December 05, 2004

The Unbearable Crappiness of Burger King

The lowlights of an otherwise remarkably fine weekend were two trips, lunchtimes Saturday and Sunday, with the six year old to Burger King. The attraction, of course, were the SpongeBob Squarepants promotional items that Burger King advertises on just about every cartoon and kids' show. So off we went, in search of SpongeBob watches and SpongeBob kid-meal trinkets, Saturday with a friend of his tagging along and Sunday with just the two of us. It turned out that neither Burger King we visited had any SpongeBob items; on both occasions we were informed of this in a rather surly manner, verging on rude. Note to employees: Yes, this isn't your fault, and I understand that being asked the same idiotic question two or three hundred times a day must be tedious, but maybe you could point out to your manager that customers would be less likely to ask about the availability of SpongeBob items if posters advertising them didn't hang all over the store, or if you added a simple "sold out" or "no longer available" sign over the display case that still showed the toys.

My son recalled that last summer, when my wife made a special trip to a Burger King for cheap plastic lucre, in this case Yugi-Oh toys, they were out of them (and this was at a Burger King in Delaware). His friend had his own share of bad Burger King experiences. By contrast, I can't ever remember McDonalds not having a toy, and I can even recall one McDonalds crew that gave my son two leftover Stretch Screamer Halloween promos with his happy meal after that offer expired -- he didn't remember that until I reminded him of it, but, since he still has both screamers (a mummy and a creature from the black lagoon), he was inclined to view McDonalds even more favorably.

I am by no means a marketing expert -- I don't have the instincts for it -- but I can't imagine that it makes good business sense for a chain to direct a high profile campaign at kids only to disappoint them when they walk through the doors. As much as I might have like to buy a SpongeBob watch, I can well understand that they might have sold out. But the movie's been in theaters for all of three weeks, and already, it seems, the two Burger Kings we visited are out of the kid toys. (I may be overgeneralizing here, but had I driven around all afternoon checking other Burger Kings to verify my suspicion that the promotion is, as a practical matter, over, that would have been just as obsessive as driving around on the off chance we'd find one that still offered the ubiquitously advertised promo items.) In any case, I think Burger King can count on having lost at least one customer for good over this.

(By the way, apologies to Kundera).

Posted by Ideofact at December 5, 2004 10:59 PM