I have been told, and I have read often, to not use brand names in your stories.
What about local names of places/businesses/restaurants etc?
I can understand brand names as they may date the book. (I mentioned this in a post before). Will iPods (or Apple) be around in 40 years? Does AOL even have the same punch as it did 15 years ago if you talk about it in a book? Should we say a character is going to "Google" something? I try to stay away from using brand names when I can, but sometimes I have to use it or the sentence may sound awkward and 'made up'.
As for local names...what are your feelings on using them?
"Jill had to run to the Publix to get milk so her Oreo cookies wouldn't be lonely."
"We all went to In-n-Out after the basketball game for burgers."
"Wegmans was the largest grocery store that Jane had ever been in and it took her hours to shop."
Do you think using these names will make the reader feel a little more removed from the storyline? Do you seclude someone in New York who is reading the book where "Publix" is mentioned since it's a southern grocery store? Is someone in Florida going to search for "Wegmans" to see what kind of store it is since they hadn't heard of it? People in CA will nod their head at the"In-n-Out" reference whereas people in Virginia may be thinking it's a strange name for a burger place.
Where do you draw the line on mentioning local places...if any lines need to be drawn? I personally don't mind reading funny names of bars or restaurants and would have no idea if it's a real place or not. I know about the three places I mentioned above and only one is in my geographical area (Wegmans). I am conflicted about this and will try to keep to the "vibe" of my story and if the word fits in, great. If not, then I'll use the generic "grocery store" or say "her favorite Italian restaurant" instead.