Tall, Dark, and Mysterious


Market research

File under: Sound And Fury. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 5:03 pm.

Taking the train in Canada? Your fare options, in alphabetical order, are:

  • Comfort Advantage
  • Comfort Liberty
  • Comfort Super
  • VIA 1

Humour me a minute, will you, and sort these in what you think to be the increasing order by price. And then take a peek at the website to check your (I assume) nigh-random guess, and tell me: Does above nomenclature constitute a clever means of branding? Or does it leave you longing for a simpler time (end of 2004, if I recall correctly - the last time I took a train), when you rode in coach or business class or first class and you understood what that meant, even though you weren’t hip to all of the new-fangled train lingo that all the cool kids on the block were using, because you weren’t one of the cool kids, which to this day brings back painful memories?

Thought so.

Anyhoo, despite the fact that I have been known to purchase, and wear, women’s clothing*, an absurd proportion of which which is designed with six foot tall, 120-lb prepubescents in mind - I continue to harbour some illusion that the market does not operate entirely independently of consumer demand or customer preference. And, not that I’m an expert on fads or anything, but I’m reasonably sure that “Comfort Advantage” and such aren’t about to penetrate the vernacular in the way that “Kleenex” and “Jell-o” have. So, VIA executives, if you’re reading this? Can we use our creativity in ways that don’t just confuse and annoy the people who pay your salaries?

While I’m at it, a memo to places that sell food products in a variety of sizes: kindly avail yourselves of the entire spectrum of sizes, preferably in their street names (small, medium, large). As far as naming goes, the highfalutin thesaurus-generated equivalents of [above] are unnecessary; in terms of descriptions of sizes, the fourth quartile is insufficient . Starbucks, which has made use of not one, but two Romance languages in labelling its sizes of drinks with synonyms for “big”, is probably the worst offender on both counts; but some chain that I think is local to Ontario recently offered me an option for my fries - would I like the large, the jumbo, or the super? (”The smallest you have,” I said, and the cashier called back, “One large, to go.”) Though if we’re going to continue designating portions fast food and drinks thusly, I propose we cut to the chase and offer them in Large, Extra-Large, Jumbo, and You, Sir, Have The Largest Penis This Side Of The Greenwich Meridian. And for the other extreme, let’s have Small, Tiny, Itty-Bitty, and Look How Well I’m Adhering To My Diet Even Though I’m Eating Out. Reckon you can make a nice profit off of that last one, too.

* I leave those of my readers who have linked me as “he” to apply Occam’s Razor as they see fit.


  1. Down here on the California/Mexico border, the worst offender is Domino’s Pizza. Their pies come in three sizes: MEDIUM (!) Large, and Extra Large.

    Go Figure.

    - EdWonk — 5/12/2005 @ 6:21 pm

  2. How scary is it that I did get the fare bases ordered correctly, and with the right rationales?

    On the other hand, at Starbucks I simply order as small, medium, or large, and never have a problem with them comprehending it.

    - oliviacw — 5/12/2005 @ 6:38 pm

  3. They must be taking their cue from Air Canada. Note that Air Canada used to have Tango, Fun, Latitude and Freedom, but apparently they got told by some other airline that they couldn’t use Fun or Freedom. So now it’s Tango Plus and Latitude Plus.

    - plam — 5/12/2005 @ 6:40 pm

  4. Rationale? Do share!

    - Moebius Stripper — 5/12/2005 @ 6:44 pm

  5. Actually, Starbucks has four sizes. In order from smallest to largest, they are short, tall, grande, and venti. They don’t put “short” on the menu, though, because then people would order it.

    I know this because a friend of mine ordered a “short” drink from Starbucks about three years ago and I said “I didn’t know they made those”. In fact, they might not any more. Apparently, back when they started they had two sizes, “short” and “tall”, which seemed pretty reasonable; but Americans want everything to be large these days…

    and “venti” is weird because it means, of course, “twenty” (in Italian?), as in 20 ounces, the size of the drink. Fair enough… but an iced venti is 24 ounces. Now they’re just lying.

    - Isabel — 5/12/2005 @ 7:50 pm

  6. I usually go for small or “the middle one”; these are understood. And they don’t correct me, which they always did in the US.

    - wolfangel — 5/12/2005 @ 8:06 pm

  7. No one has ever corrected me, maybe b/c Starbucks workers in Berkeley are all a little sheepish about their employment.

    * I leave those of my readers who have linked me as “he” to apply Occam’s Razor as they see fit.

    There you go, provoking my visualization again. Also, loud guffawing.

    - Saheli — 5/12/2005 @ 11:51 pm

  8. Just got an email from a VIA customer service rep who totally missed my point:

    Good morning,

    There is absolutely no difference in class of service between Comfort
    Super, Comfort Advantage and Comfort Liberty except for the price. Comfort
    Super and Comfort Advantage are fare plans with an advance purchase
    discounted fare (purchase at least 5 days in advance) with limited
    availability and is subject to service charges for cancellation or

    To learn more about VIA’s new simplified Flexi Fare$ in Comfort class, see

    This was in response to me telling them that their names for the different prices were confusing and non-obvious. Maybe it’s the teacher in me, but I wish this were a graded assignment so that I could fail it for not addressing the question.

    - Moebius Stripper — 5/13/2005 @ 6:56 am

  9. Hey - one guy online convinced (him)self that I was a man, though I told him (later in the convo) that my name was Mary.

    And then we had a conversation about how weird it is to be a man named Mary. I thought it was hilarious.

    I had a post on sexing your meep and Bayesian probability, but I’ve screwed up the directories at marypat.org.

    Still, considering the only time in face-to-face I’ve been mistaken for a man was when I had all my hair under a man’s hat, and I know you’ve been mistaken for a guy with your hair down and wearing a dress. I don’t get people sometimes. It ain’t just Occam’s Razor, but also Bayesian Reasoning. What are your priors, man?!

    - meep — 5/13/2005 @ 7:10 am

  10. Here are the sizes of olives.

  11. I don’t feel like finding it on the site, but I feel pretty confident about this guess:

    VIA 1
    Super Duper

    VIA 1 since it’s not trying to market itself (people who will buy it don’t have to be convinced) (also I guess since clearly you wouldn’t be asking otherwise), Liberty as in freedom to change the price (most expensive non-elite), “Super Mondo Extra” as in the cheapest one, and advantage nowhere else less to be. I mean it makes sense to me, having been to Sam’s club so many times.

    - Mike — 5/13/2005 @ 11:25 am

  12. Those olives - extra large is the middle size. Yes; this must be a huge relief to those people who wish to eat smallish olives without publicly confessing to how tiny their dicks are. (And…a whole website on sizes. This, this is why I have comments on my website. Except that they’re full of crap with the women’s clothing sizes. I’ll tell you what a size 10 means: NOTHING.)

    Mike, dude, you’re exactly right, both with the ordering and the rationale. If I were going to be persnickety about these things, though, I’d point out that I asked for increasing order, but I’ll let that one pass. I’m forced to conclude that you either cheated, or that you’re being groomed to take over the position of VIA Rail Executive Who Names Stuff In Stupid Ways when the present one dies. Can I put forth a suggestion? Instead of labelling the seats A, B, C, and D, designate the left and right sides of the train by their seafaring equivalents, “port” and “starboard”. Let’s make land travel even more unnecessarily confusing!

    - Moebius Stripper — 5/13/2005 @ 2:35 pm

  13. Then you could tag the seats individually “port-outboard,” “port-inboard,” “starboard-inboard,” “starboard-outboard.” Or for evem more fun: Imagine a car with three seats on one side of the aisle: “port-outboard,” “port-center,” “port-inboard”! The trick on this is that the “center” seat would be the middle one, not the one on the aisle, making for enhanced confusion.

    I think I’ll go lie down now.

    - Old Grouch — 5/14/2005 @ 3:56 pm

  14. “* I leave those of my readers who have linked me as “he” to apply Occam’s Razor as they see fit”

    Crap - that’s embarassing - especially since I am normally pretty careful about that kind of thing. I think I’ll ramdomly decide to blame the word ‘curmudgeon’ (in your profile) which I always associate in my mind with Rex Murphy.

    I certainly agree about stupid names for sizes / ticket classes. My girlfriend always rolls her eyes when I deliberately refuse to use the Starbucks naming system (on the few occasions she can even drag me in there in the first place). I think if I had my own fast food place I would name the sizes, ‘Absurd’, ‘Are You Kidding Me?’ and ‘Absorbs Light’ (nothing like throwing in some additional alliterative aggravation to make things even more confusing).

    - Declan — 5/16/2005 @ 11:50 am

  15. Old Grouch - oh, God, YES. You and Mike can duke it out for the job of VIA Rail Executive Who Names Stuff In Stupid Ways.

    Declan - hey, no worries; you’re not the first, and you likely won’t be the last to make no mistake, which others made before I even self-identified as a curmudgeon. I could probably get around the confusion by decking this space out in pink’n'purple, but…

    I must say, though, that I’m not sure what to make of the fact that the masculine “curmudgeon” apparently trumped the feminine “stripper” in formulating a mental image ;)

    - Moebius Stripper — 5/16/2005 @ 6:21 pm

  16. I was shocked to be occasionally linked as a “he”. Then I just started complaining a lot about menstruation. Problem solved.

    - wolfangel — 5/16/2005 @ 8:17 pm

  17. “I must say, though, that I’m not sure what to make of the fact that the masculine “curmudgeon” apparently trumped the feminine “stripper” in formulating a mental image ;)”

    It’s all about context. If you had described yourself as a 20 something stripper, going by the name of Moebius Curmudgeon it would have been a totally different story…

    I remember when I linked to Double Blind (http://sacha.rdix.com/ - recommended) for the first time, I searched the site for a good 15 minutes to see if ‘Sacha’ was male or female. But I guess I’m getting lazier (or more likely, just more absent-minded, I don’t think I could get even more lazy) as time goes by.

    - Declan — 5/16/2005 @ 11:04 pm

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