Living in Commercial World, and I am NOT a Commercial Girl
GLOB Content Editor Lynn Dirk writes Table Scraps, an occasional column featuring compostable food for thought, scrap mettle for possible salvage, and crisp pieces of rendered thoughts, USUALLY related to restaurants and food.
I absolutely hate commercialism. I could not live in a time where there were no remotes to mute commercials. I do not understand people who love TV commercials as much as or more than TV shows. I do realize, however, that commercialism, like sports, pays for things that have real value, like education and the web. Nevertheless, I cannot stop myself from ranting when I see rampant commercialism. So, I have to rant about Zoe's Kitchen website. The food itself, however, had some unique aspects that I liked very much (see the food review here).
Borrowing from motion sickness, I actually got dizzy at ZK's website from what I will call "web sickness" – from all the info and links whizzing into my eyes and brain. In fact you could say it is a-maze-ing – and not in a good way. While amazement can have a positive connotation, it can also be negative in a more literal sense relating to a labyrinth: "to stupefy or confuse", and that is probably a result of having "conflicting elements", for example, there are all kinds of friendly social media messages, as if it is your best friend rather than business.
The first, thing I learned from the Locations page is that Zoe's is a restaurant chain, primarily in the southeast but spreading north and west. Then I looked for Zoe's 'About' page; I really enjoy About pages that have information on the history and owners of organizations and businesses, but I could not find an About page. Instead I notice at the very bottom of the Location page, next to Contact Us, "Real Estate," so I clicked on that. At Real Estate, I saw, as a business, Zoe's Kitchen is not fooling around. They have a formula that they think equals success, one of the requirements being "20,000 minimum traffic count on street in front of store, non intersection, both ways." At this point, my anticommercialism hackles were raised, but I could also see this as efficiency, so I moved on and attempted to keep my bias in check.
At the top of Zoe's web page, I see a 'Live Mediterranean' tab, and decide to give that a try. At the Live Mediterranean page, there's links to EAT, COOK, CONNECT, LIVE sections further down the page. All kinds of healthy advice is sprinkled with a social media pop up floating along to LIKE. There is indeed some useful info there, including a link to a Mediterranean Diet Shopping List. NOTE: Nowhere on that list did I see meat, which is a prime ingredient in many of of ZK's menu items. I was also thinking that they might use cold cuts, which are definitely not healthy, but on closer look, it seemed like maybe not. Further investigation warranted . . .
When I see the helpful information, though, my guard lowers, and then I realize the logo at the top of the page, Zoe's Kitchen, is also a link and I click on it. That leads me to Zoe's Kitchen App. At this point, I'm continuing to soften up because there's a section for "Life Goals," one of which is 'Take Cans to a Food Shelter'. How can I NOT be supportive of that?
But then my hackles were raised again when I saw a link to a Zoe's Kitchen app that goes to 'Relevant Customized Mobile Loyalty' page, where "Building Apps ... Build Your Company." As Mr. Spock would say: "Fascinating!" Is this the future of advertising?
Then I see a tab/web link that says 'Fresh Takes' where, below a video (which I did not watch), you click on ANOTHER link for ideas for a weekly meal plan, which starts out with a picture of "Sarah Jane" followed by a long, homey narrative leading up to a week of menus that starts with: "Day 1-- Dinner for Four from Zoes."
What I see here is an attempt to seamlessly mesh social consciousness with commercialism. How can that be bad? Only if it's a wolf in sheeps clothing, that is, the social consciousness is half-hearted and the commercialism is . . . obvious? Well, if there's going to be commercialism, I guess it's better that it be obvious than hidden and deceptive. So I have to give points to ZK for being blatant -- I say blatant rather than honest because . . . I just don't trust commercials. Hmm, why is that? Because I think a product should be good enough to sell itself and not resort to exaggeration, deception, and extremely loud volume, OR extremely convoluted messaging for that matter.
Another aspect of commercialism that bothers me is how people BUY T-shirts and other products that proudly advertise a brand. Shouldn't the company being PAYING those people for serving, essentially, as billboards? On the other hand, if I like a product, I am happy to let people know about it. I proudly wear my Cinema Verde or Save the Suwannee T-shirts, not to mention my UF alumni T. Am I a hypocrite? EEK.
It's just very difficult to support businesses and, thus, their commercial messages, with the incidents of corporate deception that have accumulated over the years:
Tobacco - I HIGHLY recommend the movie The Insider. True story of a couple of real American heroes, including one of the founders of 60 Minutes, and what it takes to get to the truth when an organizations has a lot to lose.
Oil, as in BP - BP touts all the money it is giving for recovery from the Gulf spill, and I think "Why didn't BP just spend that money on prevention???"
Fracking - Thinkaboutit.org talks all about the benefits of fracking but says absolutely nothing about the risks to water quality. Once you know how fracking is done, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand that there ARE risks.
BUT there is always hope things will improve -- after all, people CAN learn from mistakes.
EPILOGUE: A few days after I first drafted this rant, I went back to ZK's home page to check my facts, and on that page I see something new. At the bottom, right next to "Contact Us / Real Estate" has been added "Investor Relations." I go to the Locations page and it has also been added there, so it IS something new just added. I have to wonder, will this company be able to balance stockholder and customer interests fairly? As noted, we can always hope . . . and hopefully LEARN.