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Bluff The Listener

Friday, July 11, 2014

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Our panelists tell three stories of promotions gone wrong, only one of which is true.


BILL KURTIS, BYLINE: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT ...DON'T TELL ME, the NPR News quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis.


KURTIS: We're playing this week with Tom Bodett, Paula Poundstone and Brian Babylon. And here again is your host. At Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado, Peter Sagal.



Thank you, Bill. Right now it is time for the WAIT WAIT ...DON'T TELL ME, Bluff The Listener game. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to play our game on the air. Hi, you're on WAIT WAIT ...DON'T TELL ME.


SAGAL: Hi, who's this?

KOENIGSBERG: This is Andy Koenigsberg from Westborough, Massachusetts.

SAGAL: Westborough, Massachusetts.



SAGAL: How are things there?

KOENIGSBERG: Things are wonderful here. We finally have summer.

SAGAL: Summer? What are you going to do with your summer there in Westborough, Massachusetts?

KOENIGSBERG: Unfortunately, work.

SAGAL: Oh. Well, welcome to the show, Andy. It's nice to have you with us. You're going to play the game in which you must have to tell truth from fiction. Bill, what is the topic?

KURTIS: By one, get two free.

SAGAL: From Olive Garden's bottomless salad bowls to NPR's fantasy trips to our Mexico City bureau, every company knows promotions are the way to attract customers. But this week, we read a story about a promotional campaign gone terribly wrong. Our panelists are going to tell you about it. Guess the true story, and you'll win scorekeeper emeritus Carl Kasell's voice on your home answering machine or voicemail. Ready to play?


SAGAL: All right. First let's hear from Tom Bodett.

TOM BODETT: Home Cookery, a fresh and local restaurant in Palmyra, Vermont, specializes in serving only locally-sourced vegetables and proteins. But in Vermont, where you can throw your hemp, co-op tote bag from one farm to the next and backyard chicken coops are as common as kale fritters, the fresh and local brand is losing its luster. So Home Cookery owners Jason and Audra Allwine (ph) decided to up the game with a weekend special, BYOKYO chicken fry. People were invited to bring their own live chickens in and have them slaughtered and served by the kitchen staff. Or, for that true farm experience, they could kill the birds themselves.


BODETT: And that's where the head came off the chicken, so to speak - or nearly off - along with at least two people fingers over the course of the long weekend. Hesitant, amateur butchers mutilated not only themselves, but sent un-dispatched main courses running amok around the kitchen and even out into the dining room. People reacted as you'd expect, barfing up their entrees and stampeding into the charcoal grill, which burned the Cookery down to its stone foundation.


BODETT: Chickens are surprisingly hard to kill, said disappointed diner Helen O'Donnell (ph). In hindsight, I should have ordered the caesar.


SAGAL: A KYOC, Kill Your Own Chicken promotion, goes wrong. Your next story of a promotion that needs a demotion comes from Brian Babylon.

BRIAN BABYLON: It seemed like a nice gesture - handing out free, promotional ponchos to fans at Chicago White Sox games. And those ponchos with hoods would not have been a problem if it hadn't rained. But the rain started, and the hoods came up - the pointed, white hoods. You can't blame the fans. They couldn't have seen what they'd look like. They couldn't have possibly known what a crowd of people, identically in white robes and pointed hoods, would look like to people at home watching the game on TV...


BABYLON: Until it was the next day, when photos went viral on the Internet, that White Sox marketing department realized that they had made a terrible mistake. It was free poncho night, not Klan rally night.


BABYLON: It was so bad that former Clipper owner Donald Sterling immediately put a bid to buy the White Sox.


BABYLON: This was the worst promotion since the ill-advised, Parkinson's awareness, baseball bobble heads of 2012.


SAGAL: A promotion by giving away white rain ponchos turns into a Klan rally look-alike at a White Sox game. Your last story of a freebie gone wrong comes from Paula Poundstone.

PAULA POUNDSTONE: Sometimes you feel like a nut; sometimes you don't, was a clever ad campaign for Mounds and Almond Joy candy bars. But revived as a tie-in with the National Mental Health Association, it has stirred a bit of controversy. The wrapper on Almond Joy and Mounds candy bars now bears the 1-800 number for the National Mental Health Association, with the words, reach out for help when you feel like a nut, and a half-off fee offer for new patients' first therapy appointments with 10 proof-of-purchase seals from Almond Joy. Not everyone is finding it a winning campaign. It's totally inappropriate, says Dr. Fayroop (ph) of the National Alliance on Mental Health, in a meeting with Dr. James Dusenberry (ph) of the Mental Health Association. Individuals with mental health problems are suffering. Their friends and families are suffering. The last thing sufferers need is the additional complications of the weight gain caused by trying to eat their way to a discount therapy session with a glib, predatory member of the mental health care profession. I hear what you are saying, Dr. Dusenberry responded, and I'm wondering what's behind that.


SAGAL: Let's summarize your choices.


SAGAL: So somebody tried to attract customers, and it didn't quite work out. Was it from Tom Bodett, a restaurant in Vermont that invited customers to bring and kill their own chickens turned out harder than it looked?


SAGAL: From Brian Babylon, a promotion at a White Sox game where they handed out white ponchos with little pointy hoods that made it look like a very different kind of event.


SAGAL: Or, from Paula Poundstone, the sometimes you feel like a nut; sometimes you don't promotion - tried to leverage that for public good. It didn't work out. Which of these is the real story of a promotion gone wrong?



KOENIGSBERG: I think I'm going to go with the crowd, here, and go with Brian.

SAGAL: You're going to go with Brian's story?


SAGAL: Well, Brian's story, of course, of the promotion at White Sox - Sox Park, we like to call it, where they gave out white hoods. Well, to find out the correct answer, we spoke to a reporter who covered the real story.

PAUL LUKAS: They were these white, plastic, rain, slip-on ponchos with these pointed hoods on the top. And it kind of looked like a Klan rally at the ballpark.

SAGAL: That was Paul Lukas from ESPN talking, of course, about the misplaced, white hoods. Meant well - they meant well at Sox Park. They didn't look all that right. Congratulations, you picked the right story. It was Brian's, of course. You've earned a point for Brian. And, of course, you've won our prize - Carl Kasell's voice on whatever device you want to record it on. Well done, sir. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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