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Stuff Oklahomans Like: Sonic Ice

7:00 AM EST on November 4, 2009

Sonic

(edit.  For the second time this week we are ripping off a popular concept from another website.  We acknowledge that.  Enjoy.)

Oklahoma is mainly known for petroleum, but the biggest cash cow in this state is frozen water.  The technical term for it is "nugget ice," but it can also be called "cubelets" or, according to one website, "rabbit turd ice."  Around here, it has only one name:  Sonic Ice.

This comes about because Sonic, "America's Drive In" which is based in this state, has become synonymous with producing little tiny pieces of ice that somehow take longer to melt and water down your overpriced soft drink.  While this style of frozen water can be acquired in any location that has shelled out for the fancy ice maker, it makes no difference whether the drink was purchased at a Sonic, a gas station, or in your company break room.  It is Sonic Ice.

Unlike Xerox, Coke, and Kleenex who have bristled at their brand names becoming the generic term for photocopy, cola, and facial tissue respectively, the Sonic Drive-Ins have benefitted tremendously by having their trademark associated with a product that is apparently as addictive as crack cocaine.

One probably thinks that it is impossible to become addicted to a specific variety of ice.  If that is the case, you obviously are not an Oklahoman.  Here, people take breaks at work, stop watching the game at home to get in the car, and sometimes even wake up in the middle of the night to get their ice fix.

My parents are a perfect example.  They have always had an unhealthy obsession with crunching their ice, but when Sonic built a restaurant walking distance from their house, their addiction shifted to ludicrous speed.  I came back from college one summer to find the pantry full of leftover Route 44 sized Styrofoam cups that had once housed Diet Cokes with extra ice.  The freezer was loaded with bags of nugget ice, and despite the fact that there was so much in there that no room could be made for a carton of Braum's ice cream, my Dad was asking me multiple times a day if I wanted to run over to Sonic with him for a Coke"”that he would order "easy on the soda." 

Even though he had the ice, and the Styrofoam cups (which he put through the dishwasher like it were a real dish) the feel was not authentic enough unless it was brought out to his car by a high school kid in a funny red visor. To this day, my parents cannot come visit their grandson without first stopping by the nearest Sonic.

It is madness.  A madness that the corporate office in downtown OKC has to be loving.  While most places make a good profit margin on their soft drink sales, they lose some of that profitability because they offer "free refills."  Sonic, who do not give refills at all, charges more than the average fast food place and improve the margin even more when people, like my parents, demand that the kid at the fountain maximize the amount of ice (which is practically free to the chain) in their soft drink.

So, do not be surprised some day when Sonic becomes the new Starbucks with people paying exorbitant prices for very little product.  It has already begun here.

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