Recession Mama

{May 2, 2009}   Eating Free in a Recession

By Katy

Remember the saying, “There is no such thing as a free lunch?” Well, I think this week proved it for me. It was an unusual week in this recession mama’s life. In the news, all we heard about was the “swine flu,” but on the streets, everyone was talking about the chicken wars.

Should it now be called Kentucky Grilled Chicken?

Should it now be called Kentucky Grilled Chicken?

First on Monday, KFC gave away single pieces of its new grilled chicken. Then, on Tuesday, El Pollo Loco challenged KFC in a taste test and gave away an entire meal — two pieces of chicken, tortillas and salsa.

They are a crazy chicken for giving away free food!

They are a crazy chicken for giving away free food!

Now, there’s also a third time this week, I was supposed to get free food. But this was a benefit and my fiance had to pay $20 each for us to go. They did have free Kogi BBQ, and it was supposed to be all-you-can-eat so we definitely-had-to-go! Now, if you’ve never heard of Kogi BBQ, let me tell you what you’re missing…mouthwatering, marinated meats, Korean BBQ-style, wrapped in fresh tortillas and topped with Kimchi. Yes, Kimchi. Spicy, juicy, flavorful bites. And now, Kogi is a phenomenon in L.A. It used to be one truck. Now, they have two. And the lines are still crazy long. Check out this story about Kogi BBQ from Nightline. (They didn’t have an embedding code, so I couldn’t just share this with you guys here on our blog.)

Now it’s unusual to get free food at one place, but free food at three places in one week? Well, as I’ve learned over the years (from my cheap dad)…if it’s free, it’s for me! OK the Kogi BBQ/Benefit for Center of Hope Village event wasn’t technically free. We did pay $40 for the two of us, but we were helping abused children in the Philippines so we didn’t really think of the money like that. We really felt like we were going to eat for free. But let me tell you something about trying to eat for free.

At El Pollo Loco, people were really the “loco” ones! After trying to find parking for about 20 minutes, I, luckily, didn’t have much of a line at the cash register. But after ordering and NOT paying for my food at the register, I had to stand in a CROWD of people to pick up what I had ordered. There wasn’t a line, and people were getting rude! The guy in front of me in line cut in front of about 20 other people, and asked for his free chicken before his number was called. And the girl behind the counter actually gave it to him! I mean, c’mon people! This is FREE fast food chicken we’re talking about here. No one is winning the lottery. But that’s exactly how one girl described the “scene” at the Kogi BBQ/Benefit for Center of Hope Village event. My fiance and I waited in line for a full hour before we got our tacos. The guy at the front gate promised us three, but when we got to the front of the line, the guy in the truck told us we could only have two and they had run out of spicy pork…which was probably a good thing (considering the swine flu epidemic). I complained that it was my first time getting the tacos, and that other people have already had seconds and thirds. He caved and said I could have three tacos, instead of the two they were now issuing.

I was pretty amazed. I thought that free meant everyone would be happier to stand in lines just to get free food. But some people are never satisfied are they? ( I admit that I was a little bit like that at the benefit. I thought they should’ve had two lines…one for people who’ve already made their first round of tacos…and another line for those who had not had their firsts yet.) But the Kogi truck co-owner and chef, basically, told me tough luck and that’s just the way it is.  Outside El Pollo Loco, a homeless man was asking for money from all of the people who were getting free chicken.  One person told him, “Dude, don’t you know they’re giving away free chicken in there?”  He didn’t seem to want the chicken.

If getting free fast food was this chaotic, imagine what it must’ve been like during the Great Depression when people waited in bread lines or during the 70’s when our parents had to wait in line for gas. And can you believe that when I asked my cheap dad if he took advantage of any of these free promotions, he said he had started going, but saw how long the lines were and decided to go somewhere else where he had a coupon.

Heather B says:

I love that your dad left the chaos and used his coupon. Brilliant! Getting free food is always a bonus but I hate crowds so I would’ve run in the other direction. After working in radio promotions back in the day i learned free always coincides with chaos.So I’ll just pay full price.

recessionmama says:

I couldn’t understand why people were still acting like lunatics when the food was free!

Carla says:

Nothing like free food, Katy. And yes, no one knows that better than radio people…even when the economy was booming!

recessionmama says:

Yes, free food is always great! But I guess it isn’t always really free. There is a price to pay.

recessionmama says:

This is true. Radio people will eat anything that’s sitting out. No questions asked!

Claudia says:

I still stand by my motto… Free food is the BEST food! I got my free Chik-Fil-A breakfasts a few weeks ago and yes, went to KFC for my free chicken. The manager was getting really mad and saif out loud, “OK, some people have come back several times for their free chicken. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!”

Kashi had a promotion last month where they gave away a coupon for a free frozen meal if you logged onto their website, and as I ate my free Kashi lunch at work last week, I thought of just how much better it tasted knowing that I didn’t have to shell out $4.99 for it!

recessionmama says:

I love it!! I thought the same thing after I left El Pollo Loco. I took the food and ate it in the car though because I didn’t want to deal with the angry mob. But I did think how nice it was to eat for free!!

Vanessa Bull says:

All this talk about El Pollo Loco is making me hungry. I definitely would’ve said YES to some of that free chicken!

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