That MOTHER****ING Food Express

We are a divided people. 

We fall on opposite sides of issues that define us as conservatives or liberals, Republicans or Democrats.

We are separated on the subjects of gun control, abortion, the death penalty, and a woman’s right to be paid the same as a man for the same work performed. We disagree on whether the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) is a good thing. We differ on the theory that human activities are a primary cause of global warming.

We are even divided on the very concept of God and man, on the existence of a Higher Power.

But despite all these differences, there’s one thing we all agree on: We hate that soggy heap of garbage that lies at the end of our driveways every Thursday morning. 

An invention of the Omaha World-Herald, Food Express is an abomination we all know is slowly filling our landfills with white plastic bags stuffed with useless, unread newsprint. 

It is defined by the World-Herald as “ROP and preprint advertising product delivered on Wednesdays in Douglas and Sarpy Counties to subscribers and/or non-subscribers for Total Market Coverage.”

It is defined by everyone else as unwanted garbage legally tossed onto our property as punishment for not subscribing to Omaha’s only daily newspaper. 

From the World-Herald’s point of view, Food Express (probably) makes good marketing sense. It’s an easy pitch by the folks who sell their ads to provide the highest-density coverage for their potential customers’ advertising dollar. I can hear it now: “Look, people get Food Express whether they want it or not!” says the savvy World-Herald huckster. “It’s the analog version of the annoying pop-up ads that litter our website! They cannot be avoided!”

Oh, yes they can.

At least once a month someone I follow on Facebook explodes with a “G**damn Food Express!” post asking how to stop the frickin’ “Bag of Savings” from showing up in their driveway. 

Stopping delivery is a simple-yet-annoying matter of calling the Omaha World-Herald’s  Customer Service Desk Monday-Friday 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. (7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends) at (402) 346-3363 and telling them to please, for the love of God, stop delivering Food Express to your house. 

That information has been out there for a long time, but for some, it’s not enough. Facebook hate pages have begun popping up, including “I Hate Food Express,” which asks that you join if you "want to dump off all of your Food Express bundles at the front doors of the World-Herald,” and “Slow the Food Express,” which is “Dedicated to stopping the Omaha World-Herald's Food Express from appearing unwanted throughout Omaha each week.”

The latter Facebook page has nearly 500 followers, most of whom I would guess already have made the phone call to the World-Herald stopping delivery, but are still pissed whenever they drive to work and see Food Express bags littering neighborhood streets like soggy turds left behind by Omaha’s biggest unleashed mutt of a newspaper. 

They wonder why the World-Herald is allowed to casually litter their streets with garbage when they know if they tossed a candy bar wrapper out the window they could (rightfully) be cited for littering. And yet here is a once-respected business entity not only littering, but writing its name on every piece of litter.

Well, someone at the World-Herald is listening to all the bitching. Specifically Dennis Cronin, the paper’s circulation director, who last Tuesday, May 6, sent a “Food Express Update” to Omaha Neighborhood Alliance Members. In it, Cronin states (sounding like a scientist describing a fight against an insidious disease) that “The Omaha World Herald continues to review the stated concerns about delivery of Food Express and believes we are making progress.”

Caught in a war with itself, the World-Herald is siding with those organizing against it. Cronin said they’ve heard the “feedback” and even met on two occasions with Omaha city officials and representatives from several neighborhood associations. And as a result, the World-Herald has put together a 4-point plan to combat the “Food Express Problem” (my description, not theirs). The plan:

— Adding contact information to the Food Express bag to let customers know how to contact them with any delivery issues (i.e, the phone number to stop delivery).

— Studying the possibility of porch delivery in certain areas, namely those where it’s extremely difficult for the carrier to get the Food Express out of the public right of way (i.e, our streets and sidewalks);

— Improving their “sweeps” program whereby someone from the World-Herald picks up Food Express bags that have not been picked up and thrown away by residents by Friday afternoon.

and 

— “Committing to improving our community outreach and collection of feedback.”

Missing from the list, of course, is simply stopping the program or making Food Express delivery by “request only.” If we wanted your plastic bag filled with worthless advertising we would have asked for it. But we all know that will never happen because absolutely no one wants more advertising delivered to their door.

The only thing more annoying than Food Express is when it begins showing up in your driveway…again. We gave into the World-Herald’s demands. We called the customer service desk and asked to halt delivery. And it worked… for a while. Then, out of the blue, the white plastic bag o’ shit began showing up again, forcing me to walk to the end of my driveway, pick it off the ground and toss it in the recycling bin with a hearty “Motherf***er!” Afterward, I did the only thing left to do: I walked back inside, sat in my office and began writing this column.

Over The Edge is a weekly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, music, the media and the arts. Email Tim at tim.mcmahan@gmail.com.

posted at 08:25 am
on Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

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