By Justin Rybinski
For those of you who aren't lucky enough to have one in your area, Big Lots is a closeout store, which puts it one step in quality below wholesale club stores like BJ's and Sam's Club, but a step above dollar stores. In other words, it walks a fine line between offering excellent bargains and featuring products that are brain-explodingly bad.
I haven't shopped at a Big Lots in quite some time, mostly because management actually had the audacity to clean the stores up from when I was a kid. I remember 10 years ago, Big Lots was a cesspool. They sold discount bargain shithole cassettes such as Def Skynard, The Royal Canadian Brass Symphony Orchestra, and Lenny "Country Papa" Hicks' Greatest Hits. They sold only the finest (cheapest) trading cards. T-shirts? You better believe it! Once they were selling a full rack of shirts that featured a Jamaican stick figure with a gigantic yield sign behind him with the words "Don't Fake The Funk" written all over the design in huge, neon letters. Hell, I could write an article just on that shirt alone. Now, Big Lots is clean, with bright lights, wide aisles and merchandise that is actually somewhat mainstream. They sell Harry Potter toys, for Christ's sake!
But, I digress. On this luck-filled day, I stopped into Big Lots while I was waiting for Chris (yes, Denny's mess Chris) to get out of work at the gas station in the same plaza. I walked around, begging for a rack of lame tapes or expired Mexican candy from 1998. What I actually found was much worse, and much more life-threatening---fish-themed cereal. Fish-themed cereal called "Keepers!"
Oddly enough, this was a Kellogg's brand of cereal. I consider myself to be quite the cereal aficionado, and I had NEVER seen Keepers! on ANY store shelf, ANYWHERE. My gut reaction was that the cereal was some sort of parody, like those shirts you see at Spencer's where they take a corporate logo like "Burger King" and change it into something exceedingly hilarious, like "Boner King." Upon closer inspection, it was real. As real as fish cereal could ever be.
Of course I bought it. Purchasing my own box of Keepers! was such a certainty, it didn't even register as a "decision" I had to make.
Let's take a look at the box itself. Seriously, I'm looking at the box right now, and it doesn't look real at all. It looks like something a Photoshop 101 student threw together right before class. The happenings on the box are truly fright-inducing. A cheeky, poorly drawn young lad, in full fishing gear of course, is feeding a yellow fish...to a green fish! And the green fish seems ecstatic about eating its own kind. Perhaps there is a large rivalry between the different colored fish. I don't know. I don't fish. The closest I've been to fishing is playing "The Black Bass" on my NES for about five minutes. Horrible game.
Also on the covers of Keepers! is an ad for the Wal-Mart FLW Tour. What is the FLW Tour, you ask? It's a fishing tournament named after Forrest L. Wood (FLW), the "legendary founder of Ranger Boats." If you want more information on the FLW Tour, and I know you do, head on over to the official FLW Tour site.
The back of the box is somehow worse. It features stories about fishing, as written by eight year olds. For some reason, potentially "because it's cute," Kellogg's decided to keep in spelling and grammar errors written by the eight year olds. Here's an example: "I threw some cheese puffs in the water, it came closer. My papal threw his line out and hooked the alligater. Mom ran! It went into the death roll as soon as he tried to pull it in." Death roll? Papal? Alligater? Also, of the five stories on the back of the box, two of them come from the Brumfield family of McComb, Mississippi. I guess kids were too busy fishing and eating Keepers! cereal to mail in their stories.
The first thing I did when I got home from Big Lots was pour a good, refreshing bowl of Keepers! cereal. I figured any cereal with an exclamation point in its title has to be good. To be honest, it doesn't look that bad in the bowl with no milk added yet. It appears to be a Lucky Charms rip-off, with boring, Cheerio-like, oat pieces surrounded by colored, fish-shaped marshmallows. Okay, maybe Keepers! isn't like Lucky Charms at all.
Unfortunately, when I added the milk, it didn't look like as amazing as it did on the box, when instead of milk, they were clearly pouring glue on their cereal.
Glue may have helped the overall taste of this crime against breakfast foods, as clearly, I was eating some sort of poison. The oats were stale and the marshmallows had an odd consistency to them. The marshmallows were excessively soggy, even though I had just added the milk 15 seconds prior to tasting one. Maybe I actually was eating fish. Who knows? The rank taste isn't all, however. Towards the end of this nightmarish bowl, I bit into something incredibly crunchy that almost chipped my tooth. To this day, I know not of what I bit into, but NASA's best guess is that it was a clumping of solid sugar that somehow found its way into my box of Keepers! After several minutes of chewing and choking, I spit it out, photographed it and tossed it where it, and the rest of this cereal belongs-the trash.
All was not lost, however, as Keepers! does pass one important cereal test: the milk-coloring test. Yes, Keepers! turns your milk green! Not bright green, like the color of grass, but green enough to drink. For this reason alone I will eat more bowls of it.
In the long run, however, it's just not worth it to buy this cereal, for any reason. Keepers! offers little and provides nothing, especially if you fish about as often as you watch the Lifetime network.
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