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Can You Keep a Secret?

On Monday, I went into work to discover that a major cheese producer had recalled a large number of products. Something to do with shelf life (yes, that means the possibility of moldy cheese). As a result, there were gaping holes in spots. Additionally we had ended a sale for products made by that same company over the weekend. Normally we get the replacement stock on Monday, but not this week. So – more holes.

As I was bringing out a cart full of cheese, a woman stopped me by calling out from a few feet away, “There’s the person I’m looking for!” (It’s funny how those same words can make you feel appreciated or make you want to run.) She came up and asked me what the deal is with the recall. I told her that it was an issue with the shelf life. She wanted to know if the manufacturer had recalled the products or Ralph’s. I assured her that it came from the company. She leaned in and asked me if I was telling the truth about how much I knew.

She wanted a product that was not on recall, but was out of stock. She told me how “interesting” it was that we happened to be out of stock for the product we had given her a coupon for a few days earlier. It was “obvious” what we were up to. We just wanted to get her (personally) into the store with the promise of something she wanted so we could sell her what we wanted to sell. I was grateful that she explained what we were up to. It was actually a lot more comforting than the thought that the manufacturer was causing us to lose thousands of dollars in revenue by not providing some of our best-selling products.

As I was trying to figure out how Ralph’s could have planned to be out of exactly what she wanted on the one day she was in the store, I wondered if other people go from point A to point B via point Q. I decided that I need to check the Internet. I love the Internet – it’s like statistics: you can prove anything you want by knowing what to do with the data. Unfortunately, unlike statistics people’s thoughts are not always as rational as numbers. I should have known better than to type “cheese conspiracy” into the search engine.

The majority of the early responses were about something called “The Great Cheese Conspiracy” by Jean Van Leeuwen. It’s a very cute story about some mice who try to steal cheese. All of those stories were pretty straight-forward. When I got to the humans, it was a different story (of course). Some (very few) were factual, some were tongue-in-cheek, and a few people should meet my customer.

My favorite was the man who said that Roger Federer lost his edge as a tennis player because of cheese. Apparently after Federer won Wimbledon, someone sent him some cheese as a gift. Being human, he ate the cheese. Because of the high fat content, Federer was unable to perform at his highest level and lost at the Olympics. The cheese gift was an attempt to ruin Federer’s game, and it worked. If you are interested, you can watch at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3x0921YzOY.

Apparently more well-known (from the number of citations), is the Subway Vast Isosceles Cheese Conspiracy from 2007. It seems that Subway was trying to use the triangles to charge more for cheese. If you lay the triangles in a rhombus, you only need one layer of cheese. But if you lay the cheese in a razorback you need two layers of cheese to fully cover the sandwich. So Subway can charge for double cheese.  I’m not sure how well this conspiracy is working. I don’t know how my cheese has been laid out, but when it’s melted it all runs together anyway.

There is a man who feels the British government is forcing restaurants to favor British cheeses over Continental cheeses by having farmers and industries create a wide variety of cheeses that are inferior to those across the Channel. People can then feel they are supporting their own farmers. There are also a fair number of people who humorously claim that large companies have intentionally stopped creating their favorite products (e.g., blue cheese dressing) to cause them emotional distress.

Of course, someone always has to ruin the fun. In 2007 (apparently a big year for cheese theories), a Chicago grand jury indicted four people for trying to ship more than 110,000 pounds of contaminated Mexican-style cheese. They took cheese customers had returned, scraped off the mold and fungus, and resold it wholesale. They were caught creating false documentation after lying to federal agents. I think they might have gotten away with it if they’d used bleu cheese or limburger – it’s really hard to tell whether or not they have spoiled.

I was unable to pin down one final theory. It’s called “The Philadelphia Cream Cheese Conspiracy – the Truth Revealed”. It’s tagged with “think about the animals”. I could get to the video but couldn’t get it to run (maybe the Philadelphia people have blocked it). You can look for it on 30 Bananas a Day – The High Carb Raw Vegan Lifestyle website. It shows 24 views so you can probably still be the first to rate it.

In the meantime, I am going to look for the people responsible for replacing all the chocolate chip ice cream with cookie dough ice cream. I’m sure someone had to be paid off.

 

 

 

 

 

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Nothing Says Last Day of Summer Like Trim-a-Tree

According to my calculations (which should be double-checked), there are 95 days until Christmas. It’s almost time to start nagging my family for suggestions, so I get them by December15th if I’m lucky. Otherwise, it’s fall to me. Our burning bushes have just begun to burn, the weather’s getting cooler, and we have less roadkill because the genetic pool of the animal world has finally been downsized to those who understand why their parents told them not to play in the road.

Not so in the retail world. A point of pride at Ralph’s is that we are always the first with new merchandise for the season. I’m not sure how it’s tallied, so I’m guessing that’s like being the most famous. Statistics can be used to prove anything, but should be limited to those who know how to use them safely. For example, last year summer got an early start. So we opened our garden center two weeks early. (I know this because it was part of a presentation later in the year.) It’s that kind of thinking makes Ralph rich. Of course, this year summer decided to visit us on it’s vacation from other spots, so we had an end-of-season sale like you wouldn’t believe.

Halloween candy has been out for weeks. Of course, everyone knows that’s just a cover for us to buy it for ourselves now and buy the “real” Halloween candy on October 30. It’s the beginning of “The Holidays” when we’re allowed to eat what we want because it’s only once a year. The Holidays used to be between Christmas and New Year’s, then we pushed the start back to Thanksgiving. Now we’re moving in on Halloween. Maybe we could do like the bears – eat everything in sight for a couple of months then sleep it off til spring. It would beat slogging around in the ice and snow. I bet I’m not the only one who wished they could lose a couple of pounds overnight.

But everything pales in comparison with Christmas. I know some of you still associate Christmas with the Nativity, but you probably still give thanks on Thanksgiving too. It was over 80 degrees and humid yesterday, but as I walked through the back end of the store on my way out, there it was… the first Trim-a-Tree box (artificial tree with its own decorations). I had been expecting something since the big toy sale a couple of weeks ago. By Monday, there will be more. Pretty soon it will be an invasion waiting for Halloween.

The small stuff will start sneaking in soon. Things like cards and ribbon. Sparklely sweaters and Santa boxers. On November 1, the big stuff will make its appearance. We’ll have trees, door decorations, fake greenery, blow-up Santas, tinsel, and all that other stuff the Whos put up in Whoville. Part-time Christmas music between Halloween and Thanksgiving then All Christmas All the Time. People will complain it’s too early, but they’ll start looking and slowly start buying. Those people who have everything up by the middle of November must have bought it somewhere.

The big sales were traditionally the day after Thanksgiving. It’s still a big day, but unless you want to stand in line and fight for the 5 HDTVs that will be available at 4a, you might as well sleep in. December has become one huge rotating sale. Best of all, the stuff that we convinced you was must-have at the beginning of November is on sale in the middle of December. By a couple of days before Christmas, almost everything has been marked down. (No, this does not give you permission to wait until December 23 to remember you have to give your wife a present without a cord.)

My advice? Eat as much Halloween candy as possible. With a little luck, you’ll hibernate until the whole thing is over.