Producers Of The Useless

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Memo to Producers Of The Useless: YOU ARE DUMB.

For the most part, despite being a rabid, foaming leftist, I like the capitalism. But one of the consequences of capitalism is that assholes will use it to separate idiots from cash. For example, there are a whole lot of products and/or services out there that nobody needs. And I'm not talking infomercial bullshit, like the Eggstractor or the magic flipping pancake pan. I'm talking about huge mass-market stuff, put out there for the general DUMB public to jump on board with.

Like the Panera Card. The Panera Card is a service offered by Panera, which sells bread and bagels and sandwiches and soup. I spend a lot of time at Panera, actually, which is how I know about the Panera Card, because all the signs that aren't touting the low-carb qualities of its MEAT SALAD are pushing this card. The food's fine, but I have to defocus my eyes and not read anything if I don't want to get pissed off.

The Panera Card is a refillable debit card you can use at Panera to buy things. You put money into the card, take the card to Panera, and exchange the money you've put into the card for Panera food. I have spent months trying to figure out who, apart from Panera, this helps, and I just can't do it.

You can use it as a gift card, but that's not how they're marketing it. They're marketing it for personal use. Which makes no goddamn sense. And, I think, Panera realizes this. On their website, they say, "And other times, you want to treat yourself to the convenience of plastic currency that works just like cash." Treat? Since when is currency exchange a treat? I blame Atkins. In the post-South-Beach culinary apocalypse, the only "treats" left are raw bacon and moving money into less useful forms. This is what happens when you deprive yourselves of candy, people. When plastic currency starts seeming like a "treat" to you, it's time to eat a fucking muffin.

I could see the use of the Panera card, perhaps, if Panera were some extranational Communist state which only accepted, say, pennies and German bearer bonds in exchange for food, but they take all denominations of cash, they take checks, they take credit cards, they take debit cards... they take pretty much any form of tender short of barter. And I only assume that. I haven't actually tried bringing in a goat and a hand-woven blanket to see how many garlic bagels they'll get me.

Who falls for this? Who thinks it would be better to live a life where you find yourself stopping into Panera to put twenty bucks on your Panera card because you think you might be going to Panera tomorrow to eat? Or: "Hey, let's go to Panera!" "OK, but hold on. My Panera card's almost empty. Wait a sec while I use my dial-up connection, log on to their secure server, type in my credit card information, wait for my confirmation number and e-mail... OK, we can go!" It's just DUMB.

Another useless product that sent $54 million dollars flowing from the stupid to the assholes in just three days? "Van Helsing". This is yet another phenomenon I have a difficult time figuring out. We live in an age of hundreds of different cable channels. Internet. DVD rental and purchase. Computer and video games. We are not, by any stretch of the imagination, a MEDIA-POOR SOCIETY. But something like Van Helsing comes out, and we all react like we're on MASH or something. Like we've been cooped up in a tent in Korea for a month, and headquarters finally shipped us a new movie.

There is always something better to do than go see a shitty movie on opening weekend. I don't know how much plainer I can say it. This is true of everybody in our society. If you've got the six bucks to spend on a shitty movie on opening weekend, I don't care who you are, what you do, or what your life situation is, there's something better you could be doing with those two hours and those six bucks. And it's not like the people behind Van Helsing didn't go out of their way to point out to you at every opportunity that this was going to be a shitty movie. They did everything short of actually titling it "THAT SHITTY VAN HELSING MOVIE". But millions of you couldn't find something better to do with your two hours and your six bucks.

If you people pull this again when "Catwoman" comes out, I will have measures in place to track you, find you, and slap you upside your head. Remotely. From orbit. My satellite goes up at the end of June. You go see Catwoman on opening weekend, you better park yourself under a tinfoil awning for the rest of your life, because SMACKSTAR-1 will be waiting.