I’m spending this weekend ‘up north’. If you’re not from Minnesota, the
phrase ‘up north’ is code for “fill the car with luggage and gas (and anything
else that will fit whether you need it or not), drive north for at least two
hours (four in our case), then stay in a relatively primitive dwelling
that probably lacks basic necessities like air conditioning, cable TV and
You can see why we have to use code. If we called it what it is, no one would
ever go ‘up north’ and then Minnesota’s entire tourism industry would collapse.
We can’t have that.
Fortunately, even small towns like the one I’m in have coffee shops with
Wifi. Today, as I drove to town to get my daily Internet fix, I noticed a sign
on a little roadside shop.
The sign said:
“Eat Here. Get Gas and Worms.”
When I got in my car to head into town I was hungry. Not anymore.
To paint a complete picture, the shop was a cafe, gas station and bait store.
Pretty common in northern Minnesota.
Okay, I understand the sign is supposed to be cute or clever or at least
memorable. So they hit one out of three. Usually that’s not bad. But there’s a
problem. This sign is memorable in a bad way.
It does not make me want to eat there. Just the opposite.
I’ll remember this sign because it placed in my mind a picture of
gastrointestinal hell. Who looks forward to getting gas or worms when they stop
for a roadside lunch? Nobody, of course.
I know the sign is a pun. And if it’s just meant to be entertaining, it
is. Except, it delivers an unintended and negative message about the
As we promote our businesses, we want people to remember us. Or, more to the
point, we want them to remember us when they want or need what we can do for
them. And, when they remember us, we want them to think of our business in a
good way. We want them to believe we can help them better than anyone else.
If I’m driving down that stretch of road where this little cafe, gas and bait
shop is and I’m hungry, I’ll keep driving. I won’t stop there to satisfy my food
I will consider the owners of the shop mildly clever. And I’ll mentally thank
them for giving me a chuckle as I drive by. But that’s all they’ll get from
What do you think? Am I being too hard on them? Should I overlook the
disgusting double entendre here and give them my business because they were
willing to do something different?