HOT OFF THE PRESS dec.10.1999
In this issue: Burger King changes business plan, slogan for 2000; Mars Polar Lander astronauts doomed; Rosie takes aim.

Burger King Changes Business Plan, Slogan for 2000
divisiontwo staff writer

Spokespeople for Burger King, Inc., a nationwide chain of fast food restaurants that can be distinguished from McDonalds by the sign out front, announced earlier this week that the company would be shifting its business plan for the new millennium. According to the press briefing, beginning early next year Burger King will no longer accept orders from walk-in customers -- the new Burger King will order for them.

"The change in policy is a reaction to an increase in customer dissatisfaction over long lines and confusing menus," explained Burger King, Inc. president Don Farmer. "Our computer simulation revealed that when we simply tell the customer what they want, wait-times can be cut by more than half, and the overall happiness of the customer went up by ten hearts." The computer simulation to which Farmer is referring is the popular SimRestaurant video game by Electronic Arts in which players build their own restaurants and vie to be the most successful in town.

"If I see a middle-aged woman with three kids come in," explained Farmer, "I know she wants a Chicken Club Sandwich and three Kids' Meals for the little ones. There's no point in waiting for her to look at a menu, bite her nails, tell her brats to shut up and behave, and then give me an order that'll probably be incorrect."

The new Burger King will also no longer give standard U.S. currency as change when a customer overpays. In such an event, the customer will be given his or her change in Burger Bucks, which can be used on a later visit to the restaurant, Farmer said.

"The decision to give Burger Bucks as change is a response to customer demand," according to Farmer. "When people open their wallets or purses and see Burger Bucks, they know exactly where to spend them. It eliminates confusion."

A jubilant, somewhat giddy Farmer gushed that pilot programs designed to test the new policy have been "highly effective." After customers got over the initial shock of not being able to place their own order, he said, most left the store satisfied with Burger King's decision. "We had a few violent outbursts over the Burger Bucks policy," Farmer admits, "but those were nothing more than a few isolated cases of someone being a crabby-pants."

Accompanying the shift in business strategy will be a new slogan aimed at "showcasing the changing direction of fast food service." Burger King will unveil the "Have It Our Way" campaign with a series of 30-second TV spots to begin airing mid-January during Dharma & Greg.

"With the ads, we want people to know that when you have it our way, it just tastes better," said Burger King president of Media Relations, Rolf Haynes.

As for the potential for error inherent in the new policy, "All of our sales associates will be given additional training to read body language offered by customers, as well as other non-verbal cues such as race and size," assured Farmer.

Customers who visited Burger Kings selected to test the new policy expressed mixed reactions. "I really like the Burger Bucks," said Jessie Wilkers, a high school student in Milwaukee. "I think it's really cool that I can spend these instead of real money at Burger King. It's like getting something for free."

Chad Blank, a software engineer for the Milwaukee-based MILK Interactive was not quite so thrilled. "I think going to Burger King that day was one of the most bizarre experiences of my life," he recalls. "I walked in, tried to order and was told to 'shut up.' Then they gave me a bag that was stapled shut and told me I was not allowed to open it until I left the building. My total was $3.85, and I gave them a five dollar bill, and they gave me $1.15 in Burger Bucks as change. When that happened, I pulled out my dick and took a piss right there in front of the counter. No joke."

"I can't believe this is legal," exclaimed one frustrated customer who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "They knew things about me that I don't even know, and they said if I ever wanted to see my son graduate the sixth grade this spring I had better take my Burger Bucks and shut up."

The new policy goes into effect nationwide January 16.

Mars Polar Lander Astronauts Doomed

The last realistic opportunity to contact the Mars Polar Lander and its brave crew of nine ended Tuesday with no response from the missing spacecraft.

Engineers have now eliminated all simple explanations for why they have not heard from the probe since its descent into the Martian atmosphere Friday, and the American mood has turned from one of hope to one of commercial mourning. Magazines and memorabilia commemorating the event have been hot sellers and a boon to an industry that has suffered a severe downturn in the catastrophe-free months since the JFK Junior tragedy.

Over four days and six contact opportunities, engineers methodically eliminated possibilities that would explain the lander's silence, including a mispointed coat-hanger antenna, a slow direct-to-Earth AOL connection and other likely scenarios.

Efforts to reach the Lander and its crew will continue for about two weeks. Any of the scenarios left to be tested are much more complicated and even less plausible than those already tried, said Wallace Pool, the operations manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Right now we’re running simulations to see if Gamera might have eaten the Lander."

A simulation to test the likelihood of a badly printed map is also forthcoming. "It’s a stretch," said Pool, "but the crew may have taken a wrong turn somewhere and didn’t stop to ask directions."

Polar Lander's trajectory and condition were excellent until its AOL connection was lost -- as is common -- as the spacecraft positioned itself for entry on Friday. A spokesman for AOL was quick to point out that the company is currently in the process of upgrading its servers and hopes to eliminate the problem of random connection terminations within the next five years.

The scenario is similar to the 1993 loss of the $1 billion Mars Observer and its crew of 16 brave men. In that case, a four-month investigation whittled down 60 possible causes and determined that a cult suicide was the most likely cause of the spacecraft's sudden disappearance just three days before it was to begin circling Mars.

The space agency has only scant information on the final moments of Polar Lander and little hope of recovering the flight data recorder 157 million miles from Earth. The last broadcast message received from the Polar Lander before its disappearance was reportedly a lewd fart joke.

"It may be that everything went right and it simply landed in a bad spot," said Parker Robs, a famous conspiracy theorist and expert on the space program. "Who knows if it landed near a secret Martian government facility and the crew was executed because of what they saw?"

"We just don't know, and we never will, is my guess," he said, before turning his attention back to a pile of pornographic Japanese comic books.

Rosie Takes Aim

Talk show diva Rosie O'Donnell is on the warpath again, and this time she's armed with more than just low-priced shotguns from K-mart.

The daytime host and self-professed "Koosh Queen" is now targeting New York City's mayor Rudolph Giuliani with venom we haven't seen since May when she physically attacked and blinded Tom Selleck for his stance on gun control.

O'Donnel spent a good portion of her syndicated talk show Tuesday berating the mayor for his recent crackdown on the homeless, calling him "a pencil-dicked conservative" and helpfully providing his home telephone number and wife's name so her viewers could call with complaints.

"He thinks he, like, runs the world, but you know what, he doesn't," she said about his recent policy of executing homeless people who refuse to get off the street and go to shelters. "Newsflash, Rudy -- it's not nice to execute gutter people."

O'Donnell said she would gladly face jail time and possible execution herself to protest the policy, which she thinks is politically motivated. "He's a politician, you know," she told her audience. "This is a way to get rid of non-voters."

O'Donnel also issued a tongue-in-cheek warning to guest Woody Harrelson. "I hope he doesn't smoke a big doobie and pass out outside because Mayor Giuliani would have him killed and sold as cattle feed," she said.

The mayor later dismissed O'Donnel's charges as "the rantings of a fat lesbian" and said the policy was designed to help, not hurt the Big Apple's homeless population. "Ten percent of the profits we get from selling the bodies as cattle feed go to benefit NYC homeless shelters," he explained.

This is the second bomb O'Donnel has tossed at the mayor this fall. In October, she mocked Giuliani's appearance, saying he looks like "a moldy urinal cake."

For their part, producers of the Rosie O'Donnell Show are standing by the outspoken diva. "People are not just looking to her for adoration of celebrities and Tourettes-like bursts of song anymore," Jim Paratore, president of Telepictures Productions, said in a statement. "They're looking for militant political activism and inflamatory rhetoric. They see an issue and ask themselves, 'what would Rosie do in this situation?'"

Apparently, in this case she'd lock-and-load.

Old News:

November 24, 1999: U.S. minorities to be declared legally disabled; The Onion may not be a reliable news source; Ohio lines up at the Microsoft instant cash machine

November 4, 1999: Clinton says youth feeling more unsafe at schools; Scientist knows word you don't; Congress gets a hard-on for "Iron Giant"

October 19, 1999: Unauthorized autobiography of Mother Theresa released; Hurricane Irene pounds North Carolina coast, smokes cigarette when finished; The fight to place warning labels on genetically engineered foods heats up.

October 6, 1999: Free Mumia! movement gains strength; More whining from the Native American Community; Gap announces creepier ad campaign.

September 28, 1999: Ground-breaking television to air on Fox; Scandal rocks the herbal supplement industry; Michigan man sentenced to death for swearing in front of women.

September 19, 1999: JFK Junior named Man of the Century; Students share their views on returning to Columbine; Scented candles can be dangerous.

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