

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Cabbage Boy on April 13 at 8:06 a.m.

I am with JBelle on this. Avista's charity mongering drives me crazy. Donate through them so they can advertise how much money “they” gave to the poor. No thanks.

As far as the check-out charity, I am cold-hearted and can say no quicker than most anyone. Kids selling crap at the door? Nope. Solicitations as I leave the store? Don't think so. I am always polite, but very brief, not wasting their time or mine.

We donate plenty, but it isn't to those who clamor the loudest or get the best locations.

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