SuperSpies Me!
June 8, 2004 9:45 AM   Subscribe

The CEO with the biggest head in America (no, not Trump, I'm talking literally) is recruiting secret agents. (You want spies with that?) Or, if you'd like a slightly less creepy way to get a lot of free really junky food, you can write sauce packet slogans.
*The term "left-of-center" is NOT meant to be political in any way. Mmm-kay.
posted by wendell (14 comments total)
I used to work for a mystery guest company here in the UK & I got to visit everything from sandwich shops to 5-star hotels. Lots of fun...especially when I got to give out GBP50 vouchers (a days wage then) to good servers.
posted by i_cola at 10:19 AM on June 8, 2004

Borders Books and Music has "secret shoppers" -- better not get under 80%! Better not catch you forgeting to upsale, "Heres your copy of Of Human Bondage, have you seen our fancy chocolates?"
posted by Satapher at 10:34 AM on June 8, 2004

I've never been to or seen a Jack in the Box -- I just don't live in the right part of the US -- but having read Fast Food Nation and learned about the tremendous job that they've done reforming the meat industry and their own restaurants, I'm committed to having a burger at the first one that I see.
posted by waldo at 11:21 AM on June 8, 2004

"...having read Fast Food Nation and learned about the tremendous job that they've done reforming the meat industry ..."

Are you thinking of In-n-Out Burger? Or am I misremembering what I read in FFN? Or did you read a different version of FFN than I did?
posted by majick at 11:55 AM on June 8, 2004

Sigh. I miss Jack-In-The-Box. There isn't one anywhere in my state. But back in Texas, I would often feast upon their breakfast delights: The Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich, the Sourdough Breakfast Sandwich, and the classic Breakfast Jack.
posted by davidmsc at 2:10 PM on June 8, 2004

Yeah, careful Waldo. You don't want to mix those two restaurants up. From the Fast Food Nation index:
Jack-In-The-Box: and e. coli, 198-99, 207, 214, 221, 263.
In-N-Out Burger pays the highest wages in fast food, while Jack continues to fight against the federal minimum wage. whatever those secret eaters are getting paid isn't worth it, IMO.
posted by obloquy at 2:36 PM on June 8, 2004

Jack-in-the-Box, having had the e. coli outbreak, did indeed take an industry-leading role in the safety of their beef supply. Their very business depended on them visibly tackling the issue head-on. And yes, this was in Fast Food Nation.
posted by kindall at 3:25 PM on June 8, 2004

That's so special, kindall. Imagine that. After people started getting sick from eating their products, they then did something about "the safety of their beef supply."

Why, I hear that cigarette makers have actually started putting warning labels on their products. Imagine their benevolence, if you can. Why, I even hear tell that convicted thieves sometimes apologize to their victims, right before the thieves are sentenced.

~tearing up~

Jack In The Box Ignored Safety Rules
The News Tribune (Tacoma, WA), June 16, 1995, Copyright 1995 The News Tribune (Tacoma, WA)
June 16, 1995, Friday
BYLINE: Elaine Porterfield and Adam Berliant; The News Tribune

The Jack In The Box fast-food chain knew about but disregarded Washington state laws that would have prevented the deadly 1993 outbreak of E. coli food poisoning, according to court documents.

Three Washington children died and 600 others were sickened due to poisoning from E. coli O157:H7 served in undercooked Jack In The Box hamburgers.

Documents recently filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle by attorneys for those injured in the epidemic show that the company knew about but chose not to follow safe-cooking standards that would have killed the E. coli bacteria in their hamburger patties....

But according to numerous documents from their own files in their San Diego headquarters - and included in court documents - Jack In The Box had been warned of tainted beef, undercooked burgers and improper cooking procedures as long as 10 months before the outbreak....

"Foodmaker made a conscious decision to disregard Washington law," one of the attorneys - William Marler of Seattle - wrote in a declaration to the court filed in his and related cases. He also asserted the company showed "total disregard for the health of its customers."

Diana Nole of Gig Harbor, whose 2-year-old, Michael, died in the epidemic, agreed. The Nole family settled with Foodmaker for $ 1.3 million last year.

"These guys had a responsibility to the public to provide safe, healthy food," Nole said. "It just disgusts me that they can play with peoples' lives like that."

posted by fold_and_mutilate at 3:56 PM on June 8, 2004

Sigh. I miss Jack-In-The-Box. There isn't one anywhere in my state.

We don't have 'em in the big apple either. So it's largely a mystery to me. But that head scares the poop outta me.

We don't have a Dairy Queen either. I'm bummed because I'd really like to try the flamethrower cheeseburger and a Blizzard.
posted by jonmc at 4:41 PM on June 8, 2004

Cravings aside, it looks like they're recruiting secret shoppers, which is more about service and stuff like that in my experience. Not that I don't hate the little finks after a decade in retail, but that's beside the point. We already have government health inspectors. What would be the point of internal ones?

And Taco Bell Hot sauce is the weakest shit in the world. Smuggle in a bottle of Pain Is Good to pur on your burrito.
posted by jonmc at 4:53 PM on June 8, 2004

The Center for Science in the Public Interest's study, Dine at Your Own Risk: The Failure of Local Agencies to Adopt and Enforce National Food Safety Standards for Restaurants, indicates that thousands of restaurants are not required to follow basic food safety standards, such as cooking and refrigeration temperatures....

Not a single jurisdiction surveyed has adopted all 12 of the FDA standards, and the average city or state has adopted only half of them. The standards include such requirements as the following: refrigerate food at 41 degrees; cook pork to an internal temperature of 155 degrees; inspect restaurants at least twice a year; and post warnings alerting consumers to the dangers of eating certain foods raw....

CSPI's study applauds two other chains and one small-town restaurant -- Taco Bell, Jack in the Box, and That's Amore (Hale's Corners, WI) -- for taking voluntary actions to prevent food poisoning. Jack in the Box's record is especially noteworthy because in 1993 a deadly outbreak of E. coli bacteria was traced to contaminated hamburgers served in that chain's outlets.


Since its well-publicized experience with E. coli O157:H7 in 1993, Jack In the Box has become a crusader for higher standards across the entire food service industry.... [The chain's] meat suppliers were changed and meat from the new supplier underwent microbial testing "unheard of in the industry," [and all restaurants adopted] HACCP [HACCP @ Frontline], a tool used mainly in food manufacturing plants.... Jack In The Box's HACCP system has three basic parts: equipment calibration, a shift checklist for each of the workday's four shifts, and a weekly health and safety checklist.... As a result of its work with HACCP, Jack In The Box has become a food safety resource for the industry.... Another effort involves gathering industry support for legislation that would require some form of HACCP in all restaurants. At the very least, Jack In The Box would like to see one crew member on each shift in each restaurant trained in ServSafe. Some states, such as Florida, are moving toward such a requirement.


[Jack in the Box] recently received the state of California's inaugural award for “outstanding leadership in food safety,” bestowed by the Food and Drug Branch of the California Department of Health Services.

The award, presented Oct. 17 [, 2000] in Sacramento, salutes Jack in the Box Inc. for its efforts to help the state of California adopt the uniform food-safety standards put forth by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The award also recognizes the company for helping the state draft a 1997 law requiring all restaurants to cook meat and eggs at specified temperatures to ensure safety.

The Department of Health Services said Jack in the Box Inc. goes beyond having its own top-notch systems for food safety: The company shares its food- safety systems with regulatory agencies and others in the industry so they can understand how it's done.


Jack in the Box is Back: the vast majority of cases, Foodmaker has acted to put the crisis quickly behind it.... Most important, it immediately accepted blame for most of the deaths and illnesses linked to its tainted food, settling with about 500 victims to date for amounts ranging from thousands of dollars to $ 15.6 million. "We remain very sorry for what happened," Nugent says. William Marler, a Seattle lawyer who represented many of the victims and their families, gives Nugent [and] Goodall high marks for limiting the fallout from bad publicity. "They did the right thing," says Marler.

Eventually, the chain received a $60M settlement from its meat suppliers.
posted by dhartung at 9:09 PM on June 8, 2004

Am I the only one who saw "biggest head" and thought this was going to be another link to an article about Nick Denton?
posted by mikeh at 11:23 AM on June 9, 2004

For those of you in Jack-less areas, here's the official story behind Mr. Box.

Jack's was the first 24-hour drive-thru burger chain I remember (in fact, I briefly worked graveyard shift at a Box while in college). I can attest that their food has improved notably since then (except for their weird deep-fried tacos - talk about your mystery meat), partly in response to the e-coli tragedy (which could've happened just as easily to any chain, and is more likely today to happen elsewhere) and partly out of a long-term effort to go "upscale" that started when they very publicly removed the clown head from the drive-thru menus and later started the ingenious (and very funny) advertising campaign highlighting the return of the clown head - on the body of their "founder and chief executive". The latest spot features George Hamilton tongue-in-cheekily comparing their new deli sandwiches to "caviar I ate out of the belly-button of a supermodel", to which the plastic-headed Jack replies: "You did that belly-button thing too?"
posted by wendell at 11:26 AM on June 9, 2004

That's so special, kindall. Imagine that. After people started getting sick from eating their products, they then did something about "the safety of their beef supply."

In no way did I even remotely attempt to justify the chain's behavior. It must have taken real effort to avoid noticing this, given that my comment was only three sentences long and contained only simple declarative statements of easily-verifiable facts.

So take your snark and shove it already.
posted by kindall at 11:56 AM on June 9, 2004

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