1968 Retrospect: Credit Cards

According to the 1968 The World Book Year Book, “Bank Credit Card programs, despite a faltering start 10 years earlier, were flourishing in 1968.” Several new card programs joined the great credit race in 1968–most notably the Interbank Card group (later to become MasterCard). These new cards were introduced to compete with the successful Bank Americard (later to become Visa). In 1970, MasterCard was the industry leader. They remained in this position for about a decade until Visa’s innovative and aggressive marketing finally earned it the industry’s top spot.

In 1968, US credit card debt totalled $8 billion (in current dollars). As of January 2008, that total had ballooned to  $947 billion. For perspective, that is $8,094 per household. There’s nothing more American than crushing debt, right? Well, gotta run. I’m just about up to the pay window at McDonalds and I need to find my Visa card.

Fuddruckers Sucks

I have a rule about trying new restaurants: If I don’t like it the first time, I always give them a second chance. Everyone has a bad day, right? Even an entire restaurant. About a year ago, a Fuddruckers came to town. I kept hearing people at work brag about how incredible the place was. I finally relented and took the family. In short, we hated it. But per my policy, I gave it a second try today. Let’s review my culinary adventure.

As we walked up to the door, we were greeted with pleasant Christmas wreathes hanging on the doors. We opened the door and walked in to bone-jarring shouts of “Hi guys! Welcome to Fuddruckers!” from the kitchen staff across the way. So much for my relaxed, festive mood. From the front door, we were funneled into the cattle chute to weave our way toward the register to order (think airport security or the line to a Disneyland ride without the benefit of the FastPass). I settled in for my 10 minute wait in line and began surveying the menu. They have various items, but they claim to have the “World’s Greatest Hamburgers”, so that’s what I settled on. So, burger, fries, and a drink: $9.50. Wow, a little spendy. Oh well, it must be worth it. They took my name and payment and handed back this massive plastic cup for my beverage. Sweet!

But still no food. You have to make your way to a table and wait again. The décor of the restaurant is pleasant. It has a mixture of antiques hanging from the walls and ceiling, and various local items to give it more of a homey feel. The table is covered by that red and white plaid tablecloth you are familiar with on a picnic table. Hmmm. Pricey $10 lunch…and I’m sitting at a picnic table? Ewww…to make matters worse, it’s a sticky plastic finish on the tablecloth. My cup and arm stick to the table. Now if these things will stick to the tablecloth, what about germs. Just saying…

The orders are called out over blaring speakers located throughout the restaurant. “TOM, YOUR ORDER IS READY!” As you might imagine, this just adds to the peaceful, relaxing atmosphere. After about 10 minutes, I’m finally called to retrieve my food. ($10 lunch and I have to pick up my own food?).

I go up to the pick-up area and am handed a plastic basket with the paper lining on the bottom (strange, it doesn’t seem like a fast food place). On the paper is an open-faced hamburger patty on the bun along with my fries. That’s it, no toppings whatsoever. Apparently they have various stations where you add the topping you would like. ($10 lunch and I have to build the burger myself?) I went to the first station, which had all the usual veggies you would expect. So I threw on some lettuce and a little bit of onion. Then I’m looking around for the mayo. There are so many people milling around building their $10 burgers that I nearly bumped into one. Thankfully a tragic, burger-ending, collision was averted. The last thing I wanted to do was get back in line. At that point, I would have left and just hit McDonalds. I finally found the mayo, finished building my $10 burger, and carefully headed back to the table.

Okay, well it has not been the most pleasant experience so far, but now I’m ready to chow down on my world class $10 burger. Yeah…not so much. It was not particularly juicy or tasty–it was actually rather dry and tasteless. So now I’ve spent way too much time and way too much money on a crappy burger…great! So can anyone explain the appeal of this place to me? If I want I decent burger at a good price, fast, I’ll go to most any fast food restaurant and be satisfied. If I want a great burger, at an okay price, at a sit-down place, I’ll go to some place like Red Robin, Chili’s, etc. What’s the appeal of Fuddruckers? It seems to embody the worst of all worlds: high price, crappy burger, slow service, and I have to dress it up myself! If you have a good answer to this, I’d love to hear it.