Friday, March 02, 2007

Read It and Eat It

I was interested to see this article on today. My dear sister has had some problems with this program in the past, and her objections (as I recall) were similar to the ones stated at the end of the article. I don't have a problem just picking up one free take-out pizza (although they hate when you do that) but I'd like to be able to afford to make it a family outing. And there you go; the company succeeds in its aims.

I notice, rather sadly, that there were no statistics quoted in the article for how many coupons were actually redeemed from this program. I bet they could even give details about how much money each coupon transaction brought in. That data would surely be enlightening. Let's see, 22 million x 700 calories per pizza...

So, come on and weigh in: Where do you stand on the issue of bribing kids with fatty foods so they'll read? (Did I just give my position away? Nuts!)

[Edited: I checked Pizza Hut's nutritional info and was interested to see that I wasn't exaggerating much with my estimate. A plain pepperoni personal pizza has 640 calories and 29 grams of cheesy fat. Don't get me started about the 1530 mg of sodium; I think I'm gonna throw up. It's tasty all right, but... gack.]


Renee said...

We do the Book It program every year...but not as a bribe. DD reads like crazy all the time. She LOVES to read...she's probably got her nose in a book right now. So doing Book It is just like handing out coupons. She signs up for lots of reading programs...I figure if they're gonna give her prizes for doing something that she loves to do...why not?
We normally redeem her coupon and I get a pizza for myself too (usually with a coupon as well) w/o DH because he doesn't like their pizza. So on nights when he's late at work or something we go. I wouldn't have a problem with just ordering her pizza to go either.
We once went as a group with our homeschooling friends and all the kids used their coupons...the moms all had the Pizza Bar for lunch. It was a great deal and the manager said it was okay, even though the coupons don't want you to do a pizza party with them.

As for the program promoting obesity... that's silly. The kids can only get one coupon per month...for 6 months. If parents can't do a good job of providing a well balanced diet for their kids the other days out of the month that it isn't Pizza Hut's fault.

Scone said...

I'm with you on "might as well, since they're going to read anyway"; that's what we do, too. But their stated aim is basically bribery with stuff that's bad for you. (Not to say that it isn't tasty!) I just found it interesting that there is a debate going on about the program.

dorothy said...

My position is that pizza is a "sometimes" food. And special celebrations of achievements aren't bad, as long as it's the family sharing with them. I had the issue with the public school collecting all of the certificates, and then when they had enough for each child, taking the whole school to pizza hut, completely usurping parental authority, undermining the program's objective, and spending 3 hrs of school time so the principal could be "pizza diva".
**steps up on soap box**
You see, I believe that if a child has an academic achievement, the family should be involved in celebrating it. Print a certificate and let me take care of the reward. Don't spend my tax dollars or fundraising monies on useless school bus trips, and cheap reward toys so you can appear to be their friend instead of encouraging children to do what is expected because it's expected, not because they're going to get a cheap plastic shark or superball because they didn't hit someone that week.

Pizza Hut did listen. Then the principal changed her story, then threatened me with discontinuing the program altogether if I had any further complaints. She told the Pizza Hut execs that it was just a kick off, and so I shouldn't have a problem. I faxed in the notes where she explained she intended to do it every month. They backed her because she changed her position...a little. In an effort to display my position, I picked up the certificates for my kids, drove them to the pizza hut in front of the bus, ordered cheesesticks for the whole school, and watched the kids thank the principal, which she accepted. All the kids wanted to sit with us anyway, because none of the other kids had both parents there, and they rather like my husband (he's like Robin Williams with the voices)
This was when we made the decision to homeschool the kids. It was because the school wasn't interested in teaching values. It was interested in partying and bribing the kids on a daily basis to do what their supposed to do everyday just because they're good kids, not because they need "behavior dollars" or " citizen points" to purchase a small bribe for the week. The school only got through about 40% of the curriculum that year...with 9 kids in each class. It closed the after following year, to save money in the district, culminating with the firing of the librarian because she tried to protect book fair money from the principal's shopping eye. The principal wanted to spend the money on Oriental trading crap toys, and the librarian (and PTO) wanted to improve books in the library, weatherproof and update some of the playground equipment and keep some money saved. So she was fired for turning the money over to the PTO, which is where it has always been, since the PTO runs the book fair. She was a "give me your money, not your opinion" principal. Too bad she ran into an "active" parent.

Jack said...

I have seen the program in action from both the perspective of parent and Pizza Hut employee. In fact, at Pizza Hut's big annual store owner meeting back in, like, 1994 or 1995 or so our manager was specially recognized for being the first female manager of $1 million dollar store. It was impressive and she got to do a big "this is how we do it at my store" presentation complete with video. I got to be the Book It portion of the video: chatting with the kids about what books they'd read, what they want on their pizza, giving them their special button/stickers.

She was later fired for doing exactly what made us a $1 million dollar store, but that's a different topic.

It is innaccurate to say the Book It program is now under attack. It has been since its inception. And you know, there are some valid arguments to be made about what types of rewards we give students and about corporate intrusion into education. Pizza Hut itself certainly isn't a perfect entity. Hopefully parents can raise their kids to recognize those issues.

It's also true that the program does attract business to the stores. A lot of business. So many families came to Pizza Hut (and my family has done the same thing now) because their kids "earned" free Book It pizzas. By far, most of them get the free pizza plus a meal. Undeniably, Book It is a part of Pizza Hut's overall marketing strategy.

I figure that if the only thing we did, as society/parents/responsible adults, to encourage kids to read was give them pizza, that would be a problem. Criticisms of the Book It program mostly exist in that vacuum. Hopefully our kids don't. And if some kids do, then they have problems far bigger than Pizza Hut in their lives. I certainly wouldn't begrudge them a little free food. There are a lot of things Pizza Hut could do with its resources, a lot of methods it could use to advertise. If it has found a way to encourage something of value while also accomplishing its marketing goals, well good on it.