Gotta be honest with you, I was a bit put out. Now that I think about it, that’s a great phrase: being “put out.” Random 4-hours-sleep-last-night thought: raise your hand if you saw the Flintstones cartoons and remember how the cats were “put out” of the house at night.
Used to be that at night people put out the empty milk bottle and the cat. That’s just what you did. You can see for yourselves in this closing to one of my favorite cartoons that they’ve literally been doing this for 100,000 years. Sadly, the milkman, Bronto Burgers, driving on I-10 using only your feet for propulsion and putting the cat out at night have gone the way of the… (I think it’s worth noting that purple dinosaurs were around long before Barney.)
In my case, and to my seemingly irrevocable sorrow, I was put out by H-E-B.
Now, you have to understand something about H-E-B and my fanboy status around this national grocery store of Texas. (“We” Texans love H-E-B so much that there are Texas-shaped stickers printed with the common saying “Love my H-E-B.”) My quick rise to fanboy happened in 1996, and I won’t recount the story here but rather refer you to it HERE. Whether or not you read that post now or were one of the three who did so then, you should know that this site is inspired by H-E-B. For a New Yorker who grew up on real bagels, real pizza, and had smörgåsbord, sushi/sashimi and Ghanian by the time I could vote, I developed early on a prejudice toward not only food that wasn’t Gotham-found but also any grocery story that wasn’t called Fairway and didn’t require the skill of a Formula-1 driver to maneuver around the end caps and jockey for position at the express checkout line. If you have watched the Netflix series, Formula 1: Drive to Survive, you’ll know that cursing out the shopping cart driver who tries to overtake you is not unheard of. In fact, it’s encouraged.
You may not know this, but many Fairway shoppers themselves have sponsors ranging from Dave’s Killer Bread (this is indeed the Team Red Bull of grocery sponsors) to Post cereal to Le Colombe Coffee Nitro. At H-E-B, however, no sponsors are needed. No jockeying is needed. In fact, people are not even in a rush. Even the red scooter-basket-cart that people sit in go only as fast as a Chevy Suburban idling up Hilltop Drive.
I have veered so far off the subject.
Back to it.
I was put out.
Put out like a cat in the Mesozoic.
In addition to this site’s being inspired by H-E-B, I consistently post on my Instagram the items I buy from the store and cook. I also get responses from the store in Instagram DMs about my feed and stories that mention them. I am such a devotee that their coffee brand Cafe Olé is practically the only brand I drink. (We also occasionally drink Aldo’s Coffee from Greenport, New York, and Cuvee coffee I got at PAX here in town, but basically it’s all Cafe Olé.)
So I thought I’d try to become an “ambassador” for the brand and get free coffee for posting various kinds of H-E-B products. (Let’s be real, Red Bull-sponsored F-1 driver Max Verstappen drinks that swill publicly, but he probably eschews it privately. I, on the other hand, would drink Cafe Olé no matter what. Or would I…?)
I DM’ed H-E-B on Instagram, and they gave me the email address to write to in order to ask about becoming a brand ambassador. So I did.
Four times. Crickets. Not even an auto-reply.
So I complained, like a little pissy New Yorker who doesn’t get his way grocery shopping:
H-E-B’s Instagram monitor(s) have consistently responded to my questions and proactively commented on my posts and stories. It was obvious that if I wanted a response to my selfless (“yeah…no”) offer to be an ambassador, I’d have to ping the IG crew rather than wait for responses to my emails.
So I did.
And like a pissy New Yorker who thinks that grocery stores revolve around me — although they kind of do: me and every other customer. Ok… low blow. But pissy nonetheless, like I said — I even called the lack of a response to my emails, “rude.”
I said that. I know: harsh language.
You can imagine what I’d say to a New York City-based grocery store. In fact, you wouldn’t have to imagine it. I could show you how I responded to Gristedes one time if only I could find the post from my old blog.
H-E-B wrote back.
They wrote back and promised a follow up. And you know what? They followed up, because later THAT DAY, a woman named Shannyn wrote a very kind email and said that H-E-B didn’t have any ambassadors for the Cafe Olé brand. Shame, if you ask me. BUT, she added:
While we don’t have an official Café Ole ambassador program, we appreciate the love and really are glad you love brewing Café Ole!
We’d love to send you some Café Ole to say thanks- and if you post anything, wonderful — but if not, just know we appreciate you being such a fan!Gracious H-E-B response to pissy New York complainant
Yesterday a box arrived. A heavy Box. From H-E-B with, I soon learned, a packing slip with Shannyn’s name on it.
In it were eight (8) pounds of flavored ground coffee, a 2lb bag of flavored coffee beans and various swag, including a “Love my H-E-B” sticker, which was quickly affixed to my otherwise pristine MacBook Air. Market value was easily more than $100.
Can you tell I love my H-E-B?