Gilmore Girls Blow up Fair Grinds Coffeehouse

dscn1914Little Rock    It all seemed simple enough. Through the on-and-off challenge of erratic email in Cameroon, I got an email from a marketing company asking if Fair Grinds Coffeehouse, our social enterprise fair trade operation in New Orleans, was willing to do something they called a “Luke’s Diner” pop-up for 5 hours on a Wednesday for Netflix. It seems they were trying to revive the old “Gilmore Girls” television show sometime later in the year. They would pay us for up to 250 free cups of coffee to giveaway. They would do the promo and send us cups, sleeves, and some t-shirts or aprons and such.

What did I know from the “Gilmore Girls?” I might have watched them for a couple of minutes sometime back in the day while flipping through channels perhaps. Sort of a rom-com, adult soap opera of sorts tilted toward a female demographic. I looked at the calendar. It was a Wednesday. Someone willing to buy 250 cups of coffee on a Wednesday morning, usually a somewhat slow day, what did we have to lose, I thought? I forwarded the message over to Zee Thornton, our manager, saying as much, but warning that I was buried, so she would have to pull the trigger on any contract, since I couldn’t sign and scan from Douala.

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I was a little worried when I read the contract they sent over which had a line that they could unilaterally disregard everything they said in the contract on a whim, so I objected to the marketing company. Their agent replied. Hmmm. Then he suggested we just scratch that line out and sign it and see what might happen. That seemed a little sketchy to me, but, what the heck, Zee could handle it, and how bad could this be, Gilmore Girls, maybe 50 or 100 folks would show up. I would roll by and check it out as I left for meetings in Greenville, Mississippi, and Little Rock, Arkansas.

The “Gilmore Girls” blew up Fair Grinds! It was crazy! When I got there at 730 AM, an hour after we opened on Ponce de Leon, the line stretched from our counter, out the door, and snaked down the street, and around the corner of ’s grocery store at the end of the block. I took a picture from our balcony and, having seen many marches and demonstrations, it looked like Fair Grinds was the target of an action! Luckily Zee had showed up for a look too, so she was behind the counter with two baristas. The opener said that when he got there at 530 AM, there was already a line. I left at 8 AM to hit the highway after trying to reassure folks along the line that we were slinging the coffee, and it wouldn’t be long.

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I asked the crowd of largely younger, white women, what was up? Many said they had watched it with their mothers. The series had run between 2000 and 2007. This would have been its 16th anniversary. One young woman on a bicycle who used to work at Canseco’s told me when she was working in the neighborhood, she had told her parents that this whole neighborhood reminded her of the Gilmore Girls neighborhood. Unlike most crowds, they were totally mellow, chitchatting as they inched along, patient, just sort of grinning about being at some kind of a Gilmore Girls lovefest. It could have been drugs, but I don’t think so.

It turned out we were out of the free coffee before 9 AM, and had used all 500 cup sleeves not much after that. Netflix worked this promotion in 200 coffee houses and cafes around the country. I’m not sure it cost them much more than $100 – $150000 nationally. We had radio, television, and newspapers before, during, and after the event. It was a total happening! I looked on-line, and USA Today had a story about a similar line and Luke himself showing up at a joint in Los Angeles.

Wild. My son, Chaco, the Fair Grinds assistant manager, who showed up luckily to restock and help out, posted on Facebook that he was going to have to check this show out now and see what was up.

You think you know something about organizing and moving a crowd, but there’s always something to learn!

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Please enjoy Hiss Golden Messenger’s Biloxi. Thanks to KABF.

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Comcast Monopoly Strategy: Be the Biggest Bully on the Block

Comcast_Public_Knowledge_Anti_TWC_Deal_WideNew Orleans         Sometimes you just have to scratch your head and admit that you are out of your pay grade. That’s where I’m heading in trying to figure out why the giant Comcast believes its best political and commercial strategy for achieving monopoly concentration in the cable and internet world is to be the biggest bully on the block. Yet, darned if that’s not the way David Cohen, Comcast’s executive vice-president, is calling the plays.

Not that I’m surprised, since that’s the way Cohen and Comcast chose to deal, or I guess I should more accurately say, not deal, with Local 100 United Labor Unions, Action United, and ACORN International in our demands and entreaties that they actually make their public relations internet program, Internet Essentials, really work. Shame on us for believing that because the $10 per month program was a requirement in the FCC order approving their last big merger with Universal that they would actually do something real to bridge the internet divide for lower income families rather than have their government relations people just wine and dine local politicians in their cities.

In the most recent bully boy schoolyard play, Cohen and Comcast dropped a 1000 pages on the FCC mainly whining that some of their business buddies and potential, oh my god can it be true, competitors, have opposed their monopoly play to acquire Times-Warner for selfish reasons about protecting their own businesses. I guess Comcast believes that they have some kind of monopoly on self-interest as well, or maybe it’s just the modern hubris of “what’s good for GM is good for the country” and their arrogance that they believe what is good for Comcast is therefore good for the American people.

Comcast’s main claim is that its buddies were involved in extortion. I do have to take this seriously, since Comcast has certainly proven that it probably knows more about everyday extortion than virtually any company working on the planet now. Netflix’s spokesperson replied tit for tat to that claim though by saying, “It is not extortion to demand that Comcast provide its own customers the broadband speeds they’ve paid for so that they can enjoy Netflix. It is extortion when Comcast fails to provide its own customers the broadband speed they’ve paid for unless Netflix also pays a ransom.” Boom! Now we’re talking trash that’s music to our ears!

So I have to wonder, will trying to bully the FCC and point fingers at everyone else work, because if so, we need to modify our strategy in trying to push the FCC to do better in providing internet access for our people? One finger wagging reported in the New York Times, from a media analyst said, “Regulators are a sophisticated audience. They can assess the merits of the various arguments without having to be coached on what incentives might be behind why someone did or didn’t say what they did.”

Of course I’m not that sophisticated, but I do know some simple things. If Comcast can’t even pretend to play nice before they are allowed to become a monopoly, how can any of us or the FCC believe that letting them become an even bigger monopoly will be good for any of us? We all were schooled on the basics that in dealing with a bully, you need to slap them back hard. The Comcast purchase of Times-Warner must be stopped. It’s the only way to get a bully to listen.

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