Monday, March 16, 2009

From - The Five Paragraph Bitter Food Critic is Scared Amongst the Bargains


Bottom Dollar.gif

A decade ago, I dated a woman who worked as a grocery store consultant. She specialized in creating traffic flow through product layout and visual displays. I practically grew up in the grocery store my grandmother owned south of Annapolis, stocking the shelves for pocket money as a child, and managing inventory and the finances as an adult when her health faded. I thought I knew a lot about the grocery business, but I got a crash course in Grocery Store 101 from this consultant. Ever noticed how in the produce section uses lots of wood paneling and angled shelves? That's to give the customer the idea that the fruits and vegetables are "fresh from the farm," like they had been packed and shipped that very day. Colorful apples and oranges always get a prime location because they're eye-catching, while the lowly brown potato is regulated to back-of-the-aisle status. The meat section is the same way - higher-priced red meat is displayed prominently in front near the butcher's department, while lower-priced and less-colorful chicken is placed down the row 20 feet away. Seafood often gets its own corner section, as the mark-up on fresh fish and local crab meat is too much of a profit driver to just place haphazardly in the store. These little Jedi mind tricks are part of the subtle ways grocery chains subliminally herd you through the store. The consultant stressed the importance of initial visual impact - to make the store look appealing as soon as you walk in the door. High-end retailers like Harris-Teeter and Wegmans show either their incredibly sumptuous prepared-foods section or their diverse produce section right up front. Whole Foods and Trader Joe's can lead off with their wholesome baked goods or some special exotic food. Lots of new and refurbished Giants and Safeways entice customers with Starbucks locations as you enter. Newer locations of Shoppers like to start off with a large, colorful display of deeply-discounted products, thus proving to their value to the customer.

Then, there's Bottom Dollar Food. They don't have time for all that noise. They just leave a big ole' mess of cardboard right up front. See, Bottom Dollar is all about saving the consumer as much money as possible, so you can either pay a couple of cents for grocery bags, or use the free cardboard boxes. Sturdy boxes used to ship bottled water go quickly, while the small squares used to transport salt shakers are left to wallow. Some of the Bottom Dollar faithful bring their own. Either way, the boxes come in handy to haul away some pretty good deals. Prices are generally quite low - 2 liters of soda are half the price than the neighboring Giant. Fresh meats are about 15% per pound cheaper than their competitors. Produce is about 20% cheaper than the nearby Safeway.

Bottom Dollar is part of the Food Lion family, just like Bloom, which I reviewed in 2007. Unlike Bloom, Bottom Dollar doesn't try to hide its association with the parent company. They proudly sell Food Lion products as the generic options to the big brand names. Also, they don't have near the product diversity or the dutifully restocked shelves like Bloom. It's somewhat strange to see relatively thin inventories in an American grocery store, but that's the case at Bottom Dollar. You won't feel crowded or overwhelmed by the selection. Still, I got a large box of Honey Comb for $2.56 and a pound of frozen Alaskan pollack for $1.99 - about 33% cheaper than other stores.

However, I doubt I'll make regular trips to Bottom Dollar, and it has nothing to do with the products or the prices. It's the attitude. It breeds weirdness. The store is somewhat overly-lit, and their love of day-glo orange and green paint conjures up memories of the washed-out 1970s, and not the fun, coked-out 1970s, either, but of ugly station wagons with wood paneling. There's no background music playing, either - at least, not in any of my trips there so far - and there's something eerie about an almost silent grocery store. It's like the Centralia of shopping.

And, much like the few folks who remain in Centralia, frankly, the natives freak me out. This weekend, a married couple shopped with a Nextel dangling from a lanyard around the wife's neck, pulling double duty as a necklace and a phone. Their conversation with an offspring echoed and chirped throughout the frozen food aisle. And, while I'm thinking of it ...

Hey, Sprint, you want to know why you're taking a beating in the cell phone market? Because you purchased Nextel - THE MOST OBNOXIOUS CELL PHONE EVER! Nextels were cool for like a hot minute in 2000. Those "What if...?" commercials where firefighters run Congress and the delivery people run schools with their Nextels are only slightly less annoying than the new Comcast commercials with the weird monotone singing, bad acid flashback graphics and "The Sims"-like background. And, while I'm thinking of it - Hey, Comcast, I'm glad to see the outrageous amount of money I paid for basic digital cable and internet access for three years went to a good cause, like making THE MOST OBNOXIOUS CABLE COMMERCIAL EVER. I am now a proud FiOS customer, and I pay a lot less to have HD channels *included*, better channel selection, plus much faster internet access, and a lot more reliable service. For the record, the FiOS Guy/Cable Guy commercials are kind of funny. Learn from them, Comcast. Entertain potential customers, not make them think they drank tainted Flavor-Aid.

...sorry, I blacked out there for a second. Anyway, another customer, a man in his mid-50s, I suppose, was buying individual servings of frozen yogurt. Nothing odd about that normally, except this man was buying *A LOT* of yogurt. Like, an entire shelf of it. Like, even Jamie Lee Curtis couldn't eat that much yogurt. I estimated about 50 cups in his grocery cart as I walked past, and I watched him pull another 30 or so cups before the Nextel-couple asked him what he was going to do with all that yogurt. His reply was hardly as sinister as I hoped - "it's good for you!" - and yes, indeed he did intend to eat all that yogurt. The Nextel husband commented later to me in the checkout line that this stuff happens all the time at "Bottom Loser." Much like The Replacements, ironically, I can't hardly wait.

Bottom Dollar Foods gets 20 Whammies! out of a possible 25. I saved nearly 25% on my grocery bill at Bottom Dollar as opposed to similar trips to Safeway or Harris Teeter. However, I subtracted 2 Whammies! for the freaky Nextel couple, 1 Whammy! for the freaky yogurt guy, and two Whammies! for making me forage through the cardboard box dump to cart off my purchases. Shoppers used to do the same thing until they realized how ghetto that made them look. Take heed, Bottom Dollar...but, man, I do love cheap Honey Comb.

Bottom Dollar Foods
13 locations between Frederick and Fredericksburg.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Amish Rave Four Play Keepers

ROCKVILLE (UPI) - In what has become the annual highlight of owner Raymond Bradley's fantasy baseball season, his team, the Amish Rave Four Play, have announced the coaching staff for their 2009 season.

"For years, I have stepped up to the dais and announced the names of the men who will lead this team - my team - to fantasy glory," began Bradley. "Notice the key word in that sentence. 'Men.' I have yet to have any shred of success in getting men to run my team."

"This year, I have decided we don't need men running the Amish Rave," said Bradley. We need stars. PORN STARS to be exact!"

At that point, the curtain behind Bradley was opened to reveal a bunch of exceedingly naked people, many of them surgically enhanced to look almost buoyant.

"That's right, America, I'm bring porn back into the mainstream, and what's more mainstream than baseball?" Bradley asked.

One member of the press spoke up and answered "Um, our country's military heroes?"

"That was a rhetorical question, you yak-breeder," Bradley replied. "There's nothing more American than baseball other than porn! We make more porn in the US by 9 AM than most countries do ALL DAY! And all sorts of porn, too, from bored married couples looking to spice things up in the bedroom after 15 years of unsatisfying missionary position sex; from big-budget productions taking place on soundstages with all sorts of unnecessary plot, dialog and costumes; to back-alley sex dungeons in New York offering free streaming web cams of S&M sessions; to naive college girls on Spring Break and the horny 30 year old men who trick them into thinking that showing their boobs for "Girls Gone Wild" is "empowering to women"; to those Iowan strippers in seedy clubs outside of Council Bluffs looking to score a couple of extra bucks with a passing truck driver; from beach bunnies in Miami Beach who enjoy rubbing their firm and possibly-fake breasts on other beach bunnies from Miami Beach and the men who take pictures of them with their camera phones; to all the women who have bought double-headed dildos, video cameras, and who have a dream; and to all the scores of pretty but untalented wanna-be actresses in Southern California who give better anal than they do auditions and who really, REALLY need the rent money and didn't have a fall-back plan; I salute them all!" extolled Bradley, his voice strong, and, in this author's opinion, almost Obama-like in his diction, eloquence and mannerism.

Another member of the press corps, a large, muscular, tanned men who refused to be identified as anything other than "Arod from the New York Yank...I mean Post," asked "Mr. Bradley, I noticed during your speech that at no time did you mention any homosexual men, perhaps the largest audience of porn and a potentially big demographic for your team. How do you respond?"

Bradley calmly put his hands over his ears, and said "blah blah blah blah I can't hear you gay porn ewwwww blah blah blah."

The eloquence had left the building.

Bradley continued with his announcement, as two of the surgically-enhanced women behind him began to grind seductively against each other, causing visible anxiety amongst the members of the press who had gathered at the White Flint Mall for this announcement, except, amazingly, the man known as "Arod."

"This year's coaching staff needs really a minimal introduction. To my right, you've seen him in pornos since the 1970s, and wondered if an ugly, hairy bastard like that can get laid, surely I can too, the Amish Rave Four Play's hitting coach, Ron "the Hedgehog" Jeremy!" exclaimed Bradley, to a smattering of claps and a rousing round of applause from Mr. Arod.

Jeremy took the dais and said "I know *I* can suck myself off; I've now got to teach the Rave *NOT* to suck!"

Bradley went back to the dais, and sprayed the microphone down with Lysol and a Handi-Wipe, and continued with the press conference.

"Our strength and conditioning coach is a legend in the porn world. He too has been banging the hell outta sluts since the golden age of smut, but, has stayed in such incredible shape that he's a natural for the Amish Rave, Mr. Peter North!" said Bradley, again to a bit more clapping and a positively embarrassing display of whooping and hollering from Mr. Arod.

"Thank you for this opportunity," said North. "Do any of you know the muscle discipline it takes to do a reverse pile-driver into the gaping anus of a 19 year old girl from El Segundo? No? I do, and, it's a lot. I hope I can pass on this knowledge to the Amish Rave."

Bradley then went to shake North's hand, but found it to be gooey, and passed on the attempt. Bradley then said that he "...initially approached Jeff Stryker to see if he wanted a position on this team..." but was interrupted when Mr. Arod started cheering in Spanish and waved his shirt around like a drunk coal miner spun a Terrible Towel after the Pittsburgh Steelers got some complete B.S. calls against the Ravens in the NFL in 2008, but, this author digresses.

Bradley then completed his sentence "but the only position he wanted on this team was a sixty-nine!!!" which, at that point, made Mr. Arod ejaculate, and not in the old-fashioned nineteenth century version of the word, meaning "to exclaim," but in the 8th grade health class version of the word, meaning "to blow choad all over the poor dude in front of him." Yes, Arod came all over the back of another member of the press corps at mere mention of bisexual porn star Jeff Stryker. I want you all to think about that.

After a fifteen minute delay as the Rave's groundscrew cleaned up Arod's baby batter from the floor around him, Arod went outside to smoke a clove cigarette, and the guy in front of Arod who took the lion's share of the load to the back of the head went to the locker room to take a shower and ask himself questions, alone, in the shower stall, Bradley continued the press conference.

"Our bullpen is either a source of pain or of joy, depending on the season," said Bradley. "Often, the Rave's bullpen pitchers are not ready to come into the games like they should be, and really drive it home. So, our bullpen coach in 2009 is former Vivid Video fluffer and porn star in her own right, Mary Carey!"

Mary Carey approached the microphone, and promptly swallowed it, which drew many cheers and gasps from the audience.

Mr. Arod booed, for the record.

Without a microphone, the press conference looked lost, but thanks to the quick thinking of Peter North and Ron Jeremy, they immediately gave Ms. Carey a modified version of the Heimlich Maneuver, this one without pants and utilizing a lot more penetration than customary. Within minutes, Mary Carey had faked two orgasms and coughed up the microphone.

"As many of you know, the hard part - heh, I said 'hard' - with this team each year is coming up with a good coach and general manager combination. Few combinations had the panache, the joie de vie, the je nais sais quoi, the deja vu, the comme si, comme ca, the voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir and other assorted French phrases like Wade Boggs and John Kruk did during their time with the Rave. So this year, I was really looking to recapture that chemistry. I thought Weird Al was going to bring it for me a couple of years ago. And those other guys who I can't recall....they didn't work out too well either. I went for a couple who I thought extolled grace, the spirit of fun, and the complete lack of sobriety needed to run the Rave. This years' General Manager is the star of suck films - heh, I said 'suck' - I mean, SUCH films as "Cum Buckets! 3" and "Grand Theft Anal 9" Miss Jenna Haze!"

Ms. Haze approached the dais to much cheering and whistling from the press corps, shaking her hips from side to side, clad in a Catholic school girl's uniform with fishnets, a garter belt and a set of handcuffs. Once again, the only man not applauding was Mr. Arod, who was buried in his Blackberry, texting to somebody listed as "M.Donna." Ms. Haze took the Mary Carey-soaked microphone in her hands, and started to slowly lick the shaft.

"I want to make the Rave the hardest team to beat in the league!" exclaimed Jenna as she smacked the microphone against the side of her face.

Bradley reapproached the podium, and slipped Ms. Haze his cell phone number, saying something about "any late night personnel decisions."

"The manager this year is former hardcore star and current mistress and fetish queen Taylor St. Clair. She's got the experience and dominant personality this team needs," explained Bradley.

Taylor took the stage wearing more leather than a biker bar in Sturgis and showing more tit than the San Diego Chargers' cheerleaders.

"We will WIN or I will WHIP THEM!" said St. Clair forcefully. She smacked her whip against the podium, turned around, and gave Bradley a quick squeeze on the butt. She whispered "thanks for the job" into his ear.

At that point, Mr. Bradley called over his groundscrew to clean up around him. Bradley stammered out "Press conference is about to be over. Um, Ms. Haze, can you announce our keepers this year for me?" Bradley asked while trying to hide a massive erection.

Jenna said "OK, here's who we want...badly."

Josh Ham-in-my-ill-tush
Cunter Penis
Chris Ian-my-enda
Dan Uggly
Shane Victor-in-ho
Daisuke Matsuzaka sounds dirty enough on its own
Brandon Webb - too good to mess with
Ty Wigginin-my-bum
Troy Tulowitzkitty
Brandon Morrow-yer-junk-in-my-butt

and possibly David Labia Murphy in case anybody gets hurt.