QUESTION: What’s worse than hosting a party and having nobody show?
ANSWER: When the party is hosted by Snapple and the guest of honor arrives guzzling a Diet Coke.
This unplanned, red-faced moment actually happened at Spokane’s Lutheran Social Services.
Representatives of the New York-based beverage company flew all the way to Spokane the other day to treat Janice Abramson, who wrote Snapple a letter of tribute.
Someone thought it would be a swell idea to stage a surprise picnic. So Abramson, who works in the social services’s fiscal department, was kept completely in the dark while a conference room was transformed into the Great Hall of Snapple.
Eleven cases of the stuff were wheeled in. Up went a Snapple banner. A king-sized copy of Abramson’s letter was put on display.
Abramson’s co-workers pulled on free Snapple T-shirts and then waited for someone to collect their friend.
“Hiiii from SNAPPPLE!!!” screamed everyone on cue when she walked into the room.
Yep, those Snapple people thought of everything.
Well, almost everything.
“Oh, my gaaawd,” gasped Abramson, 38, who suddenly realized what was in her hand.
“This is too embarrassing,” she added, quickly hiding the enemy drink near a waste basket in the hall.
I’m sure the offensive can will be cut out of any promotional photographs. But this does prove those cornball Snapple TV testimonials aren’t faked.
As further proof the end of the world is near, a weird cult following has developed over Snapple. The company gets some 3,000 fan letters a week from people who treat the beverage as if it were Michael Jordan or Madonna.
“Thank you, thank you, a thousand times thank you!” gushed Abramson in her letter that she mailed last September.
Her love for a rather drab-tasting flavor called Just Plain Tea prompted her to write: “Now that summer is over and I can no longer make sun tea, you filled the void.”
It gets weirder.
Last summer, several thousand thirst-driven Snapple-ites attended a convention in New York. One newspaper drew a witty comparison between these loons and those spacey followers of the Grateful Dead.
It makes me wonder if there is some mind-controlling agent at work.
According to Snapple’s Michelle Schwartz, every single fan letter is answered. The writers of the best 100 letters - such as Abramson - are given personal visits and enough Snapple in which to bathe an adult musk ox.
The top 10 letter writers are honored with their very own commercials. Some guy named Ralph did better than that. His letter suggesting a canteloupe drink led to production of Ralph’s Canteloupe Cocktail.
Yet even wholesome Snapple is not devoid of controversy.
“Is it true Rush Limbaugh owns part of Snapple?” asked a worried Marcia Gallucci, a social services employee.
It’s a safe bet you’ll find more Snapple fans than Limbaugh fans at a social services agency.
Schwartz, however, assured the nervous Gallucci that the conservative Limbaugh was not an owner.
What she failed to mention was that the popularity of Limbaugh’s radio show was instrumental in building Snapple into a mega-giant. He and shock jock Howard Stern were pioneer promoters who sent Snapple sales soaring.
Then, a year ago, the behemoth Quaker Oats Co. coughed up an incredible $1.7 billion for Snapple.
Out went Limbaugh and Stern and much of Snapple’s snap.
Sales slumped 17 percent the first half of this year. Quaker president Philip Marineau, who led the Snapple acquisition, went out the door, too.
Should Snapple continue its slide into the dumper, the money may dry up for these cutesy Snapple parties.
But who really needs free Snapple? If I ever start writing love letters to corporations, you can bet I’ll shoot for something with a better payoff.
Hmm. “Dear Mercedes. Thank you, thank you, a thousand times thank you ….”