Yesterday I got punked by Walmart.
Here’s the story:
I saw this online:
and thought it sounded like a fun afternoon. Free steak from a chef I really like is hard to beat. I emailed the person organizing the event and had my name and a couple of friends added to the list. Then Tre Wilcox seemed to drop out. No worries, subbing for him was a guy who had apparently won a grilling contest. And again, free steak.
I got an email late Friday night saying that the event was being held at Southfork and I should expect to be there for two hours. That sounded like a long time to eat a steak, but I figured they were filming the next grilling reality show or something.
We arrived at Southfork and were led by men with earpieces through the Southfork museum and told to wait for about 10 min while they finished setting up. That sounded a little weird, but:
a) Southfork has a museum? Wow, the day was already a win for me.
b) free steak
Eventually, we got to ride a tractor pulled tram to the seating area. We were told that Southfork was planning on holding a monthly outdoor grilling event and they were testing it out. People would be coming by while we were eating to see what we thought of the event and especially the food. We were told that the grillmaster was trying out some new things and they wanted lots of feedback. But first, would we like some free beer or wine?
We sat down, met the grillmaster, and proceeded to eat a ribeye so big it literally didn’t fit on my plate. Not bad for a free steak. It was nicely grilled with a rub that was just a little spicy. Sides were basic, but adequate, and everyone just seemed to be having a good time. We all thought that this would be a fun event for kids — mom and dad eat steak while the little ones play horseshoes or just run around the nearby grassy areas. We asked what they were planning on charging for future events and the nice lady with a Southfork shirt on surprisingly said they hadn’t thought about that yet.
When we’d finished eating, one of the people who had been asking us questions throughout the meal stood in the middle of the tables and after asking us if we liked the steak said, “All the steak you ate today came from WalMart. They’re now carrying a new line of premier choice steaks and we’ve been filming you since you got here.”
There were gasps as all the weirdness started to make sense. Our free meal was part of the WalMart Steak Out series of commercials where they go into fine or classic restaurants and replace the regular steaks with WalMart ones. (An homage to the famous Folger’s commercials?) We were told that we could now get a $100 gift card for filling out a waiver allowing them to use us in an upcoming commercial.
So for $100, a steak, and a Shiner, I am now an official potential spokesmodel for a WalMart commercial. Not quite sure how I feel about that yet, but it did make for a nice afternoon. Southfork really should think about doing this more often.
Addendum: After they told us what was up, I signed a two-page release to get the gift card. I read it over pretty good and it was limited enough. I didn’t say anything that undermines my core beliefs and there were provisions on the amount of editing they were allowed to do.
Ed. Note: I couldn’t reach Tre Wilcox for comment, but Eater’s Merritt Martin added this to her post on Thursday, before the Saturday event:
UPDATE: Tre Wilcox is no longer involved with this event. The steak dinner will go on as described in the original post below, but with 2011 World Championship Steak Cook-off winner Brett Gallaway (pictured) manning the grill.