One Family’s Obsessive Hunt for Lay’s Limited-Edition, Special Flavor Potato Chips

Area mother can't rest till she scores a bag of Sriracha Hot Sauce or Chicken & Waffles.

I don’t know how the idea started, really. I mean, we’re not even potato chip people. But once I had the thought to buy Lay’s new “limited-edition flavors” potato chips for my daughter’s 22nd birthday, I became obsessed. As I said, we’re not potato chip people, but classic potato chips and French onion dip has always been my daughter’s favorite treat; she indulges maybe four times a year.

On the hunt for Lay’s limited-edition flavors of Sriracha Hot Sauce, Chicken & Waffles, and Cheesy Garlic Bread, I stopped at my local Acme on the way home from the gym on Monday. (The irony of that is not lost on me.) The only Lay’s special flavors they had was Classic BLT. Tempting, yes, but since the mission was the limited-edition flavors, and we don’t really eat potato chips, I passed.

I told my 14-year-old son my plan. When pressed into service, he’s not usually that helpful, but he immediately went online and discovered that the chips could often be found at Walgreens and Walmart. I live in South Jersey, so one of each of these is always within shouting distance.

I avoid Walmart, I do, but since I also needed garbage bags, V8 juice, paper towels and, now, migrane relief pills, we headed there and walked straight to the chip aisle only to be met with disappointment. No special flavors: wavy, BBQ, sour cream and onion, and classic. I began to understand Lay’s ploy.

This limited release thing also had a scarcity component. This was a familiar concept for my son, who grew up with Disney opening and slamming shut their damn vault, and feeling pressure to pre-order video games for midnight releases. But chips? Potato chips? Maybe it’s because we’re not chip people, but we just didn’t get this one.

We got out to the parking lot, and my son got on my smartphone. He called every Wawa and grocery store we could easily drive to (and since we live in South Jersey, that’s a lot). Funny thing was, we both felt like we were making prank calls, and had to repress our titters as he said, “Hello. I’m calling to see if you carry Lay’s special flavors?” We couldn’t bear to call them by their true name, the “Do Us a Flavor” flavors. We would have been hysterical. Call after call was met with the same responses: “We had them but they were gone in a day.” “We can’t keep them on the shelves.” “We hope to get more, but no one knows.” The manager at our local Wawa asked that we call him back and tell him where we found them, if we “luck out.”

We were so frustrated and exhausted that we had to pull over at a local newsstand and buy a 25-cent bag of Wise garlic-and-onion chips, even though we’re not chip people. We finished them in the car.

It was time to enlist the help of more people. My boyfriend works in Philadelphia, and his mother lives in Collings Lakes. He drives all over all the time and needs Wawa coffee to fuel these journeys, so he began looking, but Philadelphia and Atlantic Counties were as barren of Lay’s special flavors as Camden County.

I headed to Drexel for work and couldn’t help but search the CVS on 34th and Walnut, and the campus bookstore. The obsession was growing worse and just thinking about chips made me crave salt and crunch. I bought a double-portion bag of Glenny’s BBQ Soy Crisps, which I like to call “the chip of virtue” and polished off the whole thing at my desk.

A friend visiting from Toykyo came over that night and asked if he could pick something up on his way from his mother’s home in Somerdale, New Jersey. The grocery he stopped at also didn’t have the flavors we were hunting for, but he picked up Tomato Basil and the Classic BLT, even though we’re not potato chip people.

I hoped to sail into Cherry Hill Shop Rite and get the damn special flavors. The longest, widest snack aisle of all South Jersey snack aisles, and all they had to offer was “beer-battered onion ring” and 40 percent less fat tomato parmesan. Pissed off now, I bought both of those, wavy with ridges, a big tub of French onion dip, and a 12-pack of Coke Zero, which somehow seemed like the right thing to do.

I have until May 4th to find the “Do Us a Flavor” flavors.

And we’re not even potato chip people.