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In the Waiting Line

Remember that scene in the movie Beetlejuice, where he's siting in the waiting room? He's holding ticket number 9-trillion-and-something, only to look up at a sign that reads, "Now Serving 03."

Beetlejuice

That's how I've felt lately sitting in doctors' offices. I understand doctors now overbook appointments because of rampant no-shows. But I also know that they charge those no-shows upwards of 50 bucks for not being there. Can't they make up the difference without wasting my time?


I was late for an appointment once with my (former) dentist. After calling to let them know I would be late, they told me to come on down anyways. After rushing there (three towns over) they told me I was too late to be seen. And of course I was still charged for the visit.


Of course (and I think there was a Seinfeld episode on this) when doctors are late or have to cancel appointments, what do we get for our troubles? Zilch.



It's annoying. But at least it gives me an excuse to link to this great song, "In the Waiting Line" by Zero 7.


---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Free Pancakes at IHOP Tuesday

IHOP is once again hosting its National Pancake Day Celebration, giving away one free short stack of buttermilk pancakes to every customer from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday Feb. 23.

Shortstack

No purchase is necessary, but IHOP hopes you'll make a donation to Children's Miracle Network or another local charity to return the flavor. I mean favor.


Mmm, now I'm hungry. Click here to find your closest location.


---Samantha Maziarz Christmann 

Crisis PR in the Internet age

KevinSmith1 
Director Kevin Smith has brought a firestorm down on Southwest Airlines after being ejected from a flight for being too fat, demonstrating the power consumers wield with social media.


Southwest got some practice implementing crisis control in the Internet age after Kevin Smith sent out a flurry of Twitter messages to his legion of followers. Fans were furious, the media picked up on the story and the rest was history.


Southwest Airlines has apologized in blogs and defended itself in the face of furious Tweets. The fracas brought so much attention, it crashed their feedback page.


So many public relations people diligently make a daily practice of blogging, Tweeting and Facebooking, mostly to an audience of no one. Only when things fall apart is the importance of having those established networks made clear.


But the true test is whether Southwest's spin control was able to smooth the feathers it ruffled. Are you satisfied by Southwest's reaction? Do you think Smith was making a big deal over nothing? Do you think Smith got the reaction he did only because he's famous, or do you think an average consumer could have made the same impact?


Still, Smith doesn't think Southwest handled things very well. But in a situation like this, who gets the last word?


---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Free Grand Slam at Denny's Tuesday

If you watched the Super Bowl Sunday night, you might have seen Denny's is gearing up for another day of freebies.


GrandSlam Tuesday (Feb. 9), Denny's will give out free Original Grand Slam breakfasts from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. No purchase is necessary.


Click here to find your nearest Denny's restaurant. You may want to dress warm--last year, folks waited their turn in lines out the door.


---Samantha Maziarz Christmann


Make your own pre-packaged mixes to save time and money

In today's Discount Diva column, MoneySmart reader Bronwen Battaglia shared an idea for saving time and money when it comes to feeding her three hungry sons.

Instead of buying pre-packaged mixes, such as Bisquick and Swiss Miss, Battaglia takes time to measure out batches of her own scratch recipes and stores them in labeled containers. When it's time for pancakes or hot cocoa, she merely takes the dry mixes off the shelf and adds the wet ingredients as she would with any store-bought box mix.

Not only does this bit of advanced planning save money and add convenience, it allows Battaglia to control the amount of sugar and preservatives her kids eat, and lets her incorporate more healthful whole-wheat flour.

Here are two of the recipes she has perfected for her family:

Hot Cocoa:

 ScratchCocoa

4 cups nonfat dry milk
1 cup granulated sugar
¾ cup cocoa powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp cinnamon

Blend ingredients in a food processor until it resembles a fine powder. Store in air-tight container.

To prepare: Stir three tablespoons of mix with six ounces of hot water.


Pancakes:

Scratchjacks

2 cups whole wheat flour (or a combination of part wheat, part oatmeal flour)
4 cups unbleached white all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
¼ cup baking powder
1 tablespoons salt

To prepare a big batch (approximately 20 pancakes): In a medium bowl, combine: 2 ½ cups mix, 2 cups milk (or more), 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons oil (vegetable, canola, or mild olive). Gently stir ingredients together. Do not over mix. Let batter stand for at least 5 minutes. It will thicken up. Add more milk if necessary. Ladle 1/2 cup or so of batter on to hot griddle. Flip once bubbles are visible and edges appear dry.

Variations:

Substitute buttermilk or sour milk* for milk and add 1 tsp Baking Soda to mix.

Mash a banana in bowl before adding other ingredients.

Add a dash of cinnamon or diced pear and grated fresh ginger.

While first side is cooking, drop a few fresh or frozen blueberries on to the pancake.

Add a few tablespoons of ground flax seed to the batter.

Enjoy!

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

New signs sneak peeks at shoppers

Score another one for Big Brother.


According to a Wall Street Journal article, a new series of digital signs contain tiny cameras which capture images of people walking by in crowded places such as airports and shopping centers. That footage is synced up with a software program that scans it to determine shoppers' gender and age. Though not 100 percent accurate, the program zeroes in on age within a 10-year range.


That information can then be used to determine when and where certain demographics pass by in order to better target advertising, according to the program's developers at the Japanese company NEC Electronics Corp.


---Samantha Maziarz Christmann