Connie’s Organic Tomato Chips are seasoned with lemon and pepper or basil and oregano. Each 2-ounce bag costs $7.99. This year, Connie Poten, who co-owns the Rattlesnake Creek Vineyards, had extra bags of unsold tomato chips, and she was ready to be rid of them, hoping to be able to concentrate on her main business of viticulture. We certainly can’t blame her. Offered a bag of tomato chips, no matter how organically and sustainably grown, or a glass of wine—even, say, with a faint resemblance to vinegar—and the choice, especially close to 5 p.m., is not tomatoes.
Poten decided a little interest from a food editor in New York might help the surplus supply of tomatoes disappear. So with help from a friend in New York, Poten tracked down the name of the food editor at The New York Times. About one month ago, she sent a letter. Then, Poten says, “I completely forgot about it.”
The Times, read by millions of people around the world, did not forget. On April 7, the paper ran a food brief about the savory treat. Since then, the folks at the vineyard have been inundated with about 400 inquiries. They’ve sent tomato chips to Mongolia, Israel and France, to The Pierre Hotel in New York and to 1 Booger Hollow, Ala. They really wanted to phase out of tomatoes, says Poten, because tomatoes are labor intensive and only earn about $3,000 “in a big year.” Now that they’ve found the folks who are crazy about tomatoes, the latest from co-owner Andy Sponseller is that they’re putting in another crop of tomatoes and riding the tomato wave for all it’s worth. As for the wine, bets are on that Sponseller and Poten will celebrate their decision over a glass of Red Gate Rosé, which doesn’t taste like vinegar at all.
Big Brother will soon be watching even closer at Wal-Mart. The nation’s largest retailer recently announced that it is implementing a technology to take us one rather large step in that direction. Yep, shoplifting is going to be a heck of a lot more difficult once the mega-chain introduces radio frequency identification, or RFID, chips to their sales items. RFID is an inventory-tracking device which can match radio wave frequencies with an emitting source—think of it as a radio-charged bar code on your trusty Wal-Mart dinette set. In other words, even if you, oh criminal-minded reader, make it out of Wal-Mart with that stolen dinette set, Wal-Mart can still track you down outside of the store. The chips are being manufactured by Philips Semiconductors, whose CEO Scott McGregor recently told Business Week that the technology could theoretically be used to store all of an individual’s personal information, thereby rendering everything from credit cards to wallets obsolete (after all, why would you need paper money when your chip can just deduct your Wal-Mart expenditures directly from your bank account at the check-out line?).
McGregor also suggested that the chips could conveniently store medical information for faster processing in hospitals. That may be all well and good, but some of us may not want our medical information stored in the same database as our buying habits, though you can see how the possibilities might be alluring to the insurance industry. (Does your premium go up, for instance, if you buy too many lard-filled Oreo cookies in a year?) It seems once again that truth is stranger than science fiction. And scarier, too.