Previous “Engaging With Brands” posts

Who Would Do This, AT&T?

If I were crazy pissed at AT&T, I might take 20 minutes to tell them about it. But even then, I’d probably just think “Screw it, you don’t deserve this knowledge”.

Recently, I switched my cellular service away from AT&T (née Cingular née Cellular One). I was a bit nervous about this process, as I’d heard horror stories from folks who had rough times transferring their cell numbers years back. Fortunately, the process was fast and easy. In just a few minutes, I was all set with my new carrier. If you’re thinking of switching, it’s quite painless and likely worth your while.

Apparently, AT&T wasn’t quite so ready to move on from me, however. Today, I received an email with the subject line “AT&T would like your opinion!”. I’m sure they would. It would surely be valuable for AT&T to know why a customer of nearly two decades has decided to move on. Given that, this email is rather confounding.

It begins with this:

An email opening that says “Dear Former AT&T Customer”

When I read a greeting like “Dear Former AT&T Customer”, I feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I can tell I’m truly appreciated by the way they didn’t even address me by name. It makes me excited to see just what this email is all about.

Text stating “AT&T needs input from former customers like you regarding the cancellation of your AT&T Wireless service.”

AT&T doesn’t just want my input, it needs it, perhaps for its very survival as a business. Why on earth I should care about what the massive corporation I no longer use for cellular service “needs” is beyond me. Still, I appreciate the fact that they’ve told me how important this is to them, because it’s always nice to have leverage.

Further text stating “As a former customer, your opinion is very important to us. We’d like to ask you to participate in a survey of approximately 20 minutes.”

20 minutes! That’s one hell of a request. AT&T, do you think we’re friends? We are not friends. 2 minutes would be asking a lot, and 20 is beyond excessive.

I should’ve stopped reading right there, but I thought maybe there’d be a reason to continue. Given how important the information they’re asking for is to them, and the fact that it’s going to take quite awhile to provide it, surely they’ll make it worth my while. For, say, a $100 Visa gift card, I could take 20 minutes to tell AT&T how they lost me as a customer.

Further text reading “This survey is being conducted by Burke, Inc., an independent research firm, on behalf of AT&T. Your participation is completely voluntary and no one will try to sell you anything as a result. We appreciate your participation and encourage an early response, as the survey is only open for a limited time. Thank you in advance for your feedback and participation!”

Oh. Wow. They took the time to rather ludicrously assure me that this is voluntary. They made sure to note that I won’t get upsold. They even urged me to act fast on this not-exciting-in-the-least offer, so I can get my answers in before the survey closes. Finally, they thanked me in advance, with a few hollow words. What they didn’t do was offer any compensation, nor even a reason for why I would spend 20 minutes completing this survey for them.

As you can no doubt guess, I didn’t. Instead, I took that time to write this post mocking AT&T. It helpfully provides feedback about their survey request, and they’re welcome to read it for free. What can I say? I’m a giver.

As far as the information on why I switched providers though? For that, they’ll have to pony up. AT&T, I encourage a prompt response, as the cost of my time is only going up.

Next I’ll Be Shilling Flat Tummy Tea

Forget every bad word I ever said about being a social media influencer.

Recently, a photo of myself I’d posted to Instagram garnered a rather strange comment:

Weeks after I’d initially posted the picture, the folks from “@pierrearden_team_snowp” crept in to say:

  • Hey Paul, we’re really into your fashion and would like to organize a collab. Msg our main account @pierrearden_ and let them know we sent you!

They weren’t specific, so it’s difficult to guess what part of “my fashion” they like. Is it my Goodr sunglasses (Hey-oh, look who’s influencing now!)? The unbranded t-shirt and hoodie? Perhaps it’s that unfortunate pimple on my chin.

Whatever had caught @pierrearden_team_snowp’s eye, I knew I had to get aboard this gravy train, and fast. I was ticketed for the social media big leagues. I was going to “collab” with “@pierrearden_”, whoever the heck that was, on their “main account”!

Never mind that my Instagram account has just 1,000 followers, a number which is surely much too small to be worth, well, anything. I decided to take one for my readers, and see just what the scheme here was. Checking in on @pierrearden_, I learned it was a watch company with around 60,000 followers.

Against my better judgement, I messaged them the following:

  • Your @pierrearden_team_snowp account it “really into my fashion”, and want to “organize a collab”, so they told me to message here. I am…intrigued.

Hey, it was truthful. I was indeed intrigued by what the scam might be. In just a few minutes, they replied:

  • Hey Paul!

    We have been reaching out to a few people who fit our style for a potential collaboration.

    We don’t usually do this, but we want to offer you 50% off everything in our store, so that you can wear the latest timepieces.

    All we ask, is that you tag us in a picture of you wearing it and we will feature you on our page.

    Would this interest you?🙌

Nothing against these particular watches, but this offer would have been unappealing to me even if they were going to send me one for free. My response was brief, dismissive, and admittedly slightly rude:

  • Oh, ha. No, it would not.

Their social media handler could not be flapped, however, and even made a second attempt to get a sale:

  • No worries, we understand. And thank you so much for dropping by. We would love you to be on our team in the future! You can always get back to us and please feel free to look around. Have an amazing day! Here is a 25% off discount code for taking some of you [sic] time Code: THANKYOU25

I’m not sure a 25% coupon makes much sense when I was just offered 50% off, but perhaps they thought I’d share it. You may notice that I’ve opted not to even link to this company directly, and I’ve blacked the coupon code out. If you really want it, you can highlight the text to reveal it, though I suspect you could also just message them to request in on that 50% discount that they “don’t usually do”.

Of course, maybe they really did want me. If this was my one shot to break into the glamorous world of male modeling, I guess I blew it.

Engaging With Brands: Super Bowl LI Edition

I hope you’re not too worn out after the advertising bonanza that accompanied the Super Bowl last night, because it’s once again time to engage with brands! Today, we have a truly ridiculous follow-up to October’s post, which including some unintentional brand engagement with Kia.

When that brief Twitter conversation with Kia concluded, I assumed we were done. As such, I was surprised to see this tweet over two months later:

I actually fell off of Twitter back in November, so it was only by chance that I even saw this. Nevertheless, I was intrigued, so I sent a message to see what was up. This was their reply:

We really appreciate your support of the Kia Sorento Tecmo campaign starring Bo Jackson and Brian Bosworth. We have a pair of limited edition Tecmo gloves we’d love to send you as a thank you. If you send us an address and your size preference (M or L), we will do our best to accommodate it. Thanks again.  
- Your friends at Kia.

Apparently, just mentioning their ad constitutes “supporting” the campaign, despite the fact that I was also taking a cheap shot at the brand. But sure, why not get some free Tecmo gloves? Beyond that fact that I have no idea what the hell size gloves I wear, anyway. But hey, I’ve loved Tecmo Super Bowl for decades, so I sent Kia my information.

Shortly before the Super Bowl, a small package arrived from Kia. When I tore into it, I found this sweet card:

Hey, that’s me!

Man, I am spiking the hell out of that football, in a fashion that seems certain to dent the Kia. The back of the card had an explanation for what else I’d find in the package.

Yes, despite the fact that I tweeted way back in October of 2016, and didn’t mention their hashtag nor their username, I was given a token of gratitude “for the 2017 #KiaTecmo campaign”. And despite the fact that the commercials center on two-sport star Bo Jackson, Kia decided to make gloves featuring NFL flop and supporting character Brian Bosworth. Here’s Boz in all his 8-bit glory:

8-bit Bosworth

It’s exactly what no child ever dreamed of, let alone any adult! I don’t really play much organized football these days, and wearing gloves in a pickup game would be more than a little odd, so I have no idea what I’ll do with these. But hey, at least they sort of fit (I probably should’ve taken the large).

The whole package

Perhaps I’ll wear these while riding my decidedly non-Kia motorcycle. But even if they’re good for nothing else, at least I can share them for a laugh with you, dear reader.

Engaging With Brands, October 28th Edition

The Regent Theatre has an impressive neon sign, as well as someone with a sense of humor handling their Instagram account. Back in August, I posted this photo to Instagram:

Image showing a toilet seat in one corner, with a basic dining room table chair in another corner, facing the toilet

Several friends of mine left amusing comments, as you can see:

My caption read: For pooping with an audience. Scott Simpson commented 'My therapist's office'. Susie Schutt said 'All the worlds a stage'. Ryan Bateman said 'That's where your personal trainer sits.'

However, it wasn’t until about a month later that a new comment appeared:

Regent Theatre said 'Ha! Face-with-tears-of-joy emoji

Yes, the theatre’s own Instagram account replied to my literal bathroom humor. It was truly a proud day for all involved.

Next up, I flew to Iceland. On my way back, I noted that of course the plane was playing music from Icelandic weirdo Björk. Guess who liked the tweet?

Tweet reading: As is legally mandated, this IcelandAir flight is playing Björk.

As is my usual practice, I omitted an actual Twitter mention of @IcelandAir, in the hopes of avoiding unnecessary brand engagement. It’s clear that like KFC, IcelandAir is creepily searching their own name. However, they were kind enough to simply like the tweet, rather than replying. Good on you, Icelandair! This is the kind of quiet engagement I can get behind.

Not all brands are so polite, however. Recently, I saw a fantastic ad using the classic Nintendo game Tecmo Super Bowl.1

Man this was a good game.

The sounds alone brought back many memories, and I felt compelled to tweet about it. Of course, I also took the opportunity for a cheap shot at Kia:

Tweet reading: I just saw a Tecmo Bowl-based car ad (featuring Bo Jackson, no less), and I'm suddenly willing to entertain the idea of owning a Kia.

Unfortunately for me, Kia is also a creepy vanity searcher, and they tweeted at me:

Just saw your tweet. We're down to help you entertain that. Let's start here: . Also:

Here’s a tip for brands: Even if I liked your ad, it’s probably best to simply ignore me when I’ve just mocked your actual product.

That’s all for today, but I’ve little doubt that there will be more engaging with brands in the future.

Previously in Engaging With Brands: Instagram’s Raison D’Être


  1. Archived here. ↩︎

Kentucky Fried Creepers

Recently, comedian Jim Gaffigan started appearing in KFC commercials as the newest iteration of the Colonel. After seeing one of these ads during the Super Bowl, I tweeted a joke:

I figure @JimGaffigan did that KFC ad for free. 'Will there be actual fried chicken on set? Great, I'll be there.'
Come on, the man has a book called “Food: A Love Story

It was only much later that I realized that shortly after tweeting, I’d accidentally engaged with a brand! Yes, KFC replied:

Yeah, anyone would do an ad for my fried chicken, but who is this Jim guy?

I was greatly amused by this, but I’m also curious just how it happened. Was KFC stalking mentions of @JimGaffigan? Or are they searching for “KFC” itself? Either way, an affirmative answer is rather disturbing.

Previously in vanity Twitter searches: John Popper Vanity Searches, Too

Instagram’s Raison D’Être

Back in 2010, I discussed Twitter’s Raison D’Être, determining that Twitter existed to provide things like a parody of the mind of the greatest basketball player of all time (which has migrated to a new account here). Facebook, as everyone knows, is a tool for being disgusted by the political whackjobbery of people you vaguely know. But what exactly is Instagram for?

Recently, I worked out the answer. Instagram is a social network for talking to hotels about malfunctions in the area of signage. I realize that seems like an awfully specific reason to create a photo-sharing network with over 200 million users, but the evidence is overwhelming.

It all started with this photo, taken in 2012 while staying at the InterContinental on Howard Street in San Francisco:

Boarding Ass
Caption: “4 Star Hotel”

Allow me to publicly state that I was in no way involved in this juvenile bit of vandalism, nor do I know who the feckless, immature perpetrators were. I merely documented their destruction, because come on, that’s funny. The only way to top it would be to remove the “B“ as well and replace it with the “H” from “Telephone”.

To my great amusement/horror, however, shortly after I posted the image I received a Twitter reply from the hotel’s official account:

The InterContinental's reply, reading: 'Thanks for informing us, we’re working on getting this taken care. If there is anything you may need during your stay, tweet us.'
I believe my thought then was “Companies can do that?!”. It was a simpler time.

Following this unexpected success story, later that same week I documented a sign which had been busted for months, if not years:

Hot L Pickwick
Come stay at the Hot L Pickwick

Lamentably, I neglected to geo-tag this photo, and thus it’s likely that the Hot L Pickwick (as it has been known to all and sundry ever since) never saw the post. The sign had been burnt out for ages before I captured it, and it remained burnt out for many moons after.

Things then went quiet for a spell, until two years later. While staying in New York City at the Fairfield Inn, I captured a shot of the New Yorker Hotel. To get this picture, I had to stick my phone out of one of those tiny angled windows, ten stories up. I made sure to geo-tag the location where I almost smashed my phone:

The New Yorker Hotel

However, as there was no issue with the New Yorker’s sign, there was no response from either hotel. I’m pretty much just including this image because it’s a damned good photo. Hey, it’s my website, I’ll do what I want with it!

But back to the matter at hand: figuring out why Instagram was created. The next step on my path to enlightenment came with this shot of the sign for Boston’s famous Union Oyster House:

Union Oyster Hose
You see it’d be a hose, except instead of water, it sprays oysters.

This photo was properly tagged with the Union Oyster House’s location, and while they’re one of America’s oldest restaurants, they’re also hip enough to be on Instagram. Yet the sign has remained broken (and has in fact gotten worse — I believe we’re currently down to NION YSTER HOSE). There can be only one explanation for this, and that is that the Union Oyster House is not a hotel.

The final confirmation as to Instagram’s purpose came just a couple of weeks ago, when I snapped this nighttime pic:

DoubleTree Suits
Their selection of menswear was honestly just awful. It was scattered between hundreds of different rooms across dozens of floors, with no coherent organization.

Not long after I posted the image, I discovered this comment on it, from Doubletree Suites themselves:

A reply: Haha! Nice catch @pbones! We'll let engineering know. #caughtbysurprise

Jackpot! Another broken sign successfully reported to a hotel! It simply cannot be denied that Instagram is providing a platform for informing hotels about signage malfunctions. These results are irrefutable. Further, they indicate that this is a very functional service for the hospitality industry, touting a 67% success rate.

The comments on the last photo didn’t end there though, as my old pal John Moltz offered his congratulations:


In the immortal words of Dr. Zoidberg, “Hooray! I’m helping!” Now if I could just get Doubletree to hand over some of those warm cookies.