Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Jet Blue gives back to their Twitter followers

To celebrate their 10th birthday, popular airline Jet Blue decided to give back to some lucky fans this week. Their first "gift" was offering $10 flights from JFK to its original 10 destinations. This deal offered flights to cities such as: Oakland, Orlando, Salt Lake City and Tampa. Of course the deal offered this past weekend had a catch, you had to fly out on Monday, March 8th or Tuesday, March 9th. Nevertheless I'm sure this deal saved many customers a lot of money.

Today Jet Blue sweetened the pot and decided to give away nearly 1000 tickets scavenger hunt style around Manhattan. The company cleverly posted updates on twitter, stating their location and instructions on specific items to bring in exchange for free tickets. With San Francisco, Vegas and Chicago on my domestic travel list I decided I was going to join in the festivities and try my luck if the location was near my job.

The first location was posted on Twitter at noon explaining to bring a birthday card for Jet Blue to Broadway & Dey street in the financial district. This was too far from my office, but I stayed glued to twitter for updates on the next location.

2 hours later the second location was posted, this time the free tickets were on 11th st and University place and you had to bring something airplane related. I borrowed my co-workers' frequent flyer card and ran out thinking I would be one of the first ones to arrive.

There was a gigantic line bending around the block filled with young people carrying peanuts, headphones, ticket stubs and anything else airline related. I knew I wasn't going to win but decided to hop on at the end of the line. There were a few hundred people in front of me and literally a minute later a Jet Blue representative came down the line to kill our dreams by announcing that they had ran out of tickets for this location.

The representatives hailed down a couple cabs to head to their next destination. The mobs of hopeful people swarmed around them, some begging for tickets. It was quite a scene as the reps smiled while dodging through the crowd. It reminded me of a movie star leaving a shoot trying to avoid autograph seeking fans. Despite the herds of desperate travelers there was a fun atmosphere happening here. It was an excuse for friends to hang out and try their luck to possibly score free tickets, right before spring break for the college crowd.

I applaud Jet Blue for thinking outside of the box and coming up with this fun and creative marketing plan. The execution via social media was extremely efficient and hit the young college demographic head on. They proved to the community that they are generous, and will possibly gain market share in the process thanks to word of mouth. The airline industry often lacks personality, so it was nice to see Jet Blue reach out to their fans in a creative way. 2 Thumbs up!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Ben's Chili Bowl ... The Real Deal???

Washington DC is a great weekend trip for New Yorkers looking for a change of scenery without sacrificing the city lifestyle. I drove down to Maryland with my friends Chaz and Vikky where we were lucky enough to have housing accommodations and were meeting with our other friend Suzy, a DC native to show us around town. After wandering around landmarks it was lunch time and Suzy instantly recommended Ben's Chili Bowl on nearby U street. Ben's is one of DC's most famous establishments, as I have seen it on various travel and foodie television shows discussing its rich history. It was the moment of truth, and I wanted to see if the food at Ben's Chili Bowl lived up to its hype.

After a short ride on the efficient Metro system we arrived and quickly spotted the bright red, yellow and white building. To no surprise there was a line out the door. Thankfully it was a beautiful March afternoon and we did not mind the wait. The line moved quickly though and after 1o minutes we were ushered inside to another line. Suzy and I quickly grabbed a corner table while Chaz and Vikky ordered. The place was packed, but had plenty of seats. A few booths and tables occupied the front of the restaurant along with some stools right next to all of the cooking action. In the back was a larger seating area that catered to parties with 6 or more people. The ordering process was organized and turned out to be very efficient. The outdoor crowd is brought in slowly, which is a smart way to avoid chaos inside. After ordering the staff notices where you are seated and brings your order over to the table. The overall process is stress free and faster then it originally appears.

The bustling atmosphere inside Ben's was great. It was packed with what seemed like a mostly tourist crowd of families, friends and couples. In the background soulful music was loudly playing, as well as hard working staff members shouting out orders.

Okay, decision time!!! I went simple and ordered the classic chili dog with a side of fries.

The chili dog was a standard size but smothered with flavorful chili! Only a tip of the hot dog was showing. The generous portion of chili on top was very smooth and had lots of tasty spice. It all came together very well once combined with the hot dog, mustard and finely chopped onions. I finished it in about 5 bites and managed not to spill any, but make sure to have napkins nearby in case of chili overboard!

I made the bonehead decision to accompany my dog with a side of regular fries but got to sample my friends' orders of chili and chili-cheese fries which were both very good. I personally enjoyed the chili fries the best, as the addition of cheese made the fries a little too heavy - but were great for a couple of bites. Definitely be prepared to eat these fries with a fork!

I was representing my New York Rangers in DC by wearing my jersey (the game was later that day) which caught the attention of one employee walking by. This dude was big, and looked pissed off! He asked each of my friends individually:

"Is this guy with you???" with a very stern tone.

We laughed as he explained that this was "Ovi's town which means no Rangers, No Penguins, just Caps!"

It was all in good fun as my friends and I laughed about it while struggling to finish the remaining fries . I loved that somebody noticed that I was an outsider by my jersey and it showed the hockey craziness of DC that I sometimes question.

Ben's Chili Bowl is the real deal. Great food, great atmosphere and a place to kick back with friends. If you don't believe me, you can ask this guy ...