Friday, July 28, 2006

The Oldest Trick in the Book

Remember back when you were seduced by your cable company? You do, don't you? You were sitting on your couch, no doubt watching the old bag, basic cable, and a temptress cleverly disguised as an innocent little commercial lulled you away, dangling delicious digital cable before your wanting eyes. If only you would call me and give me a try...I'll even let you use me for 3 months at a discounted price! That was all it took. You made the call, your wife looking on suspiciously. And for 3 months, you immersed yourself in cheap, delicious decadence together. (I'm still talking about you and digital cable.) But as is the case with most naughty relationships, time wore away the painted face of digital cable, and you began to recognize what you got yourself into-when the bill arrived in the fourth month and you discovered with horror that you were from then on betrothed to the baggage of paying over $100/month for a service that is now starting to wreak havoc on your marriage ("I want to watch DIY!" "Well I want to see -fill in this blank with the latest chick-flick title-!") and causing you to neglect your children ("Come on kids, lets all watch I, Robot!" "But Dad, this is the third time this week!" "Shut up and eat your pizza rolls!"). It's the oldest trick in the book-lure them in with low prices and when they're addicted, stick it to them!

I present this analogy on the report of a record-setting quarterly net income of $10.36 billion confessed yesterday by Exxon Mobil. Wow. We are indignant! "How can they do this?" we ask. "To me??" As if the oil companies owe us something higher, more noble than to make money off of us.

I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. This morning, as I was sitting tenderly in my car after shelling out $30 to fill it up, I thought to myself, "Maybe the oil and gas industry simply pulled off the most effective long-term marketing scheme ever attempted!" You see, all my life, they have teased me with gas prices that have hovered right around a dollar per gallon. Then the wars came and gas producers realized that sure enough, they had me, hook, line, and sinker. They stayed the night with me and washed their make-up off the next morning-and it was not pretty. They were indeed successful. My driving habits have not changed whatsoever. But today, I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt, and to the oil and gas industry I say, nice one.

On a more adult note, Seth Godin has a great post today about money and marketing. I think he and Herb Kelleher must have been conversing-Seth's 3 tips comprise the very strategy that made Southwest Airlines what it is today. After you read his blog, take one more look at The Imperative-yes, a little shameless self-promotion.


Chris Posey

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Steinbeck on Marketing

Nearly finished with Waiting for Your Cat to Bark. Eisenberg(s) cite John Steinbeck:
Your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes, it helps to pick out that one person--a real person you know, or an imagined one--and write to that one.1

Quick reference to one of my previous posts: When Is This Ever Going to Help Me? Foundational, essential marketing principle in classic American Literature? There you have it. As I've said before: hire an English teacher.


Chris Posey

1 - John Steinbeck. "2/13-14/1962 letter to Robert Wallsten," from Steinbeck: A Life in Letters, Elaine A. Steinbeck and Robert Wallsten, ed. (New York:Viking Penguin, 1975)
Reminder in Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

10 Tips to Create Branded Service Employees

If you read this blog, you know that services marketing in general and the branding of service employees in particular is important to me. Hence, these 10 tips. (note: These principles are adapted to some extent from the book Nuts! by Kevin and Jackie Freiburg (1998) and the May 2005 Harvard Business Review article entitled "Creating the Living Brand," by Neeli and Venkat Bendapudi.)

1. Clearly define the type of person you want to have working for you. Design your interview process around this ideal and determine the maximum number of steps away from the ideal you are willing to go. Then, do not accept anything outside this perimeter.
2. Set high expectations and enable your employees to attain them. Make sure that your training is thorough and relevant and that it captures real-life scenarios as closely as possible. High expectations=challenge=engaged employees.
3. Create a good brand and be unabashedly proud of it. To quote the Bendapudis, "In retail, service is the manifestation of the brand, and service quality depends directly on the employees' attachment to the brand" (4). The pride instilled in a service employee who provides a high quality service is irresistible and readily apparent to customers.
4. Create a culture that brings employees and customers together. This is especially important when a service is perceived as a commodity (grocery stores, banks, churches-but this is for a different post). Sometimes, the relationship is the one and only thing that keeps customers coming back to your shop rather than going to the near identical one across the street, down the street, two blocks over, downtown, etc.
5. Indoctrinate employees with your individual company's unique standards of success and hold them accountable. "The company's business purpose and strategies, its mission, vision, values, and philosophy, all define [guiding] strategies." (Nuts! 105). Encourage employees to think like an owner. When employees realize how a company operates, makes money, makes a profit, etc., those rules previously perceived as arbitrary become not only meaningful but instinctive. Employees move from simply working for the company to maintaining an investment in it. And when your company's method of presenting your unique brand to the public is no longer a priority for employees, it may be time for a talk, or for a change of venue-on their part.
6. Make "security, esteem, and justice" a priority..for your employees (Bendapudi 5). Basic needs are basic needs, whether you are an investment banker or a trash collector. The adage is true: take care of your employees and they will take care of you. Just keep in mind, this care goes well beyond the compensation package--just ask the employees of Southwest Airlines.
7. Put previous experience in its place. Obviously, previous experience is important and can help an employee make a transition into a new position or career a little more smoothly. However, acquisition of many job-specific disciplines can be obtained through training. On the other hand, it is nearly impossible to train people to be "self starters with an entrepreneurial spirit" (Nuts! 98). Many times over the course of my transfer, I have felt that businesspeople are not crazy about the idea of a non-businessperson entering their field. I suspect this is because some businesspeople I know do not want to admit that their job can be done by someone who is has not been totally immersed in business nomenclature and protocol for years. You see, there is nothing magic about learning a process or a vocabulary, but there is something special about those employees who are intrinsically motivated.
8. Allow employees to share in the success of your company in a tangible way. Obviously, profit-sharing is one way to do this. Offering rewards for innovative ideas is another--and when I say "rewards," I don't mean a certificate you produced 5 years ago using Microsoft Publisher that you just went and printed on your dot matrix printer 5 minutes ago ("Be careful with it, the ink is still wet"). Be sure that your rewards are preceived by all as legitimate.
9. Allow anyone and everyone to be a leader. You just may be surprised. Crosstrain to increase potential exponentially.
10. Communicate frequently and openly to inspire lasting trust that is fueled by integrity. OK, so I kind of combined some principles in this tip.


Chris Posey

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Monday, July 24, 2006

Developments on Their Way In and Out

Cool "tweak-able" search engine:

Your new home page with drag-and-drop modules:

Web document sharing service (that is, once they move to Google's system):

E-mail? (I recently read a blog on this and now I can't find it. I've learned my lesson-clip everything!)

I get a little worried about the implementation of Social Media officers/execs/VPs. What happens if/when blogs go the way of the chatroom? Perhaps that's the beauty in such an ambiguous term like "social media"--SMO's will simply evolve into the next new method of talk-less communication.

By the way, when typing a smiley in an e-mail, does the period go directly after the right parenthesis? (the smile) Should one space over a couple of spaces before typing the period? And if a smiley is at the end of a statement that is in parenthesis, how does one close the parenthesis? Is the smile considered the closure? If not, is there a space between the smile and the parenthesis closure? How many spaces?


Chris Posey

Friday, July 21, 2006

Terminal Professionalism

Recently, I was mulling over the books I am currently reading (I like to mull) and I realized that two of which I am reading most conscientiously are at complete opposite ends of the Nonfiction-Marketing spectrum. One, which was loaned to me by my manager's manager, so to speak-my grandmanager, so to speak ("grand" here referring merely to seniority, not age, lest she be reading, consequently increasing my readership by 50%), is Waiting for the Cat to Bark, by Bryan and Jeffery Eisenburg--a very forward-looking marketing treatise which deals with many contemporary marketing issues. The other book (which, incidentally, was written ten years ago), Nuts! by Kevin and Jackie Freiburg, is a history of Southwest Airlines. In the latter, I found a great example of how in the early days, SWA truly understood how to "brand" their employees. Freiburg(s) cites Lighten Up authors C. W. Metcalf and Roma Felible in what they describe as Terminal Professionals: "overworked, overstressed, underpaid, and underplaying individuals" (Nuts! Freiberg, 65). Freiburg(s) then provides the refreshing antithesis: "...the professionals that customers encounter at Southwest are remarkably uninhibited and empathetic individuals who believe that the business of business is to make a profit by serving people and making life more fun" (Ibid, italics added). I realize that this definition of a typical SWA employee was coined by a person who is not actually, nor was he ever, an employee at SWA. But if anything, this actually strengthens the point I am trying to make about services marketing and the branded service employee. The fact that an outsider is able to identify and define unique attributes of an entire workforce is an indication that SWA's brand permeated not only their brightly-colored aircraft, not only their tongue-in-cheek advertising, but also the employees themselves. This does not occur by luck. But I will not go into how it occurs today. This post is already longer than I intended for it to be. I really am trying to do better!

You may notice, I have a special interest in SWA. I don't work for them, and I am just a poor teacher who could not afford to fly on an airplane if I even had the time to. My interest is based on the fact that SWA is a marketing powerhouse. Strong positioning (and speaking of positioning, kudos to Jennifer Rice and her insightful observation about a topic previously ruled by Trout and Reis), consistent branding, and smart advertising...along with a ridiculous amount of talent and tenacity, have made this company successful despite roadblocks I never would have imagined before reading Nuts!. One example of their marketing ability may be seen in their blog, one of the best and most interesting corporate blogs I have read; hence its unchallenged presence in my blogroll. Interestingly enough, today's blog was written by none other than a corporate intern--JUST LIKE ME! This post revealed to me that SWA continues to brand its employees (even their lowly interns), just as they did when they began back in the 70's. Read the post. This is no Terminal Professional. And neither are the other SWA veterans who post nearly every day on their corporate blog. Indeed, Southwest is a company who still understands how to brand their service employees.


Chris Posey

Monday, July 17, 2006

Gotta Million?

Have you read Branding Ad Vice's Walter Koschnitzke's blog today? I was very excited to see that someone else out there has a beef with the service industry. In his post, "Who Manages the Manager", "Walt" (sorry, but I'm not going to attempt that last name again) launches into a near diatribe about the poor service he recently received from both waitress and manager at a Blytheville, Arkansas Perkins restaurant. Now, I should mention that Walt does begin his post with a nod to Perkins for having "quite favorable" service in the past. However, on this particular visit, Walt says that he actually got up and left the restaurant after having waited 50 minutes, and his food still had not arrived.

After reading this blog, I was prompted to take a quick trip to to look at some company financials. I grabbed 2 retailers and 2 restaurants at random. I specifically wanted to see how much this sample of companies was pumping into marketing. The number on Hoover's that most closely approximates this figure is SG&A; however, I must say from the start that SG&A is not entirely marketing, and marketing is not entirely SG&A. But, it serves my purpose in this post. Lowe's spends about 21% of its revenue on SG&A. Limited Brands spends about 26% of its revenue on it. The Cheesecake Factory spends about 37%, and Jim Cramer's beloved Texas Roadhouse spends only a paltry 7%. (Incidentally, all figures are taken from the January '06 report on except for Texas Roadhouse's figures which are taken from Dec. '05). However, even at the low end of the 4 companies, TXRH spent 33.3 million dollars on SG&A in 2005. In other words, if you gave me the money TXRH spent in a year on SG&A, I could spend one-million dollars a day for the entire month of February and still have some left over to buy a cool Pontiac Solstice and a small house in Beverly Hills. Many of us would say, "With that kind of money, they should be able to develop an invincible brand!" And in most cases, we are, for the most part, correct. However, it seems that when some companies (not necessarily the 4 mentioned above) dip their wonder brands into the river Styx, they must be hanging on to them by the service workers. What business owner or CEO in his or her right mind would invest so much into SG&A knowing that when his or her brand was sent to battle, it would have such a vulnerable spot? However, this is exactly what happens on a daily basis when businesspeople fortify the front lines of their multi-million dollar businesses with indifferent, lazy, bitter, preoccupied soldiers. I have said to my wife many times, "I would love it if the owner would come in and see the service offered at this place!" (Perhaps this is why QuikTrip is so successful-its execs are also regular patrons.) But it's not just the service workers. As Walt points out, it's also the managers who consistently permit this type of service. (I nearly went back and changed the title of this post to "Bad Service Workers and the Lazy Bastards who Enable Them," but I thought better of it. My mother might read this someday.)

I am aghast (yes, I said aghast) at the millions and millions of dollars that are squandered by companies that permit managers and service workers to slough off. These people are quite literally the ambassadors of your brand! They are the ones who direct public sentiment. Mr. CEO, do you think that you are the one in charge of how people perceive your brand? Wrong! It is the individual human beings world-wide who come into contact with other human beings on behalf of your investment.

We have financial auditors in place to monitor the financial aspects of a company, to make sure nothing goes awry. Why do we not implement "customer service auditors" to do the same with the company's most influential aspect: the workers who come into contact with the clientele? Give me just one-million dollars and I'll do it for you-I'll even pay my own expenses!


Chris Posey

Thursday, July 13, 2006

When Is This Ever Going to Help Me?

I promised myself that I was going to shorten my posts significantly. Well, to emulate Lloyd Bridges as McCroskey in the movie Airplane, I guess I picked the wrong day to shorten my blogs. But I have come up with more descriptive post titles, so there's one improvement!

Each year, as a high school English teacher, I hear the same indignant question: "How will this ever help me?" I am always amazed at this question because, as long as people are speaking the English language, English class will be helpful. (Note: I said the class will be helpful; the teacher may not be-but that's another post entirely.)

Yesterday evening, I was engaging in one of my guilty pleasures: reading Car Audio and Electronics magazine. No, I'm not one of those guys who "pimps" his ride by bolting an exhaust pipe that is 7" in diameter to his half red, half Fiberglas car, and allows the distortion from a mediocre subwoofer, powered by a strangling, suffocating toy amp, to rattle his rusted trunk. High quality car audio, that is, car audio that sounds studio at any volume level, has simply been a passion of mine for close to 20 years. I have told my wife on many occasions that a dream job of mine would be to be on the marketing team for a car audio company like Alpine, JL Audio, or Kicker. However, Alpine is located in Torrance, CA, JL Audio is in Mirimar, FL, and Kicker-well, Kicker is located in Stillwater Oklahoma (Go Pokes!), and while the commute to Kicker would indeed be shorter than that to either coast, they have not yet given me a call.


Oh, wait, I forgot, I was talking about grammar. Anyway, as I was reading about this incredible VW Bug that had been packed full of enough car audio equipment to double the car's weight (they actually referred to their twelve-inchers as midbass!), I caught a glimpse of my hero, Chip Foose's name listed in an ad on the opposite page, so of course, I had to read the entire ad. Car audio electronics manufacturer Arc Audio was displaying their 3 latest equipment lines, one line of which was ascribed in name to said hero. I have always respected Arc Audio, not because of their marketing prowess, but because of their high quality equipment (I think there is a lesson there, but I have already rabbit-trailed enough in this post). Arc, like many other companies who pour a ton of money into R & D and high quality components, has a comparatively small marketing budget (perhaps they should read The Imperative). This was painfully apparent in the ad I was viewing, as it had not one, but two errors: one spelling, one punctuation. The errors were painfully obvious because there was very little text and a few small graphics on the page-the rest of the page was black. The errors were printed in big, bold, naked letters. Even a 16-21 year old male-CA&E's target audience-could have caught at least one of the mistakes. (I must admit, I only caught one at first; my wife caught the other.)

So how does this translate into meaning? How will grammar help the execs at Arc Audio? It all comes down to the obsessive care that I want for the retailers of the products on which I spend my hard-earned cash to exercise. If Arc Audio is going to miss such bold, brazen errors in their publications--publications that will reach far more people than will ever come into contact with their products on a tangible level--how do I, the consumer, know that the same type of carelessness is not taking place in their production? I know that Arc makes great products, but this is because I have followed Arc products for a while. But many people who read CA&E are newbies or casual readers. They may not know any better.

I once contacted a financial services company about errors I found on the index/home/front page of their website. In jest, I ended the e-mail with, "So can I have a job?" They replied quickly, thanked me, and told me that if I lived in the California area, we could talk. (What's up with the great jobs in California??) An editor is a valuable marketing resource, and proper spelling, grammar, punctuation, mechanics, etc. are all essential to legitimate, credible advertising. Precision and obsessive care in marketing and advertising sends a loud message. Don't skimp. Hire an English teacher. That is all.


Chris Posey

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

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Monday, July 10, 2006


Ugh. Busy weekend. I completed half of a 2-hr. class for my MBA program: 9-5 Saturday and 9-5 Sunday. The good news: the class was incredibly interesting, perhaps the most interesting class I have taken thus far (although I did hate to miss my particularly marketing-sensitive church service Sunday morning). More good news: in two weeks, when I complete the class, I will truly be on the downhill slope of my program. More good news: my manager's manager (so to speak) just brought me Waiting for Your Cat to Bark by Bryan & Jeffrey Eisenburg, to be the first in our department to look it over. What a day!

The Imperative
I'm not going to go into detail about the class I am currently taking. You're probably not interested in that. And half of my current readership already knows much, much more about the class than she would ever want to know, as I have kept her up late the last two nights going on and on about the insights gained so far. The other half of my readership will be sure to be subjected to the same dronings, probably this coming Thursday night over a burger cooked on the grill, as we take part in our ritual Thursday night show-viewing, which has been a tradition since before the show "Friends" was syndicated and was still pumping out fresh, humorous writing and dialogue--you know, the pre-"we-demand-1-million-dollars-per-episode" era.

So here's what I really want to talk about: MARKETING IS NOT A LUXURY. From the outside, that is, from the viewpoint of one who has not yet been completely baptized into corporate/firm life, I sometimes get the idea that businesses believe that marketing is optional. That it is an afterthought. It's the heated seats in the prospective new car-if we have enough money left over after we buy the important things (power locks, A/C, etc.), we'll put what we can afford (read: we'll spend just enough that we don't really feel it) into marketing. (Forgive me if I'm just being cynical.)

I was looking at the SBA website this morning (how did you like the way I worded that? as though looking through the SBA site is just a part of my daily routine...please, I Googled "sample business plans" if you must know) and on the first page I viewed, one sage penned the following:
Before you begin writing your business plan, consider four core questions:
  • What service or product does your business provide and what needs does it fill?

  • Who are the potential customers for your product or service and why will they purchase it from you?

  • How will you reach your potential customers?

  • Where will you get the financial resources to start your business?

So lets look at these one-by-one and ask ourselves, which business discipline is responsible (at least in great part) for honoring these commands:
What service or product does your business provide and what needs does it fill?-Marketing
Who are the potential customers for your product or service and why will they purchase it from you?-Marketing
How will you reach your potential customers?-Marketing
Where will you get the financial resources to start your business?-Finance and Accounting
Sorry for the anticlimactic ending there. But you get my point.

Continuing on in the business plan-writing process, one must then define his business, speak of his marketing plan, and address the competition; again, marketing, marketing, marketing.

I will summarize: marketing is not, it cannot be an afterthought, a necessary evil. We cannot condescend to include marketing in our most basic, essential, foundational business planning. And once it is implemented into our plans, it must be reviewed, revised, and reimplemented for the life of the company.

And for those of you who conduct marketing projects for your clients: have you taken a look at your client's business plan? Do you know the mission statement of your client's company? Do you understand the heart of your client's company, or are you just providing arbitrary research and pat answers? (see John Jantsch's weekend blog)

I will admit, I am beyond a rookie in the art of marketing, but even in my "youthful" state, I believe in its value, its necessity in a thriving business. I hope you do too.


Chris Posey

Friday, July 07, 2006


I hope your Independence Day went well. To read about a great Independence Day tradition, check out Pup's blog.

Choosey Marketers
This morning, I was reading through the newest posts on my blogroll. This is my morning cube-coffee ritual. I have gleaned some great information from the blogs to the right. I particularly enjoy Duct Tape Marketing, Marketing Headhunter (although, I wish he lived and worked in Tulsa-I would be a loyal client!), The 1 to 1 Blog, and especially Wonder Branding. But I digress.

Recent posts on a number of blogs are discussing the "controversy" surrounding Shawn Corey Carter and his boycotting of Cristal champagne. Brand Noise is one of those blogs. I enjoy their blog, and no doubt, the marketing knowledge of New York-based, Brand Noise sponsor, Scenario DNA's newest, freshest employee trumps my marketing knowledge exponentially. However, I did find it ironic that the post immediately below the Cristal exposée (and by the way, you wouldn't believe the amount of time and trouble I just went through to get that little ' above the middle e in exposée) was about price discrimination. "Why is this ironic?" is, I'm sure, the question that all of you loyal readers out there are asking. Stay on the edge of your seat a little longer. A little longer. OK, here it is: both articles deal with choosing one's customers; however, the article about Cristal implies that it may not be a good idea, while the article about Brand Afficionados suggests that this is simply a part of the deal. I love the closing sentences of the Brand Afficionados post:
The buyers who care most about quality tend also to be those who are least willing to jump over discount hurdles. To the extent these hurdles work, business travelers and buyers of black laptops have little grounds for complaint.
Again, let me emphasize, this is not to be critical of Brand Noise's postings whatsoever. No doubt, the crux of the Cristal post is the implication of racism that accompanies the customer choice Cristal has made. (However, in light of the widespread nature of hip hop across all races, I would hardly say that to disparage hip hop is hardly a comment about race. One might even say that Mr. Carter is choosing his customers too, by suggesting that hip hop is associated with those who belong to a particular race.) Nevertheless, I suppose my question is, to what extent should brand managers and marketers choose their customers? We hear of firing customers all the time. It's a part of the process. We hear of target audiences which would seem, by definition, to be exclusive and exclusionary. What is wrong with a firm wishing not to be associated with particular elements, simply out of a desire to preserve an image that, no doubt, came from an investment of thousands, maybe even millions of dollars? Sure, it would be wonderful if every single person in the world would buy any and every product, thus negating the need for "sales limiters" (for lack of a better word); but if that were the case, I would have no career to transfer into, because there would be no need for marketers. So as long as we are having to target, train, and fire customers, what is wrong with choosing ( and, consequently, excluding) customers?

By the way, for those of you who don't know, Shawn Corey Carter is the entertainer who refers to himself publicly as "Jay-Z."
Cristal has been around for 230 years. A typical price [for a bottle] is $200 or more.

Monday, July 03, 2006


Tomorrow is July 4. That means two things: tomorrow, I will be comforting my Weimaraner all evening because she is afraid of the sound of fireworks, and my internship is halfway over. That is sad. I love my cube (although at times, I feel like I need to get up and do laps around this 5th-floor track), and I have been completely empowered by my badge (see previous posts if you have no idea what I am talking about). Despite the fact that I am now in the autumn of my internship, I am feeling pretty good: my manager left me a project to do while she is gone today-ah, glorious empowerment! Not only that, but I was able to do some things for my manager's boss last Friday. Sure, I was a little nervous about it-you see, the thing that they don't realize is that with every project they ask me to do, I am filled with this strange vacillation wherein on one side, I think, "I can't do this-I have no idea what I'm doing" and on the other side I think, "This is what I've been learning for the past 1 1/2 years, and I will not stop until this is finished." So far, they have not asked me to come into their offices and shut the door-never a good sign. And so, the transfer continues.

The Genre of "Creepy Advertising"
It was not until I began my graduate work that I realized the significant difference between marketing and advertising, and any marketer or advertiser who may read this blog (and neither my wife nor my best friend are; therefore, I suppose we could strike those last words altogether, as these two individuals comprise my entire readership) should be able to determine easily that I am not in advertising. (Not to suggest that that I am a wiz at marketing yet either; give me a break! I'm just an Intern!) It is in light of my lack of advertising knowledge that I ask this question: what's up with the creepy painted wood characters in commercials these days? I am speaking of the Quaker Oats commercials, with the creepy Quaker who is carted around an elementary school in a wagon; the Burger King commercials, with the creepy painted wood mask that is worn by a King of Burgers who shows up outside a patron's bedroom window and even in one soul's bed; and the Tractor Supply Company's commercials which consist of 2 country-style painted wood fellows who face dilemmas that really don't seem like dilemmas to me at all. I am considering adding these painted wood characters to my short list of phobias (see my previous post about my one notable phobia). How is it that this new genre of advertising is seen as effective? (Perhaps I can answer my own question by acknowledging the fact that I am perpetuating these companies' messages in this very blog!) Nevertheless, they freak me out, and in my opinion, they are not even in the same ballpark as Big Buckin' Chicken-also a little creepy, but not to the extent that the painted wood characters are.

I end this post with a couple of annoying spelling errors (using the term loosely in the second case) that I am seeing more and more these days: definately and insure. The first problem is obvious. The second problem is tougher because the word "insure" is a real word-not like the non-word "definately," which requires no further discussion. Regarding ensure and insure, I'll admit, I'm being a tad strict-even the American Heritage Dictionary concedes that the two words may be interchanged. However, it's not a bad idea to limit the use of "insure" to financial matters (as most dictionaries will suggest) and to use the "e-" variety when you are referring to taking steps to make sure that something happens. And by the way, there is no d in congratulations.

Enjoy the 4th. God Bless America.

Chris Posey