Nothing Kwik About My Kwik-E-Mart Visit

Taking movie marketing to its logical albeit ridiculous conclusion, eleven 7-11 convenience stores in the United States have been transformed into Kwik-E-Marts, the store featured in The Simpsons. The movie version of the animated series, which is the longest-running sitcom on American television, opens July 27, 2007, and the converted Kwik-E-Marts have not only gotten a makeover on the outside, but stores sell real versions of fictional products: Buzz Cola, Krusty O's Cereal, and Squishees. (Regular 7-11's have Simpsons products too, but did not receive a full makeover.)

Loren insisted that we visit the Kwik-E-Mart in Burbank tonight, and, after much protest and resistance on my end, I was shoved into the car and complained every single one of the six miles it took to get there.

All the exterior signage had been changed, life-sized plastic characters from the show were placed in front of the store (Bart and Milhouse were sitting on the roof), and there was unflattering graffiti of Principal Skinner on the side of the building. Searchlights shined into the night sky as a beacon of Hollywood advertising run amok, and the line to get into the store wrapped around the building.

I have to admit that it was a pretty impressive sight, and, as I stood in line, I was filled with child-like anticipation at the wonders that waited for me inside. After more than 60 minutes in line, I got in, and my hopes and dreams were unceremoniously crushed. I feel sorry for the guy who drove all the way from Arizona just to sip a Squishee.

You see, had I casually just passed by the Kwik-E-Mart and wandered inside, I would've been duly impressed, giddy, and satisfied. But after seeing that amazing exterior and after waiting for more than an hour, my expectations were raised ridiculously high. With that kind of long, drawn-out build-up, I was anticipating a fucking theme park inside. Instead, what I saw were a few novelty items stocked on the shelves, a couple more plastic characters scattered about, and several Simpsons-related signs non-strategically placed here and there. Hardly the ride I had waited for and hardly worth the wait.

As I exited, I did my best impression of Comic Book Guy and declared, "Worst. Promotion. Ever."

The guy in front of the store was excited to tell us about the 1,000 six-packs of Buzz Cola that sold out in less than 24 hours and the various items that had been flying off the shelves. The Kwik-E-Marts (and there may be one near you) will be open until July 31st, and the neighborhood residents who typically enjoy the convenience of a convenience store have nowhere to go for a quick Coke or a bag of Baked Cheetos. (For a virtual tour of a Kwik-E-Mart, go here.)

Back at my home in Glendale, Loren and I walked to our corner 7-11. On the shelves were a bunch of six-packs of Buzz Cola, of which we bought three. So, contrary to all you've learned about sales, our corner store sold us the steak and not the sizzle. Sometimes it just works out that way.

—Reporting From Glendale, California

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