White Castle sells candlesWhat do you get when you combine a good cause with an off-the-wall fast-food promotion? White Castle made me think about this one for a while.

I visited my local White Castle in Brooklyn, N.Y., Tuesday to buy the $10 White Castle onion-and-burger-scented candle to benefit Autism Speaks. I figured I'd be in for the major marketing treatment. Instead I got two counterpeople who had no idea what I was talking about and a manager who didn't know where the candles were.

There were no signs trumpeting the charity, no cute little counter announcements or table standups. If you're going to do off-the-wall, do it right. If the fast-food trade knows one thing, it's that we burger eaters want it simple, cheap and in plain sight. The manager fumbled around the back for a candle while the workers up front wondered why they hadn't heard of the candles. Finally, he found one.


I returned home to craft my olefactory overview of the Slyder-Scented Candle. I figured I'd write the lead of this item while the wick burned down to the smelly part. Ah, here it comes. Mmm. A little sweeter than real onions, a little like the smell of popcorn-flavored Jelly Bellys. I left the room and came back for an enhanced aromatherapy workout. Pretty faint, but as I got closer to the candle I got a stronger sense of onions and steamed meat.

Not bad at all if Harold and Kumar are your lunch guests. But even after reading the White Castle press release, I was still wondering what a candle in a ceramic White Castle burger sleeve has to do with autism.

I got my answer with a little Google research on Laura Slatkin, a giant in the home fragrance industry who designed the candle, the release added. White Castle might have helped its cause if it had bothered to mention that Slatkin has a son with severe autism and that she is a cofounder of the New York Center for Autism, as reported in a Huffington Post profile. Customers could make that very personal connection and perhaps be more inclined to give.

The candle is one of many promotions packing a 31-day celebration of White Castle's own creation, National Hamburger Month. The chain is also recruiting Capitol Hill politicians to work the grill and is mailing out "Sealed With A Crave" gift cases.

Noted, but on the philanthropic front, why couldn't White Castle just shout out for a good cause while continuing to do what it does best: make burgers for even less (69 cents) than a candy bar. Then it could just donate a percentage of its profit. I'm not sure a $10 candle is the right way to reach out to cash-strapped customers.

Then again, BURP. Oops. That was from the four burgers I actually ate, not the candle I smelled.


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