Monday, January 2, 2012

Behold...The Roo Mug!

An Analysis of a Convenience Store Phenomenon...

You may recall an episode of “The Simpsons” where Homer drives by a billboard advertising a clown college so many times that it’s literally all he can think about. Well, that may have been a cartoon, but I assure you - from personal experience - that just such an occurrence is an all-too-real phenomenon.

Case in point: The Roo Mug.

The Roo Mug. THE ROO MUG. For the last year of my life, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the words “ROO MUG” plastered in front of my eyes. Literally every time I’m on the highway, it’s a 100 percent, without-fail guarantee that I’ll encounter the phrase, in some incarnation or another. The Roo Mug, it is everywhere I go.

You may be wondering what exactly a “Roo Mug” is. Well, a “Roo Mug” is a travel-cup sold by a gas station here in the States called Kangaroo - as in, Kangaroo, the gas station / convenience store. Obviously, the logo for the franchise is a cartoon-ized marsupial, and just about everything the company hawks somehow has the suffix “Roo” tacked onto it. For example, some stores boast of a car wash service, entitled, you guessed it, a “Washaroo.” It was something I never really noticed - at all - until early last year, when the “Roo Mug” became an inescapable aspect of my existence. Every single Kangaroo that I drive past has about a million, billion signs in it and around it reminding travelers that, for the low, low price of just $1.59 USD, they too, can be the proud owner of a “Roo Mug.”

It’s on those blinking overhead signs, posted right beneath the gas prices. When you pull up to a gasoline filling station, you’ll see several cardboard displays promoting the cup. There are stickers, there are posters and there are cut-outs everywhere telling you about the “Roo Mug.” And somehow, I’ve STILL managed to run into a couple of stations that have erroneously advertised it as a “Roo Cup,” which proves once and for all just how remarkably little of a shit Americans give about their own surroundings.

After a couple of months of seeing signs for the cup, I got curious. After a half year, I became very, very intrigued. Three quarters of my way through the year, and I was downright obsessed with the damn thing. Roo Mug. Roo Mug. It’s easily one of the greatest two-syllable compounds I’ve ever heard. Roo Mug. Just say it aloud a couple of times. It’s like some sort of magical word, the kind of phrase you would hear a shaman chant right before making it rain or something. It sounds so whimsical and fantastical, yet post-modern and futuristic at the same time.

Roo Mug, Roo Mug. Can’t you hear a tribe of Amazons repeating it over and over while banging on drums made out of buckskin and solid mahogany? Roo Mug, Roo Mug. How can you not picture a platoon of multi-armed robots squealing the phrase like a warning siren as they charge over a mountain of post-World War III rubble?

After a solid year of nonstop exposure, I couldn’t restrain myself anymore. Not only did I HAVE to buy a Roo Mug, I was dead-set on making it my very first purchase of the new year. THIS was going to be the thing that set the tempo for the rest of 2012 - surely, if I got the ball rolling with affordable and convenient drink-ware this early on, everything else was destined to be cream cheese henceforth.

You know, you can learn a lot about a human being by what he or she has on his or her coffee mug. That emblem is something that is going to be, if nothing else, subconsciously associated with you by everybody in your daily life for as long as their communal memory serves operative. A lot of times, you’ll see people with those translucent coffee mugs that have pictures of their children wrapped around them, or maybe you’ll see a guy drinking out of a mug with the logo of a pro or college sports team on it. Right off the bat, you make the assumption that whatever’s on that cup is something that’s important to the person drinking out of that cup. Per, if you see someone sipping coffee out of a mug with a Dallas Cowboys star on it, you’d likely think that person was either from Dallas, has some sort of association with the Dallas area, or at the absolute least, some sort of admiration of the Dallas Cowboys organization. It says a lot about the person in question, without that person saying anything at all about themselves. And I think; what can you determine about a man and his faculties when you see him drinking out of a coffee mug with a kangaroo on it everyday?

I suppose the positive thing about purchasing a Roo Mug is that there’s almost a zero percent chance of the cashier thinking anything even remotely negative about you for buying it. If you ever want to hear some retail horror stories, try getting an earful from an ex gas-station attendant sometime - their yarns about bulk adult magazine and lottery ticket consumers are the kinds of tales that make most armed robbery stories sound downright placid by comparison. Compared to the aggregate shopper’s buying routines, some college kid buying a kangaroo-themed coffee mug out of ironical smarminess is the sort of thing that doesn’t even warrant a mildly batted eyelash.

As for the Roo Mug itself, it’s a pretty standard looking travel-mug. The plastic is rather solid (but not too solid,) and the lid is quite possibly the flimsiest piece of polyurethane shit that’s ever been shaped into something that resembles a circle. Getting the lid on and off is an absolute chore, and the little drinking spout - you know, the part where you flip open the cup so you can actually drink out of it - consists of this snapping case thingy that is gloriously outdated compared to modern sipping technologies. It really could be something out of the late 80s, if you really give the thing a good look-over…just, uh, ignore the url for the Bean Street Coffee company on the side of it, though.

I guess my biggest complaint about the Roo Mug isn’t the design of the cup, but the design on it. The Kangaroo logo isn’t exactly displayed prominently on the thing; in fact it seems as if the company logo is intentionally downplayed, so perhaps random passer-byers will think you’re drinking out of a more reputable coffee store container than some synthetic resin drink ware you picked up at a filling station for less than the price of a two liter soda. Instead, you get a very Starbucks-like coffee cup with the Bean Street logo on it, and the very Ah-nold sounding phrase “WE BREW IT. YOU DO IT.” plastered on the other side.

For less than two bucks, I suppose you could do a lot worse. It’s big enough to store the java necessary for your morning commute, but it isn’t so large that you’ll have about three quarters of a cup left by the time you pull into the parking lot. Supposedly, you get discounted refills every time you lug one of them into a Kangaroo station, but - come on, let’s be realistic - it’s not like you’re scoring premium Joe when you waltz into one of those franchises, either.

So, what’s the verdict, you may be asking? As it turns out, the Roo Mug - not exactly surprisingly - is really just a bunch of invented hype for something that’s really about as impressive as a mildly stumped toe. I really want to know just how much these gas stations are sinking into the promotional campaign for the mug now - is about $100 million too conservative a guess here? Maybe $200 million, or even a quarter of a billion? On the plus side, I guess it is rather easy to mold and put out something that’s only worth a few cents of plastic. It’s the marketing part, obviously, where things get interesting. Say what you will about the shoddiness of the product or the bluntness of the advertising, these Kangaroo folk are absolute winners with this one.

After all, they got $1.59 of my money, didn’t they?

1 comment:

  1. The "Roo Cup" is an actual thing. This summer (2012) and last summer (2011) people can purchase Roo Cups for $7 and have 25¢ refills on all cold and frozen drinks all summer (last year all refills were free). So the Roo Cup is different from the Roo Mug, not a erroneous mistake. Though the cup is indeed just as cheap, obnoxious looking, and over-hyped...I bought mine today. Don't judge me.


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