There has been a lot of talk lately about the government’s $787 billion stimulus package (and recently House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that Congress needs to “keep the door open” for another stimulus package later this year). But while the government’s plan may get all of the headlines, there are a few other stimulus packages rolling around out there that you might have missed.
T.G.I. Fridays, known mainly as the restaurant that I always confuse with Ruby Tuesdays, has begun a new ad campaign offering their own stimulus package (and sadly, the new commercial doesn’t feature that creepy guy from the Food Network sitting down at your table and eating your food while your date is in the bathroom). Instead of bailing out Wall Street or people with subprime mortgage loans, T.G.I. Fridays is bailing out your wallet with 10 entrees for only $9.99. The commercial features the tag line: “How’s that for stimulus?”
I must admit, it’s not a bad offer, but I fail to see how lowering the price on 10 entrees is going to bring this country out of the current recession. Sure, rectangular-shaped mozzarella sticks and overpriced, watered-down drinks always put a smile on my face, but unless Fridays is planning on using the profits from this new offer to bail out failing financial institutions or something, I fail to see how this is going to help the economy. Besides, their plan isn’t as beneficial in these tough economic times as the Olive Garden’s long standing policy of offering never-ending soup, salad and breadsticks (although, to be fair, many Republicans have likened Olive Garden’s liberal breadstick-sharing plan to Socialism).
For those of you who can’t afford to dine out in restaurants, fear not, because another company has a stimulus package just for you. Valpak, the company who sends out those large direct mail coupons that most of us throw away without opening, started a new ad campaign last month declaring themselves “the original consumer stimulus package since 1968.” Valpak targeted business owners with an ad that read: “It doesn’t take an act of Congress or a trillion bucks to stimulate consumer spending. You can reinvigorate the economy today by putting a money-saving offer in the hands of targeted consumers.”
While I applaud Valpak’s attempt to offer consumers discounts during these tough times, I’m wondering if encouraging struggling businesses to sell their merchandise at a reduced cost is really the best approach. With giant companies like Circuit City going out of business, it’s probably not a great idea for small businesses to reduce their profit margin.
But while coupons and cheap, greasy food are nice ways for all of us to save a few bucks, perhaps the most interesting stimulus package announced recently is the one taking place in Detroit next month. And no, I’m not talking about the proposed $21.6 billion in new aid to keep Chrysler and GM from going bankrupt. I’m talking about Jay Leno, that guy with the big chin and the whiny voice who hosts a “comedy” program weeknights on NBC. Leno, who has always had a huge boner for cars, has announced that he will do a comedy show in Auburn Hills, Michigan that will be free for “anybody out of work in Detroit.” Leno has dubbed his show “Jay’s Comedy Stimulus Plan.”
Leno’s comedy show will take place at the Palace of Auburn Hills, which holds approximately 24,000 people, which shouldn’t be difficult to fill, since Detroit’s unemployment rate is one of the highest in the nation (it was 11.6 percent in January). As much as it pains me to say this, I actually think it’s cool that Leno is doing this show. A free show like this is certainly a wonderful gesture and a welcome distraction to folks who could definitely use it.
That being said, something tells me that Jay Leno’s comedy isn’t really the answer to Detroit’s woes. If the show is free, I’m failing to understand how this will pump money into Detroit’s economy or how it will help those poor unemployed souls living in the city. Sure, it’s nice to help people forget about their problems for one night, but it’s not something that is going to help Detroit’s job market in the long run.
Besides, the Detroit-based car companies got into financial trouble because instead of coming up with innovative products to keep up with international competition, they recycled the same tired car designs year after year and people stopped buying their products. So when the issue is innovation, perhaps bringing in the guy who has been telling the same tired, predictable “women like to shop, men like cars” jokes on The Tonight Show for the past 15 years isn’t really the best way to convince them to try something bold and new.
What I’m trying to say to T.G.I. Fridays, Valpak, Jay Leno and anyone else who thinks they are clever by dubbing their latest ad campaign a “stimulus package” is … just stop it. I appreciate the effort. I’m glad you are trying to help the average citizen save some cash during these tough times. But stop calling your little marketing gimmick a stimulus package – it’s annoying and it’s not clever. Stop trying to be hip, or else you are no better than the marketing geniuses who came up with the classic McDonalds’ “I’d fuck a hamburger” campaign.
So stop making light of our current economic crisis by calling your coupon book or your low-cost entrees or unfunny comedy show a stimulus package. And if you fail to heed this warning, then I’ve got a stimulus package for you right here.
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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