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Tony the Tiger seen in a different light

April 06, 2009

For a long time, I think we've all suspected a connection between the sex trade and breakfast cereals. Last week, an alert Hagerstonian discovered that the 800 customer service number on boxes of Peace cereal actually connected callers to a sex-chat line.

A spokeswoman for Peace cereal blamed a "proofreading error."

Dial the 800 number, which I did purely in the name of investigative journalism, and a breathy voice beckons the caller to "whip out your big credit card" to talk to nasty girls from around the world. Um-hm. That'll make your Captain crunch.

Personally, I'm kind of surprised anyone noticed the error. I thought the only person who called product information numbers was columnist Gene Weingarten.

I wonder how far you would have to get into the conversation before you noticed something was terribly wrong:

"I like it when it stays crunchy in milk."

"Any way you want it, sweetie."

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I remember thinking even when I was a kid that Snap, Crackle and Pop probably were borderline pervs. Pour the milk on a bowl of Rice Krispies and you can hear the cereal go "snap, crackle, pop, let's get it on."

(Those three were like the Keebler elves. They were harmless enough as long as they were kept under wraps in a hollow tree -- but let them loose in town and the vice squad would have its hands full for weeks.)

The Peace customer service number/sex line/proofreading error starts out with the woman -- who in real life is probably 300 pounds with a glass eyeball -- panting, "Do you like sex? Well, who doesn't?"

So is it really coincidence that the cereal's mission statement, as reported by Erin Julius in The Herald-Mail, is finding "a way to support a more loving planet?" I'm all for that, but easy there, put away the Mazola and the trapeze.

It's going to be hard to look at a box of Peace cereal in the same way ever again. You see Cinnamon Spice on the box and you don't know if it's a cereal flavor or the stage name for a stripper.

And I'm going to be suspicious of all breakfast foods. I'm going to have to get a box of Lucky Charms to see if stars, moons, hearts and clovers are the only tidbits they're packing. I swear I once saw a shape that looked suspiciously like a thong.

If this is all an honest mistake, you have to feel for the makers of Peace, which seems to be a community-oriented, environmentally friendly company. Its Web site says that its products do not use preservatives, artificial flavors or genetically modified organisms (I said organisms, you creep) although its "deliciously crunchy wheat-rice squares lightly coated with a classic organic Chai spice blend" is a little too Planet Patchouli for me.

But as a marketing tool this has been gold - how else could Peace have gotten so much attention? Sex sells ... cereal. Kellogg's might be the best to you each morning, but Peace can position itself to be the best to you each night.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant video under opinion@herald-mail.com, on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 evenings at 6:30. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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