Sunday, March 28, 2004


Au Bon Pain has long been weak on ergonomics, leaving customers bumbling around their shops like rats in a maze -- but like rats in a maze who sometimes turn to each other and ask “Where are the trays?” -- and now have proven themselves weak on advertising skills.

These days, as everyone but the faux French know, subtlety in advertising is saved for bad news. Anything construed as good (“New look!” “Crunchier!” and, inexplicably, “All the sugar and twice the caffeine!”) is presented in all-caps in a jagged explosion of red. It’s the bad news that gets arrayed in modest type, shrunken and shunted away like an unloved child. They can stay in the room, but they can’t talk, and they have to clean up afterward. This is how it is with grudging admissions such as those found on Diet Coke: “Contains phenylalanines.”

This is why it’s funny when Au Bon Pains brag that their Peach Iced Tea and Home Style Lemonade “Contains Vitamin C.” The boast is in simple type beneath the names of the drinks, so it comes off as a warning -- something to watch out for. You can drink the Peach Iced Tea, you know, but you must face the consequences.

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