business news in context, analysis with attitude

We wrote last week about an Ad Age story about how Coca-Cola is in trouble with the nation’s truckers over a television commercial for its new Full Throttle energy drink. The ad is supposed to air before Sunday’s Super Bowl, but the American Trucking Association is engineering a letter writing campaign to derail its broadcast. The truckers apparently objected to the stereotypical portrayal of their kind as overly aggressive bullies who drive too fast and put smaller vehicles and their drivers in peril.

Our comment: We’re shocked by this callous portrayal of the gentle, compassionate and exceedingly polite breed of men known as truckers by those awful folks at the Coca-Cola Co. Driving our little sports car on the open highway, we’ve certainly never had the experience, say, of having some enormous truck ride right up behind us and then blast the horn because 65 or 70 miles an hour just isn’t fast enough for them. We don’t know where these horrible stereotypes come from.

You’d think that the people at Coke would be more sensitive, since Ad Age also reports that truckers are major consumers of energy drinks, and they clearly manage to down the stuff without ever letting such beverages ramp up their more aggressive tendencies.

Some will say that these truckers have a thin skin, that they cannot take a joke. But not us. We think they are all fine and upstanding drivers, respectful of others and always precise about obeying the rules of the road.

Well, we meant these comments to be tongue in cheek…but many MNB users it was more like we’d put foot in mouth.

MNB user Martin Healy wrote:

Smarmy sarcasm can be so unbecoming and your broad-stroke portrait of "truckers" seems unfair. I am not a truck driver but do have concerns regarding highway safety. I see too many cars put trucks in precarious situations to suggest one side, or the other, is traditionally negligent.

How many of your readers, just this morning, sipped coffee while driving, made a cell call, diverted their eyes to change the radio or engaged in conversation with a fellow rider? How many quickly changed lanes when space opened up between an automobile and a truck; regardless of safe distance?

I believe you share my concerns but went for the cheap humor rather than making a more positive, contributory statement.

Another MNB user wrote:

Normally I partially agree with your comments. However, you are totally out of line with your trucker comments. A couple of things…

One, when you are out for your Sunday drive, stay in the right lane, grandma. For these boys(and girls) time is money. And, believe it or not, in all states, the left lane is for PASSING.

Two, my daddy always told me to treat the big rigs with respect. They are a lot bigger then you and can squash you like a bug.

Last, we had a trucker sacrifice himself a couple of days ago. Someone cut him off on the freeway (oh, here's my exit) and his choices were to wipe out a bunch of cars, or take the bridge abutment out. He opted for the bridge. Sadly, he was the only fatality in this accident. Not the cell phone talking, latte drinking, sports car driving, mid-life crisis moron that cut him off.

You owe the truckers an apology.

Gee, you criticized our phone habits, coffee preferences, car, and age all in one sentence. We have to admire that sort of convergence.

Another MNB user wrote:

Granted, the commercial is probably harmless, but I think your normally enjoyable sarcasm is a little out of line regarding the truckers vs. Coca-Cola. I've seen too many sporty, zippy cars weaving in and out of traffic, cutting off the big trucks, and causing (or nearly causing) accidents. And usually, the truck driver wrongly gets the blame (at least in the press).

Not saying all truckers are saints on the road, but car drivers aren't
all innocents either.

MNB user Katie Helle wrote:

I'm writing in regard to the article about Truckers and the Coke commercial. Your view of this article is definitely sarcastic and disturbing. My father is a truck driver and has been for a very long time. Yes, the trucks are intimidating and could seem pushy. But! How would you feel if you were driving a huge truck hauling thousands of pounds and "little sports cars" are driving around you just to go slower than they were before? Most company trucks cannot go over 65 mph because they have a set odometer. I'm not trying to say that truckers are innocent because I'm sure that there are some ignorant drivers out there. My dad has the best sense of humor, can talk to anyone he sees, and is the most intelligent man and probably the smartest driver out there. People give truckers such a bad rap and in most cases it is the person driving your "Little sports car" at fault.

Before just commenting on something you probably don't have any clue about, talk to someone who drives 18 wheelers and find out what they think about the commercial and not stereotype everyone. Most drivers may find it as amusing or as a joke and not have the attitude you think they might have.

MNB user Cynthia Sandy wrote:

As a wife of a "trucker" I can tell you that your little blurb was un-called for.

Since the retail industry is your bread and butter you should realize that everything is brought in by truck. Though your column may be tongue in cheek it fuels the perception that truck drivers are bad drivers.

Maybe you should spend the day with one. See what it's like when a car cuts you off and you know that there is no way you can stop in time if something were to happen. What would you do if nobody would let you in on the freeway, because they don't want to be behind you? Try putting chains on in the middle of Winter.

Our industry depends on product getting to the stores and without truck drivers it doesn't. They may not have a glamorous job, or be able to fly all over the world giving speeches, or have the luxury of working from home. But they do their jobs with a high rate of safety, under very strict government regulations, and with the knowledge that what they do keeps our country moving.

MNB user Kristi Marie Medeiros wrote:

My father is a truck driver and I am offended by your sarcasm. Not all truck drivers are how you perceive them to be; hence you should not stereotype anyone for that matter. Oh and just a tip maybe you should have someone edit your article responses I found a few misspelled words.

Only a few? We were working without a net and on three hours sleep…at the moment, that doesn’t seem too bad. Inexcusable, but not too bad.

Another MNB user wrote:

Similar to bad or biased writers, a few bad drivers become the stereotype while the good ones get little recognition for all the hard work they do delivering the 'stuff' it takes to keep America going.

Now you’re hitting us where it hurts when you call us a bad writer…

Good thing we have a thick skin about this sort of stuff.

It was a joke, folks…though we understand that maybe we displayed a certain level of ignorance about the trucker’s life.

Finally, we waxed rhapsodic on Friday about our time in Paris, which annoyed one MNB user:

After reading your MNB this morning, I have become a bit alarmed in what you bought to your readers this morning.

I enjoy what you have to say and like to hear the comments of other readers on current topics of discussion within the Grocery business. I even like to hear about the discussion at the different conventions you attend. Perhaps, one day, I may be fortunate to attend a seminar where you actually are and meet you.

However, to read about your side trip in Paris, and to read "how lucky it is to be you" is almost a slap in every reader's face. I am envious of your lifestyle but know that editorial writing was not my strong suit and that I am better with numbers. I am happy with the job I have and where I am. Nonetheless, I find your description of events in Paris to be somewhat arrogant and not what I would expect to read about in your MNB.

I think you lost focus on why your readers are reading the MNB and what we like to see from you.

Now, this email upset us…because we were shocked that anyone would think that we were being arrogant. On the contrary, we think we’re about the luckiest person on the planet because of where we get to go and what we get to do and who we get to meet…there’s always the abiding fear that someone is going to come along and take it all away…

Frankly, based on our OffBeat history of Friday ramblings,
We think a lot of folks would have been disappointed if we hadn’t written about our Paris experience. Maybe we were wrong.

KC's View: