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I’ve been struggling to think of what I can contribute on a regular basis to Raleigh & Company. My goal was to write a bi-weekly column that was different from the podcast I had previously done. I finally realized I could mine from a 20+ year career in marketing, managing people, and business operations. I pitched to editor Shawn Krest an idea for a column that would share my experience and give readers some helpful yet entertaining insight.

“That sounds great, but I want your first piece to be about poop.”

Wait, what?

Apparently Shawn ran across an article online that claimed Burger King’s new Halloween Whopper turned your poop green. The ingredients in the black bun contain a black dye, which if often used when creating a green dye, thus allegedly creating green poop. Shawn wanted me to find out of this is true.

“You’re a restaurant guy. Go eat one and let me know what happens,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Got it.

Let me preface this by mentioning I did not take any Morgan Spurlock/Super Size Me-like preparation to write this piece. My last physical was about three months ago. My doctor told my blood work was “flawless”, but I could stand to lose about 20 pounds (Damn you Little Debbie!). I’m a pretty good eater. It usually starts out strong with a healthy breakfast, but from there it’s a crapshoot. I try to be conscious of what I eat and how much, but I often succumb to convenience and lack of planning. I’m fairly regular and have a pretty good relationship with my digestive system, bowels in particular. It’s easy to guess what part of my home I am in between 6-8am. It seemed like I was fine candidate for “project poop.”

Let me also note I’m always skeptical of what I call “restaurant gimmicks.” A majority of my service industry experience was with a quick service restaurant who focused on the “holy three”-great food, great service and clean restaurant. I have always felt that frequent new menu items and promotions are a distraction from core values. In my mind, the Halloween Whopper was just another gimmick.

One afternoon I patronized my local Burger King. As I walked to the door, I noticed an 8 ½ x 11 piece of paper taped to the door. Was this quickly made sign warning customers to beware the rumored ramifications of the Halloween Whopper? Oooooo! Spooky!

IMG_3446Not hardly. The sign read, “Please use other door! Thank you”.  Oh.

I walked in the restaurant and discovered it was actually a ghost town- two folks who looked like the living dead in the dining room and no one behind the service counter. As I approached the counter, a lovely young lady with glowing smile welcomed me with “Station one!” She then positioned herself behind, I assume, the station one cash register.

“Hi. I would like that Halloween Whopper and a Diet Coke, please”, I said.

“Would you like the combo?” she asked.

“No thank you” I answered.

As she was entering my order, I leaned in.

“Hey, I hear the Halloween Whopper makes your poop turn green. Is that true?” I whispered.

She leaned back. “Ewww. I hope not,” she replied.

She seemed a little creeped out, so I refrained from further questioning.

While waiting for my order, I went to the bathroom where I found a real house of horrors. It resembled the room victims are kept in from the SAW movies. Paper towels and toilet paper decorated the floor while an open stall revealed a unidentified floating object (not green, btw). I washed my hands quickly and made a quick exit like teenager in a slasher film.

I returned to the front counter to my find my Halloween burger on tray with my drink cup. I suppose the restaurant was keeping in the Halloween spirit, because another employee handed me my order in zombie-like fashion.

“Here’s your order,” the employee said emotionless and walked away slowly.

I sat down, opened the wrapper and stared at my Halloween Whopper for a minute. Honestly, it did not look that appetizing. The bright yellow cheese, red tomatoes and green lettuce were a stark contrast from the black buns. I overcame my hesitation by imaging the buns were pumpernickel bread, instead of white bread injected with a concoction of Yellow #6, Red #40, caramel color, and Blue #1. I have a helluva imagination.

Once I got over the bun, the Whopper was good. It was hot and the ingredients were fresh. Not bad for a quick service burger. I looked over to the living dead couple and contemplated asking them about green poop. Seeing there were in the twightlight years, I figured that might be a discouraging conversation, so I left the restaurant after finishing my burger.

The next day around 7:30 AM, it was time. I grabbed a magazine, went to the throne and anxiously awaited the outcome. While sitting there I began to wonder….

What if Burger King has focused their time and energy into hiring the right employees and coaching them to better serve their customers instead of focusing on the Halloween Burger?

What if Burger King had taken their advertising budget for the Halloween Burger and reinvested those funds into their employees and facilities?

What is Burger King had taken the budget used to produce the Halloween Buns and spent it on labor, keeping an extra employee on staff to service the dining rooms and bathrooms?

If Burger King did these things, and just focused on having the best Whopper served by the best employees in the cleanest restaurant, would they really need a gimmick like the Halloween Whopper?

Alas, all I can do is wonder. Perhaps my old man was right all along.

“Son, you can’t polish a terd.”

But you can turn it green, I suppose.

-RA

P.S. Mine wasn’t green.

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