Winning a Social Media Contest

Happy Mother’s Day! What a joyful and necessary holiday this is. We owe so much to all the women out there who take on mother roles and nurture society. While one day is definitely not enough to honor all the moms out there, hopefully we all took advantage of the significance of this day and did something special for a mom, whether our own or not.

Unfortunately I did not get to spend Mother’s Day with my mom this year. However, I was given the opportunity to attempt to do something a little more out of the ordinary besides the standard card, flowers, and gift certificate.

As I have written about before, I love contests. I will enter, submit, or create just about anything for the chance to win something. Now, take a contest and throw in a social media twist and you better bet that I am not just going to participate, I am going to go all in!

Last week, Northern Quest Casino and Resort, an establishment in Spokane (and a great corporate sponsor of Grizzly Athletics!), held a special Mother’s Day promotion. Using the Facebook page of the spa located in Northern Quest, La Rive, contest organizers invited Facebook users to submit a picture of themselves with their mom (or mother figure). The pictures were put into an album and starting on Monday at noon and running through 6pm on Thursday, people on Facebook had the opportunity to vote for their favorite picture by “liking” it and/or commenting on it. The person who submitted the picture with the highest combination of “likes” and unique comments by 6pm on Thursday would win a special package for their mom that included a night’s stay in the hotel at Northern Quest, a massage, mimosas, and lunch at the resort’s popular restaurant. Didn’t take me much convincing to enter.
This was the picture that I submitted!!

Thirty-seven people entered the contest. To be honest, I was not overly confident. At work I run social media campaigns all the time which always result in amazing support. But when I run these campaigns, I am doing it with the Griz Nation brand, a brand that includes over 100,000 Facebook users in our family of fan pages. Because of the passion and dedication of our fans it doesn’t matter if I am running the Capital One Mascot of the Year campaign, a cross promotion for a department on campus, or a contest for a corporate sponsor, the response is going to be amazing. But completely take away that brand and add in a cheesy picture of my mom and I and you could see why I was wondering if any support would be there.

I have 678 Facebook friends. For someone of my age and for someone who spends way too much time as it is on Facebook, that is an incredibly low number. When I complained aloud about this fact, a co-worker confirmed that I indeed had to be a pretty big loser to have such a small number. Scouting the field a little bit before the contest I clicked on some of the other people who submitted photos and looked at their friend count. Many had over 1,000 friends. I clicked on the most attractive girl I found in the promotion album and saw that she had double the amount of me. I knew I was at a disadvantage.
Even though I felt a little behind even before the competition started, it did not mean I was not going to try my hardest to win with the strategy that I had drawn up.

One of the last ditch efforts I will do to try to increase attendance at non-football Griz events is to get on our mascot’s Facebook account and personally instant message students about the game/event. I will open with their name, add a little note about something that I saw after briefly looking at their profile, and then add the same message with all the event info after that. So even though I am basically copying and pasting this info, I am taking a few seconds to put a personal touch on it. Students love getting this perceived special attention from Monte and always respond favorably. This is what I implemented as my base strategy for the Mother’s Day promotion.

Over the course of the four days that the promotion ran, I sent out 250 personalized messages to my  Facebook friends.  They all were drafted the exact same way. I would greet the person, write a couple sentences talking about a specific memory, hobby, or acquaintance that we had and then I would hit them with the contest. I made sure to apologize a couple times for the inconvenience and then to also thank them for taking the time to read it. I would then add a last personal note to the request. The response was absolutely overwhelming. In the first couple days I would just message the people who were online as indicated by the chat tool bar. As the contest got into Wednesday I messaged all the people who had recent newsfeed activity. By Thursday I was messaging people who I classified as “shots in the dark”…people with no newsfeed activity who I had not talked to in a while. I do want to note though that I did have standards throughout this whole deal and there were some people who I would not reach out to…ex’s, old high school friends, people who had recently lost their moms, or moms who had recently lost a child did not get messages from me.
The contest went back and forth. Including me, there were two other strong competitors who battled it out for top supremacy. Late Wednesday night, my picture was down about forty “likes” to a picture of a lady surrounded by four little kids. Although it would be a little more dramatic to say that I was worried about the large disparity I really wasn’t.
I felt confident for two reasons: 
1. The picture with the most “likes” on Wednesday night had missed out on an important part of the contest…unique comments were counted as well. Yes, comments and “likes” were added up to form a final number. So while I had personally told everyone to add a comment along with their “like”, this picture with just the most “likes” had not.
2. I had not tapped into a resource yet…
So while I went with soliciting “likes” off of personalized messages to my friends, pretty much everyone else in the competition generated “likes” by asking people to share the photo on their Facebook page along with the directions of the contest. You see, I have a tough time doing that. I, for one, would never put a random picture of a friend and his mom on my wall. Sorry, but my Facebook page is my space to advance my personal brand…not to help someone win a stupid contest. Because of my feelings on this subject, I didn’t decide to utilize this strategy until the last day on Thursday, and when I did, there was an incentive. Basically, all I did was request that people share the picture on their wall and if they did, they would be put into a drawing for a gift certificate AND they would be mentioned in this blog (see below*). I reposted this status every hour on Thursday. I also stepped up my personal campaigning a notch too. Pretty quickly, the numbers started to swing.
I think the real turning point came when our local radio DJ, Aaron Traylor (@DjAaronTraylor), gave me a much too nice shout out on his station and shared the picture on the 107.5 Facebook page.  What was once a 40 “like” lead for the picture of the mom surrounded by her kids had blossomed into a 20 “like” lead for the picture of some ugly dude in a gray polo standing next to his mom in Ellensburg, Washington.
As I had fully expected, the mom surrounded by kids picture made one late push at the end. However, because of the comment disparity and the “like” lead that my picture had built, it was not enough. When 6pm hit, my picture was the overall leader in both. And although the runner up tried to claim victory, you have to understand, I am a complete nerd. I had my friend sitting right next to me with her lap top so she was on the competitor’s picture the whole time while I was on mine. When 6pm hit, I was four “likes” (and countless comments) ahead. Nice try though.
About two hours later, the La Rive Facebook page announced the official results. My mom had won the grand prize. The mom surrounded by kids picture won second and their people complained. The third place person (contest gave prizes to three people) spoke out against the complaining, thanked Northern Quest, and then sent me a friend request. We chatted for a while, delightful girl.
I called my mom and told her the news. She was on cloud nine. I then told her that she would have to give back the regular gift I had gotten her…..just kidding. I immediately started getting texts and Facebook messages from people congratulating me.
The best part of this whole contest was that I got to do something special for my mom. The second best part was that I got to reconnect with a bunch of people who I had not talked to in a while. Sure, the initial message I sent was a basic form letter with a selfish request from me, but the conversation that developed afterwards in many of these cases was awesome.
Thank you so much to Northern Quest! They have a great social media department that is doing engaging and interactive work. In order to be successful in social media you have to show your client base that you care, and NQ is ahead of the game.
Once again, happy Mother’s Day! Thank you mom for the amazing job you have done raising the three of us. Enjoy your grand prize. I love you. Don’t Blink.
* Thank you so much to Aaron Traylor, Jerek Wolcott, Ellie Nadeau, Steph Williams, Sylvia Jensen, Julie Gemar Williams, Diane Beck, and Nick Batista for sharing my picture!

The Best Investment You Can Ever Make

My recommendation on the best investment a person can make?

If you have spent time around me, chances are I have freely given out this advice to you before. Even if for some odd occurrence I have not given you my unsolicited opinion on this topic, just by observing me for a couple hours you could probably guess how I would answer the above question. Still drawing a blank? Take one look at my Facebook page and click on the photos section and shake your head in that “this guy has way too much time on his hands” sort of way and you know exactly my answer to the opening question.

No, my answer is not a house, a car, an education, or even a family. Rather it is something much simpler and cheaper…

I firmly believe a camera is the best $100 to $300 a person can spend.

I am still in awe over just the very basic function of a camera. You point the device at something, click the button, and that moment is caught in time. Without the camera, the visual record of that event happening, that face being made, that dance move being performed, or those candles being blown out would slip away forever.

I believe once someone turns about fourteen, parents should purchase the kid a camera. The kid should then be encouraged to take pictures freely and liberally from that day on until he/she dies. I have a strong belief in preserving both visual and written history for every single person. As I have mentioned before, I feel everyone should keep a journal and take care of the written part. However, the visual aspect is more important in this post as we are talking cameras!

Now I know many of you right now are asking why a handheld camera is even relevant these days considering the invention of the IPhone and its built in camera with exceptional resolution and quality. Well, believe it or not, traditional cameras allow you to do much more. With many different features, effects, and zoom capabilities, a traditional camera enables you to take a better picture. Besides that though, I just think a non-iPhone camera encourages a person to take more pictures and to develop them and edit them.  Yes, an iPhone does offer easy access for immediately posting a picture to social media sites but all it takes is a simple cord to transfer pictures from the handheld camera to online. Also, when you have a handheld camera you tend to take more pictures and when you post them onto Facebook you create an album that is much more organized, deep, and interesting than your typical catch-all “mobile uploads” album.  An iPhone does add convenience for some types of pictures but it does definitely not replace the need for a separate handheld camera.
The ability to take a picture gives us so much. Namely, it gives us a memory. Five years later you can look at a picture you took, and, unless you were blacked out drunk, remember how you felt and the experience you underwent. Pictures also give us great information and reference points. I am constantly looking back at pictures that I took and that others took to make future arrangements. So say if at work we were planning one of our annual events and could not remember how we had set up the seating the previous year. I would go back and look at my pictures and instantly know the set up. Pictures provide proof as well. People might not believe that you met a famous person or that you built a 200 aluminum can pyramid but If you have pictures of it though, people can’t challenge you.
So while cameras produce pictures that provide memories, information, and proof, cameras most importantly provide documentation, basically a byproduct of the three previous attributes I mentioned. Professional photographers are appointed to follow U.S. Presidents everywhere they go and capture their every single moment inside the White House. When their term is over, the whole Presidency is documented. Because normal people like us don’t have first class photographers tracking our every move we should graciously take on the job of doing it ourselves. Carry a camera with you at all times and don’t be afraid to take pictures, even if it is just of the ordinary and mundane.
By this time I am sure you want to yell at me that you don’t care at all about capturing your life. You don’t care about taking pictures of your adventures, your friends, or yourself. But I would challenge you to look past what you feel and think about the next generation.  Think about your kids and their kids. Think about how the pictures of you and your best college friends inside the Missoula Club might bring a smile to the faces of your grandchildren sixty years from now. Think about how the pictures might serve the public record decades from now. Think about how the pictures might console and comfort your loved ones if something tragic ever did happen to you.
As high school and college graduations start to hit full swing, think about rewarding a graduate with a camera. By getting this far it probably means their future is bright, let’s make sure to capture it. Don’t Blink.

The Feud: Colin Cowherd vs. Dan Patrick

Whenever I write about sports I feel I owe it to my readers to warn them ahead of time. As I see the readership statistics of my blog on a daily basis, I know that majority of the people who read Don’t Blink mostly like to read my posts on social media, girl problems, and current fads. My sports posts? Not so much. But because this blog initially claimed that sports would be a large part of it, I want to stay true and still take time to write about my number one passion.

As I have mentioned several times before, I am a sports talk radio junkie. When I get up at 6am every weekday I turn my TV on and watch the simulcast of Mike & Mike. When 7am hits, I hit the shower and then I switch back and forth between Mike & Mike and the Dan Patrick Show. When Mike & Mike signs off at 8am I am just getting to work and while I begin my initial tasks to start the day I am switching between the DP Show and The Herd (Colin Cowherd). Then I transition into the Scott van Pelt Show, turn my radio off when the Doug Gottlieb Show comes on, and then listen to Hill & Schlereth on the ride home from work. I like each show for what it is and of course I like some shows as a whole better than others. I don’t know what I would do without sports radio.

At the end of last week, a pretty nasty feud developed between competing shows on different stations as Dan Patrick called out Colin Cowherd.

Quick history before I explain the feud and give my reaction:  Dan Patrick used to of course work at ESPN.  Along with his co-anchor Keith Olbermann, he made Sportscenter what it is today. He was pretty much the face of ESPN, he anchored all the major events and stared in many “This is Sportscenter” commercials. But not only was he the face of ESPN, he was also the voice of it as well. The Dan Patrick Show on ESPN was immensely popular, it helped to really establish the network in the radio business. Towards the end of Patrick’s tenure at ESPN, Colin Cowherd was hired at the station and began his show. When Patrick left the network, The Herd took over DP’s old time slot.

On Thursday of last week, Kurt Warner hit the sports talk radio circuit. Throughout the day he talked on all the various shows he appeared on about BountyGate and Junior Seau (Seau had committed suicide the day before). Warner appeared on Dan Patrick’s show first. During the interview, Kurt Warner stated that he really did not want his kids to play football when they grew up. Because of the great sports sense that Patrick has, he realized the power and significance of what Warner had said. Immediately after Warner hung up the phone, Patrick was replaying clips from the interview and offering his commentary on what Kurt had said. Patrick knew it would make news throughout the day.
A short time later, Warner appeared on The Herd. The very first question that Colin asked, without referring to the Dan Patrick Show, had to do with whether Warner would want his kids to play football when they grew up. He gave the exact same answer to Colin that he gave to Patrick. The comments of Warner came under fire. Throughout that whole day, the media, players, and coaches/general managers debated his stance on preferring for his kids not to play. Some called Warner a smart parent, others called him a traitor. However, something funny happened over at ESPN. Whenever they mentioned Warner’s comments, they attributed them to the Dan Patrick Show rather than The Herd.
Fast forward to Friday morning. I am dressing in my room when the Dan Patrick Show starts. He leads off the show by absolutely blasting Cowherd. You have to hear the anger in Patrick’s voice to really understand how pissed off he was. Probably about three times during his rant he called Cowherd “lazy.”  He accused Colin of ripping off the show and devaluing the hard work of Patrick’s small staff (called the “Danettes”). At the end of his tirade Patrick fumed that he would take on the empire (ESPN) and that he “liked his damn chances.” He made his point.
I really wish Patrick would sometimes calm down a little and not worry so much about ESPN. I think he feels way too threatened by the network when really he should just find comfort in his talent and in his own show. Colin Cowherd is not half of the radio host that Dan Patrick is. While Colin is great at brewing controversy, coming up with off the wall statements, and making clever analogies that compare sports to business and relationships, he does not hold a candle to Patrick. The knowledge, the confidence, and the dry sense of humor that Patrick embodies into his show topples The Herd in overall quality. This is not to even mention the superior interviewing skills of DP. No one in sports conducts a better interview than him. No one gets more out of their guests or asks better questions than Patrick. It truly makes his show such a pleasure to listen to…until he starts ripping ESPN.
I do like hearing stories about the inner-workings of the world’s largest sports network that sometimes Patrick reveals but a lot of the time he goes from cool little facts about Chris Berman or about behind the scenes at Sportscenter to bashing the “suits” and the network as a whole. Every single show Patrick talks about ESPN. I am not kidding, it would be interesting to figure out how many times he averages mentioning “ESPN” or “The Mothership”  per show. You know how you can listen to someone on the radio for a while and then they start to kind of wear on you? Whereas I have had this feeling for Colin Cowherd for probably the past three years, I am now starting to develop it for Patrick as well and it is pretty much just because of his constant ESPN bashing. I don’t want to be turned off from the show, believe me, but it seems as if his bitterness and contempt for his former employer keeps getting worse and worse when you would think that it should be going in the opposite direction. It is just monotonous and unprofessional.
Of course what Colin Cowherd did was lazy. He should have cited what Kurt Warner had told Patrick earlier in the morning when asking him that opening question. If Cowherd really did not know that Patrick had already asked that, one of his producers should have briefed him about it before he went on the air. If in all reality Cowherd really did not know nor did his producers, he should have later on given credit to Patrick before the show ended. I find more outrage with the way Patrick handled the whole situation rather than the lazy question asked by Colin simply because I expect more out of DP. Like I said, Dan Patrick is leaps and bounds above Colin Cowherd. Don’t worry about him. Don’t let him get under your skin. Obviously, ESPN  policed themselves and gave credit to Patrick instead of Cowherd. What a slap in the face to their own employee! Patrick should have just taken that as vindication enough and moved on. Unfortunately, he let Cowherd get to him and  Patrick wasted a lot of breath on his biggest rival the next morning.

In the end, “Cunning Cowherd” got the last word. When a listener tweeted The Herd asking what Dan Patrick’s deal was, Colin tweeted back the following: Dan talks a lot about ESPN in his show apparently. I talk a lot about sports. Just different approaches.

He’s right.

Dan, you are better, act like it. Don’t Blink.

B-I-N-G-O

I am pretty sure I have a new favorite game I love to play at restaurants and bars now. Easy, entertaining, and old school I have rediscovered my love for BINGO. My only question is why hadn’t I discovered it sooner?

Yes, I know I am late to the party when it comes to bars holding bingo nights. I realize that these games have been going on since I was playing brown bag bingo at my elementary school almost twenty years ago. The fact of the matter is, when I heard that certain places had bingo games on certain nights, I pretty much just brushed them aside, thinking that there was no way I could have fun playing bingo unless I was a young kid or a senior citizen. Well, it took a chance occurrence to change my attitude.
A little over three weeks ago, my friend Chris and I went to a little casino/restaurant called Joker’s Wild to eat. I had a gift certificate to the place that I had won through a radio promotion and I decided it was time to cash it in. We sat in the bar area and as we were finishing up, people started to file in. As I began to take notice of the once empty place starting to fill up, our waitress came over and asked us if we were going to stay and play bingo. We basically said “why not?”
My new friends from bingo at Joker’s Wild
Thinking that we would just play a couple games we found ourselves still there two hours later deeply entrenched in the grand finale blackout game. Whatever was going to happen next didn’t matter too much because we had had a good time but it didn’t hurt that Chris lucked out and won (this is the same guy who correctly predicted “I’ll Have Another” to win the Kentucky Derby). Well technically, Chris shared the victory with a lady from a table who we had made friends with earlier. The two shared a $120 pot. When we left Joker’s Wild that night we subtracted $60 from our evening’s tab and added a few friends. Maybe I wasn’t too young or too old for bingo after all.
Chris, the Bingo Emcee, and the other winner/new friend (Nicole)

This past Friday night my friend Gabe invited me out to the Lucky Strike to play in its bingo game. Lucky Strike’s version was a little grander than at Joker’s Wild. More  people, more prizes, and more craziness, the atmosphere was pretty cool. I got to the venue about half way through and just started helping Gabe cover her numbers when they got called. By the time that particular game ended though I was already so wrapped up in it that I had to buy my own cards. Good music played throughout. Two emcees ran the game and called numbers. A powerpoint displayed the bingo patterns for each game. Cash, bar tabs, and other prizes were given away to the winners. It was just a well-organized, fun time. Although I did not win, it was another great experience.

So why is bingo such a worthwhile bar activity to take part in, regardless of your age? I can think of three main reasons:
First off, it is cheap. For around 2-3 hours of entertainment it will cost you between $10-$20 dollars. At Joker’s Wild, Chris and I probably paid $20 each. This was because we kept buying each game individually. As I mentioned above, we were initially just going to stay for a couple games so we bought cards accordingly but we kept telling ourselves “one more game….one more game….one more game.” If you just pay for the whole session up front, you save money. At Lucky Strike I only paid $10 for six cards that covered each round (there are usually two different bingo games per round). After the round is over, you rip off your card sheet and there is a fresh new sheet for the next round. Besides it being cheap, there are obviously also potential pay-offs. If you win, you get compensated. Many winners get their food, drinks, and bingo cards paid for and still have some extra cash at the end. It is a beautiful concept.

Secondly, bingo is a great bar activity to take part in because it is fair. Everyone has an equal chance of winning (depending on how many cards you buy) and it can’t be manipulated. Although I love to play trivia, I have a real tough time playing it these days. Although every venue makes a big deal about outlawing smart phones, I catch people using them under the table all the time. I also always notice the people who make frequent trips to the bathroom as well. It drives me nuts. During bingo, I don’t have to worry about these losers who are so cheap that they have to cheat.

Finally, bingo is great because it is relaxing. Sure, your adrenaline starts to pump a little when you are one number away from a bingo but that is about as intense as it gets. The emcee calls numbers, you mark your card, you drink beer. It a great way to rewind and be social.

I am excited for the next time I play bar bingo. I will definitely make a return trip to Lucky Strike. Playing with Gabe and her friends (now my friends too!) was a blast. I also got my eyes set on the bingo game they have at Hooters on Thursday.  I can’t wait to experience the twist that is put on their game. So mark bingo as another example of something that I have unfairly stereotyped. I am now a fan. Don’t Blink.

Missoula U-Swirl Review

Remember way back in September when I wrote about a new trend that finally made it to Missoula? That trend was the self-serve frozen yogurt craze. At the time, Missoula had recently opened a locally owned shop specializing in self-serve frozen yogurt called Yo Waffle. I reviewed it and have actually ate dessert there a couple times since my initial visit. Not too long ago, Missoula got another self-serve yogurt place called U-Swirl. Tonight I gave this new player in the Zoo Town yogurt scene a try. In this post I will review U-Swirl and then compare it to Yo Waffle.

U-Swirl is a franchise that has locations in about ten different states spread throughout the U.S. The Missoula shop has taken up residence in the old Taco Del Mar location in Russell Square right next to the Staggering Ox. So if you can visualize the old Missoula Taco Del Mar you can kind of picture the U-Swirl environment.
Missoula’s U-Swirl!

When I walked into U-Swirl I was a little surprised that to start building your creation you have to walk to the opposite end of the shop than where you entered from. In other words, the ending point where you pay is straight ahead right when you walk in. As we walked to the starting point at the other end, an employee was in an animated discussion with a family who had never been to a self-serve frozen yogurt place before. The employee excitedly told them how the whole process worked and offered to serve them as many samples as they wished. The family took full advantage of the kind employee and sampled several flavors. Since this was not my first rodeo, I took a cup and started to fill it with yogurt.

The first major positive that stood out to me about U-Swirl was the multiple flavors available. They had eight dispensers with two flavors to each dispenser for a total of sixteen different flavors. Each dispenser also had a swirl option for the two flavors that it featured. The flavors were pretty diverse with selections such as coconut, Hawaiian pineapple, caramel, peach mango, very berry, Heath, and then all the traditional flavors (chocolate, vanilla, strawberry). On this night for my yogurt selections I swirled cake batter and New York cheesecake. I then added a good serving of cookies and cream. Then for good measure, I dispensed a little bit of their tart flavor on top of everything. The dispensers at U-Swirl are very powerful. When you pull down on a lever you don’t wait long at all which I really appreciated. The yogurt also came out perfectly, no mess or drips.
The yogurt dispensers at U-Swirl

After I got all the yogurt I needed I moved onto the toppings. At U-Swirl they do a nice job of separating all the varieties of their toppings out. In their first group of eighteen toppings they had all of their fruit selections nicely laid out. Move a little down to the left and they had the second group of eighteen candy toppings laid out. Next, they had the final group of eighteen toppings which consisted of other tasty sweet stuff such as animal cookies, chocolate rocks, butterscotch/chocolate/white chocolate chips, chocolate covered raisins, and various cereals. Finally, to top off their toppings oasis at the end of the line were all of their sauces. I should also mention that throughout all of these “stations” they had many shakers with sprinkles and such that you could quickly add on. For me, I went with crushed reeses peanut butter cups, crushed snickers, white chocolate chips, and fruity pebbles (yes, I said fruity pebbles). To top it off I put on peanut butter sauce and cupcake icing!!

The candy section of the U-Swirl toppings.

I then went over to pay. When I go to these self-serve yogurt places and I go over to pay I can’t help but feel embarrassed. I always wonder if the cashier is saying to herself/himself “Wow, does this person care at all about his health? How can he actually eat this?” At $.39 per ounce, my yogurt dessert was just a little over $5.

This is what I created!

We sat down to eat our creations. The seating is pretty interesting. They have tables and then they also have booths. However, they are long booths that don’t face each other but rather just kind of run against the wall. Anyway, I quickly indulged in my yogurt. Out of the four flavors I tasted, the cookies and cream was the best. It was very rich and flavorful. The tart was disgusting, big mistake getting that one…good thing I only got a tiny bit. The NY cheesecake and cake batter also were good but I wish I did not swirl them and rather dispensed them individually.  Surprisingly, the fruity pebbles proved to be a great addition as a topping. The crushed candy bars also tasted very good. The white chocolate chips got a little too frozen for my liking. The peanut butter sauce added positively to the overall taste and to be honest I never really noticed the cupcake icing. Besides the tart yogurt, I enjoyed my dessert thoroughly and for only around $5 I would say it was well worth it.

Take the picture quickly so I can finally start to EAT!
So what would I recommend, U-Swirl or Yo Waffle? If you are trying to save pennies go with U-Swirl. Their price by the ounce ($0.39) is a tad cheaper than Yo Waffle ($0.42). If you are trying to eat as healthy as possible, I would also say go with U-Swirl. They have a much wider selection of fruit toppings and a more vast selection of non-fat yogurts. They also don’t sell soda like Yo Waffle does, instead they just offer water and juice. If you want a more diverse selection of yogurt flavors, U-Swirl  wins out here too. They offer sixteen flavors at a time while Yo Waffle offers ten.
So if saving a total of maybe $0.25, holding off on a few calories, and having a little wider selection of yogurts to choose from are important to you, U-Swirl is your place. However, if you don’t really care about those three things, I think I would point you in the direction of Yo Waffle. My first reason for this is in the name…Yo Waffle offers waffles while U-Swirl doesn’t. I still love the concept of frozen yogurt and waffles together, even if I never will have the guts to pour the batter and make one for myself (read my review for my explanation). Another reason why Yo Waffle might be your best bet is simply the atmosphere. Located in the middle of downtown and with window side seating and outdoor seating, you get a little bit of Missoula culture with your dessert. Finally, Yo Waffle is local! It is one-of-a-kind and people around here love to support those local businesses.
In the end, it really does depend on your personal preference on whether you will prefer U-Swirl or Yo Waffle. U-Swirl is probably more of the “safe” bet while Yo Waffle is more of the “cultural” bet. But in all reality who am I kidding? We are talking about ice cream here, is there really anyway you can’t come out a winner? My point exactly.     Don’t Blink.

Thank You Intern Class of 2011-12

One of the absolute best parts of my job is the opportunity to work with motivated, hard working University of Montana students who want to learn more about intercollegiate athletics under the direction of the marketing department. Also known as our interns, these individuals give us their time and talents for eight months, a time period that is rewarding to everyone involved.

Christie* has developed quite the internship program during her tenure as Assistant Athletic Director at Grizzly Athletics. Starting off as a program that retained around four individuals, we now employ around ten. Believe it or not, three years ago at this very time I was an intern under Christie. Fortunately for me I happened to be at the right place at the right time and a couple months after my internship ended I got hired on full time to work in the athletic department and have the opportunity to help make the experiences of future interns just as positive as mine.
This month, the majority of our 2011-12 class of interns will graduate from The University of Montana. A couple who are currently juniors will return to school for their senior year and will come back and intern for us again. A couple more who were not students this past year but still interned for us will move on to other endeavors. Regardless of the different paths each of our interns take, I will always remember this class very fondly.
Our interns getting ready to work a football game.

Working for us in the marketing department can at times be very stressful and intense while at other times it can be very dull and tedious. Let’s start with exciting: When it comes to all the games where the marketing department has a visible presence (football, basketball, soccer, and volleyball), our interns are front and center running promotions and keeping us up with protocol. While I either have a press box or a designated corner to hide my face at games, our interns have the tough job and are under the eyes of thousands of fans. During football games the interns run around the field like crazy making sure the Greatest Show in Montana runs smoothly. With Christie and I screaming in their ears constantly (we are all hooked up to radios), these college juniors and seniors must think on their feet and perform under pressure. Coordinating the Monte entrance, getting VIPs to designated spots, helping with the skydivers, aiding Grizzly Sports Properties (our third party rights’ holder), running halftime, yelling at other people on the field, following the mascots, throwing beach balls into the stands, and picking fan of the game winners are just a few of the duties our team of interns are in charge of during football games. Let me also not forget the interns we keep up in the press box with us who help run the myriad of interactive Griz Vision promotions we now have at our disposal and who as well also serve as makeshift waiters and waitresses in case Christie and I need something to drink or eat.

At basketball games they are running all the fun and ridiculous on-court promotions. They are signing in people for the student fan club and recruiting people to do the aforementioned promotions. They are directing traffic for any special presentations we have during games and they are constantly completing odd jobs. Worst yet, if our men’s or women’s basketball team scores seventy-three points or more AND wins, they have to stay after and pass out chili coupons to every  single fan in the building as they leave the arena…it is a thankless job.
3/4 of our girl interns (Christie, Katie, Steph, and Brooke)

Our interns also work several office hours for us each week. A lot of times these hours are fun and educational. They get to meet other employees in the department, deliver tickets/goods to community members, help with upcoming events, run errands with Christie and I, and help pick out pictures and images for marketing materials (such as posters and schedule cards). Other times, office hours are not so fun. Cleaning our storage closet, cold calling business owners, blowing up beach balls, and cutting  out hearts and ribbons for our various pink games are some of the not so glamorous jobs we always give our interns. Sometimes though these jobs are heaven compared to some of the tedious social media jobs I delegate to my “lucky” interns. Have you ever clicked “follow” on twitter handles for a whole ninety minutes? How about invite 5,000 friends to a Facebook event when the stupid computer keeps freezing up on you every two minutes? Or how about accepting and rejecting friend requests for a mascot that has a pending list of over 1,000 Facebook users? Yeah….it gets boring.

But the thing is, these kids don’t complain. They come into our offices ready to work and even when we do give them a shitty job they respond with a positive attitude and a smile. It is remarkable. The hunger out there for experience is immense.
This year’s intern class is very close to my heart. They were a fun and unique group with many different personalities and talents but yet it seemed like I was able to connect to each one. They were also very loyal to the athletic department. Although it was a tremendous athletic year on the field/court, our department went through some very tough and trying times. Through it all, our interns stayed right by our sides and supported us and our program. That goes a long ways in my book.
To end this post, I would briefly like to thank the nine members that made up the Grizzly Marketing Intern Class of 2011-12:
(listed in alphabetical order):
Brooke – Always willing to tease me and give me fashion advice, you were a lot of fun to have around. Once we put you on Jim I don’t think he ever missed another on-field appearance.
Dan – With a lot on your plate this past year you still managed to contribute so much to the marketing department. You also served as a great role model and resource to the other interns. Thank you.
Dom – Go F@#$ yourself!! That moment will definitely be retold for years to come. I admired how you took this internship and applied some of the lessons and connections you got from it to Griz lacrosse. We got to go get a beer soon.
Jamie – I always looked forward to you coming in for your hours during the early morning and once I learned that you actually knew how to talk I looked forward to you coming in even more!! Hahaha jk. It was a pleasure getting to know you, I could always depend on you.
Katie – You have been around Christie and I for a while now and we are very fortunate to have had you help us in so many ways. I am very impressed with your fearless attitude. Move back to Missoula!
“Money” Mike – You are our human sports encyclopedia…you helped me out with player info and stats more than once! You have been a great resource and your passion has shined through. 
Nick (Senior Intern) – What a great two years it has been with you. You have earned the once-in-a-lifetime internship along with all the other perks that have come along with it. You have a whole athletic department behind your back.
Steph – When I talked about being positive above, I had you specifically in mind. You did everything we ever asked of you and we are very lucky to have you coming back. I already have a big project for you that is going to be very important to the department!
Tim – I am really glad Nick brought you onto the team. You offered us so much this year and I can’t wait to have you back next year. I promise, no pies in the face during 2012-13.
Thanks again Class of 2011-12. I will remember each of you fondly. Good luck. Don’t Blink.
I give a lot of credit to our interns for helping us win the “Funnest Department” award at our Athletic Department Christmas party.
* – Christie is the Assistant Athletic Director for Marketing and Promotions. I have mentioned her several times in prior  blog posts. She is my direct supervisor….a truly great person to work under!!

Costco Samples Rudeness

So after work today, a co-worker and I went to Costco to look for cameras. After selecting one, the guy in the electronics department said it would take about fifteen minutes for him to package it up and get it ready for purchase. With the spare time, we decided to go look at the camping stuff. But who am I kidding, looking at “camping stuff” quickly took us to the bakery area where the samples start. You know when you go to Costco how sometimes it can be really hit-and-miss on samples? Sometimes each end of every aisle will have a samples table and everything offered on them will be delicious and then other times they will barely have any samples at all and the ones that they do have will be something unsavory such as granola bars or trail mix. Well, surprisingly for a Tuesday night, Costco was on its Samples “A game.”

After trying such selections such as chicken fettuccine and an empanada, I got to a table that was serving fajita samples. Standing directly in front of the sample table across from the Costco employee who looked to be pushing at least ninety was an elderly couple who looked to be around the same age. As they took up the whole front half of the table I waited patiently behind them as they took their time chatting with the old lady employee about how good the fajita was,  how unpredictable the weather has been, and how traffic has just increased so much in Missoula (not kidding). Although the unnecessary wait made me a little bit antsy, I was consoled by my good fortune as there was just one sample remaining on the tray and I was going to get it. As the couple finally started to slowly turn around to continue their shopping (an ordeal all in itself) and I started to make my way to the front of the table, the unthinkable happened. Some woman who looked like she had never missed a free sample in her whole life flew past the elderly couple on their left while pushing her cart, made a sharp right turn, reached from behind the back of the table, grabbed the last sample, shoved it in her mouth, and straightened back up and continued on down the aisle, leaving us all in her dust.

Rudeness.

I find it ridiculous how free samples can turn a Costco cliental into a Wal-Mart cliental the minute the aroma of something good cooking in the microwave hits people’s noses. Do good manners suddenly just not apply? To be completely truthful, although I was outraged at the lady’s behavior simply because I really wanted that fajita sample, it didn’t surprise me at all. I have witnessed this type of bush league behavior ever since my parents would take us to Costco after mass on Sundays. I don’t understand. I mean I am still embarrassed to admit that when we were ten years old my friend and I would would hit all the samples once and then we would trade hats and put them on backwards and then go through them all again, thinking that the employees could not see through our “disguises.” The fact that grown adults engage in behavior even more juvenile than that is mildly disturbing.

Whatever happened to saying thank you? Eighty percent of the people I see snatch samples will not take one second to make eye contact with the store employee and say thanks. Honestly, take the time to recognize the person who prepared a FREE sample for you. Would you ever take something from your grandma without saying thanks? How different is it at Costco? If my observations are correct from all the years I have shopped at Costco, all sample employees are ladies who are at least seventy-five years of age. Next time look at them as your grandma, if you still don’t say thank you than you don’t have a heart.

Don’t engage in the same act of rudeness that the lady did today. Stand in line and wait your turn. Don’t cut and don’t grab from the back of the table. Be patient. Let elderly people, kids, and cute girls go in front of you in line.  If you get to the table at the exact same time as someone else does and there is only one sample left, defer to the other person. Be classy.

Please don’t be greedy, take one sample from the table. I don’t care if you are shopping with your wife/husband, make him/her stand in line and get their own. It is so unfair when you have stood in line for  a while and just as you are about to get to the table someone else cleans out all the samples by grabbing three or four of them. Show some consideration.

Wow, I didn’t realize how many complaints I have about this topic. Well, I might as well keep going…

Don’t be a vulture at a samples table. If you get up to the table and just by your luck the samples run out, act like an adult and walk away. Don’t loiter around the table for a full ten minutes while the poor old lady has to nervously look at you and make small talk as she prepares the next batch. Don’t you have anything better to do? Go ahead and wait in line for tickets to the concert of your favorite band or for the best ride at Disneyland but not for a bite of a mozzarella stick.

Finally, throw your white cups, toothpicks, napkins, and other sample utensils into the garbage can. Notice how I say into the garbage can. Not right by it, not in the middle of the aisle, not in your cart for someone else to fish out. Be a slob at your own house but show respect elsewhere.

Just because we pay a membership to shop at Costco does not mean we have the right to check our manners at the warehouse doors. Take some pride in how you conduct yourself and realize that a frozen hot pocket is not the be-all, end-all. Set an example for those around you, especially if you have kids, and act in a classy and polite manner. If you can’t act like a civilized human being, stay away from the sample aisles and go look at the camping stuff…that always works for me. Don’t Blink.

Online Dating

I know it works for some, but it would never work for me.

It seems as each year passes, the phenomenon of online dating becomes more and more prevalent. While statistics support this by the sheer amount of people who sign up for online dating, the trend might be even a little more magnified for someone like me who is now in his mid-twenties. It seems that at about the time a person hits twenty-two or  twenty-three, different measures are taken to find “the one.” Of course, one of these measures is online dating.

I know many people who rely heavily on online dating. I know many people who have found great success with it and I know many people who have had catastrophic mishaps with it. When I ask people why they resort to online dating I hear many of the same reasons: Not enough time to actively seek someone out traditionally, only losers live in my town, specific needs need to be met, more comfortable over a computer medium. While I understand these reasons, I can’t change my mind that online dating is just not the natural way to go.
First things first, online dating is based on lies. You know how easy it is to lie on a first date when you first meet someone? Well, it is 1,000x easier to do so over the internet. Miles away from the person and in front of your computer screen makes it very conducive to build yourself up a little bit, to stretch the truth so to speak. I am a person who needs to examine the eyes, facial expressions, and voice of anyone when they tell me something, so talking to a stranger online doesn’t really get me or the other person anywhere. Everyone talks about horror stories on how they met a person online for the first time and that person had zero resemblance to their profile picture or listed physical characteristics. But what do you expect? It is very easy for someone to put their best foot forward in cyberspace esthetically but when it comes down to a face-to-face date, there is no hiding. But it is not the physical that bothers me as much as the opportunity to lie about personality, experiences, education, etc. People out there can say whatever they want to say to make them sound like a rock star online with very little consequences.
Online dating to me is just too easy. Yes, I understand that one of the reasons people participate in OD is to save time but if you want to start a relationship based on convenience it is probably doomed from the start. In my opinion, dating is about putting yourself out there and taking risks. Not to sound cliché or anything, but dating is a game. You got to make moves and when it comes down to it, you got to make decisions that will either take you to the next level with someone or sink you. This whole process is cheapened when it takes place over the internet. When you date you should feel some adrenaline, experience some stress, and get some butterflies. You don’t get this experience over a computer. All of the natural instincts and gripping emotions that come from live dating are numbed down because you have a computer screen protecting you as you veg out on the couch while  eating ice cream. There is no risk involved.
I also have a problem with online dating because, I hate to say it, it makes the people involved look desperate. No matter how popular online dating becomes, it will always be a second-tier alternative to meeting someone initially in person. To me, meeting singles online is analogous to holding up a white flag and giving up. You are conceding that you need the aid of a third party (and by this I mean the internet, not a friend) to find you a soul mate. Keep putting yourself out there, don’t disappear behind a screen.
Finally, I think online dating just carries with it a bad enough reputation that will forever turn me off from ever trying it. Sorry, but who wants to be the couple that when asked how they met, they have to respond that they connected totally randomly over eHarmony? It sounds sketchy, and right or wrong, people make judgments off of it right away. It would be tough for me to carry that story with me.
I am not trying to infringe on anyone who has found happiness over online dating. Good for you, you are further along than me as I continue to trek down Single Avenue. I can’t even say that I am totally absolved from using the internet as a means to make and build relationships. I have met several people off of Twitter and have jump started a solid friendship over Facebook. Although a far cry from registering onto an online dating website, I do admit that I use the internet as a way to enhance my dating life.
I also have to concede that I am in a fortunate spot at this stage in my life so it makes it easier for me to look down on online dating. I live in a city, Missoula, that is incredibly easy to meet people in. I have three roommates who are my age who continually expose me to their network of friends. I also have a job that enables me to meet many interesting and fun people. I am also twenty-five. While I do bitch all the time about being old, I do realize that I am still relatively young in the dating circle (Now only if I was good looking and charming!). Point here is that I know I am playing with a pretty good hand right now but check with me in ten years when I am living by myself in a less social city with a more mundane job and I might be an online dating king.

In the end, we have to do what is going to make us happy. If it means meeting people online, then so be it. I just caution about opting for convenience rather than working hard for that ideal person who you see every day at the gym, in the espresso stand, or living down the street. No one said finding that special someone was easy. Do what you gotta do. Don’t Blink.