26 Sep

Leave the Freestyle to swimming


Yeah, I'm back... now that my new server is up and running (and I've been lazy once I did get the server back up and running)

So you've probably seen these by now, infesting some of your local restaurant chains. The sleeky, new, touch-screen pop dispensers from Coke, called the Freestyle machine.

For those not in the know, these machines dispense all flavors of pop out of one place. Moreover, there are a number of flavorings you can add to your favorite drink to give it that extra kick. So if you're wanting a Caffeine Free Diet Vanilla Coke with Grape, by all means, if you able to spit it out, you can probably request it.

Yes, that sound is all the old-time soda jerks rolling over in their grave.

Now before I start highlighting why these things are worse than the devil (and they just might be too -- they are red afterall), let me get into the positives:

  1. Guaranteed to have your drink - How many times have you gone into a restaurant, hoping to get your Cherry Coke fix, only to find out that your options are: Coke, Diet Coke and Sprite? Wow, thanks for the selection. With this machine, the same flavors are available at every location.
  2. Variety is the spice of life - Ever get bored of Sprite? Now you can delay the inevitable by adding a shot of purple flavoring that the machine calls grape.
  3. Space-saver - Typically if a restaurant wanted more flavors, it would have to add (widen) the dispenser. 10 flavors? Ha! You'd need a space so wide, it would become analogous to the hole width found in the Vikings run defense.

But that's where the positives end. At least for now.

  1. As R.E.M. said, "There's something going on that's not quite right". My favorite flavor of pop -- Cherry Coke -- tastes dreadful. To the point where I literally dumped it out after two sips. Thinking it was just a bad machine, I went to a different restaurant -- same result. Instead of dispensing pure (already-mixed) Cherry Coke, the machine takes Coke and adds a cherry flavoring to it. It's not the same cherry flavoring/ratio as the original, that's for sure, and it's NOT even close. Even Mello Yello doesn't quite taste right.
  2. Carbon dating - For some reason, the carbonation seems to be lacking. It doesn't have the crispness it should. It seems dated... flat... pick your adjective.
  3. Cross-contamination - When I got my sample of Mello Yello, I could taste a hint of the grape flavoring requested from the previous user.
  4. Sticky wicket - The syrup water tends to splash, sticking to the stainless steel. What a sight that is after a day's work.
  5. Limitations - Only combinations entered into the system can be dispensed. So if you were hankerin' for a Coke with Orange and Grape, you might be out of luck. In other words, it's not quite "if you were thinking it, the machine can make it".
  6. Expensive - the machines run tens of thousands of dollars, but supposedly are touted "worth the cost" to keep consumers happy. It hasn't kept this consumer happy.
  7. Waiting for little Jhonny or some elderly person who can't even operate a computer navigating through all the choices trying to figure out which one to choose. It's a multi-step process where it doesn't need to be. And in many locations, there's only one machine. Better have the restaurant re-nuke my dinner, because it will be cold by the time I return from getting my pop!

Obviously, the biggest issues are #1 and #2. As a consumer, if I'm going to be pouring money into a product that provides me zero nutritional value, I better damn well enjoy it. Problem is, they managed to screw up my favorite drink. It's to the point now where if I go into one of these restaurants that have this machine, I order water now and tell them why I'm doing so. (it's better for me anyway)

I have written to Coke about this issue, and they provided a nice response to me (via letter), giving the standard response stating that the machine went thru a large number of tests to ensure product quality. They did also mention that Cherry Coke should taste the same whether it comes from a plastic bottle, can, old-style fountain machine or the new Freestyle machine.

I'm sorry Coke, but if you meant to include Freestyle machine in there, either your taste-testers were on vacation, or their taste buds/tolerance levels are wayyyyyyy out of bounds. Cherry Coke ISN'T EVEN CLOSE. And so say my friends who are also fans of Cherry Coke.

Coke did mention they were going to follow up with the local distributor.

When you can't even get your base flavors to taste right, that's a problem. With Mello Yello, there's nothing to mix except your base Mello Yello syrup and water -- forget about the orange/grape/vanilla flavor add-ins!

So just a fair warning to you. I'm not saying you'll hate the machine too, but be prepared.

Categories: Gripe Read More

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