An email that prominently features the words “food” and “tester” and “free” is as irresistible to me as the film “Point Break,” the chorus of Duran Duran’s “Rio,” and Oreo cookie filling.
Among many other enticing, but not especially nutritious, things that squeeze my dopamine receptors.
(Or whatever it is that happens to dopamine receptors that causes them to splurt.)
Email pitches have much in common with TV ads — besides, that is, a certain cheesy appeal. Both forms of media also need to grab your attention with the ferocity of a polar bear seizing a seal that’s preparing to plunge off a floe.
We consumers are a flighty lot, under constant bombardment by pitches vying for our time and, ultimately, our money. If our attention is diverted for even a moment there’s always a competitor ready to yank us in a different direction — always another scene featuring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves on surfboards, always another sandwich cookie with double the sweet stuff in between.
The crafters of these messages often try to keep us from such distractions through the generous use of capital letters and exclamation points, these most generally employed as a grammatical tag team.
(And with as much subtlety as an actual tag team leaping together from the turnbuckles in defiance of the “rules” of wrestling.)
Perhaps I’m jaded but this approach — the written equivalent of screaming in my face — has the opposite of its intended effect.
The more exclamation points, the more likely I am to aim my cursor at the trash can icon.
But as I mentioned, I am vulnerable to certain words.
And the idea of being a food tester, I submit, is one that many people find difficult if not impossible to ignore.
The concept is attractive because it’s so different from normal. The prospect of being paid to eat — something most of us enjoy, and that all of us must do anyway — seems to me comparable to, say, earning a check for driving a Ferrari or doing something else that we expect to have to pay for, sometimes dearly.
This particular pitch, which arrived in my inbox from a website called Pickswise, also staved off a robotic deletion in part by referring to the National Football League.
This distracted me long enough to discern that the winner of this online contest would be paid to go to NFL games and while there gobble burgers, pizza and whatever else the stadiums’ concession stands serve.
As anyone knows who has ever attended a football game, the menus lean heavily (literally) toward scrumptious dishes dominated by meat and cheese, and the taps dispense copious quantities of soda and beer.
Kale and tofu are conspicuous for their rarity.
(Even, one would hope, by their absence.)
The email notes that “no experience of qualifications are required” besides being at least 21. But this seems to me to avoid the obvious question.
How many adults, whatever their affinity for nachos and hot dogs, can upset their schedule (and likely their stomachs, given the nature of stadium cuisine) to jet about the U.S. for several weekends this fall?
I’d happily attend football games and jot down my impressions of the bratwurst and soft pretzels, but I can’t make it happen, what with a job and a family, commitments most of us share.
I’d not heard of Pickswise until I opened the email.
The outfit’s focus isn’t food but sports gambling. Pickswise offers free tips for betting on pro and college games.
I’m not much on wagering so I can’t judge whether this advice is sound.
But if I were I’d probably be leery of risking much money on Pickswise’s, well, picks.
For one thing its Twitter feed misspelled the first name of Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts as “Jaylen.” And there were multiple references, so I have to conclude that Pickswise actually believes the “y” is supposed to be there, which no doubt would surprise Mr. Hurts.
The email announcing the foodtester contest also refers to NFL games as “matches,” a term you will not hear on ESPN’s football coverage.
That curiosity, along with the word “favorable” being spelled “favourable” in the British fashion on Pickswise’s website, suggests the site’s origin is at least outside America.
Not that I have any issue with our erstwhile colonial overlords mucking about in our favorite sport, even if their focus is on the concession stands rather than the field (or pitch, if you prefer).
Still and all, if I were inclined to take a run at being Pickswise’s official NFL food tester, I’d ensure my entry form had at least one reference to “chips” rather than “fries.”
A generous dollop of sycophancy, much like a couple extra pumps on those machines that dispense nacho cheese sauce, can only improve the situation.
Jayson Jacoby is editor
of the Baker City Herald.