Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Woohoo -- Oh No!!



So, Monday morning, after dropping my daughter off at the transit center, I stopped in to Fred Meyer to pick up an essential. I always make the rounds of the markdown spots (but you knew that already). In the produce department, I found some more boxes of leafy greens. Perfect! I'll buy 2 boxes. We'll have salads again for a couple of days. The sell-by date was still a a day away, so the greens should be decent quality still. Or so I thought.

Imagine my disappointment when I opened the first box to find the lettuce laced with slimy brown leaves. No, I don't mean one or two bad leaves. I mean loads of bad leaves. I washed and sorted both boxes of leaves, picking out all of the decomposing ones, then repacked the boxes, lining with a tea towel to absorb any excess moisture. I composted 3 heaping cups of bad leaves.

I was thinking I should take these back. But it would have cost me more in gas to make that return than I would receive in a refund.

So, what's a consumer to do when they buy a product and discover it falls way below their standards? (And you know that I can be rather unfussy about some purchases, right?)

I went online and filled out a customer comment form. I made the comment as informative as possible, giving product codes, dates of purchase, sell-by dates, the amount of wasted, edible product, and I emphasized that this product should have never been made available to the consumer, and I'm informing them so that they can continue to work towards their goal of providing excellent groceries at a decent price.

I was nice, but to the point. I gave as many details as I could about the product, so that they could follow up on this item. And of course, I gave them 3 ways to contact me, a phone number, a street address, and an email address. So now, I await a response from them and will give you the info on how they handle my comment.


And just why am I telling you all of this? Because I want you to feel empowered to contact product manufacturers when you find something to be inferior to your expectations. There was a part of me that wanted to say, "oh well, live and learn" and just not do anything about it. After all, it was only $1.98 that I spent.

But I remembered another blogger's tale of contacting a manufacturer about a frozen turkey purchased a couple of years ago. Her turkey came missing a wing. This isn't something that you can see through the opaque wrapping. She felt it her duty and right to bring this to the attention of the company.

That incident stuck with me, and gave me the push that I needed to do something about this past-its-prime lettuce that I purchased. I hope to do the same for you. Give you that little nudge to make your concerns known.

And now here it is, about day after emailing my comment, and I have indeed heard from the customer service department. They thanked me for informing them of the problem and have snail-mailed me a coupon for use in the store. I have no idea what the value of that coupon is, but that wasn't my point.

When I have to make a complaint about a product or service, I don't really count on "getting" anything in return. The thing that I look for in a manufacturer or retail establishment is courtesy and promptness in addressing my concerns. I want to feel like my concerns matter to them.

I'll continue shopping at Fred Meyer, and enjoying good deals. But I will look more closely at all marked down items that I buy in the future.


Have you ever had to make a customer complaint? How did you handle it? Did you feel you were taken seriously?

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14 comments:

  1. YES! I have made a complaint before and I don't think it did any good. There is a yogurt out there and I can't think of the name. It has a divided compartment with sugared almonds and vanilla yogurt and you bend the almonds part into the yogurt (I think the name has an umlaut over a letter). Same brand has yogurt and fruit on top and that is the one that I discovered had some FISH product in there for gelling/thickening. Nowhere on the container does it say it has FISH product and my husband is allergic to fish products. He goes into anaphylactic within minutes. I told them a note on the label would be good and they didn't seem to care. If my husband had eaten one he probably would have died. They sent me coupons for more of their yogurt. I didn't use them since we do not have fish products in our home and thinking about fish in my yogurt makes me gag.

    Alice

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    1. Hi Alice,
      Wow! I am so sorry you had this encounter!

      I agree with Jayne, below, this is a safety thing with the fish product! I would be upset that it wasn't on the label in any way, but more incensed at how they handled your complaint. That was simply thoughtless on their part. Really, if you can't consume the product why on earth would they think sending you coupons for more product would be helpful. I'm angry on your behalf!

      Jayne is right about contacting a gov't agency (FDA?). Your husband is not the only person who could have this problem, and labeling laws are in place to inform the consumer of possible allergens.

      Thanks for sharing your experience.

      Delete
  2. My economics teacher in high school told us that anytime you find a flaw (in any purchased item) you owe it to yourself, the company and other consumers to make a complaint. And make it a polite complaint, much like you did. Since that class so many years ago, I most often do contact the company to inform them about the problem. The majority of the time, I got a positive response and some sort of perk (such as the coupon you will be getting. I think the approach one takes is the key. As for Anonymous's comment, that is really scary that the fish product wasn't indicated. I would encourage her to take her complaint to a higher level, starting with the president of the company and also informing the government agency responsible for food products.
    Jayne

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    1. Hi Jayne,
      Your econ teacher was right. Consumers have a right and responsibility to speak up about products and services. I have to remind myself of that, as I think I was raised to "not make a fuss". But I am helping a future consumer of the same product, if I express my concerns with the company in question. And in the end, I'm helping the company improve their product or service.

      Delete
  3. I have made 2 complaints in the recent past. One was to Aldi--their milk was spoiling before the posted date--and I got a gift certificate to their store (but I avoid buying their milk--too much hassle if it goes bad--I've had problems on more than one occasion).

    The other was to our local movie theater. I took my daughter to see the Muppet movie last fall--I did my homework and checked out the reviews first. That movie was appropriate, but the "short" before the main movie was a Monsters University brief show that featured a frat party with monsters bringing "beverages", complaining about the lack of girls at the party ... I felt it was highly inappropriate, so I emailed the management. I got an apology and a gift box with a $10 gift card, a stuffed animal, kid stickers, and dental floss. No kidding, floss. At least I was acknowledged ...

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    1. Hi Kris,
      Yeah, I'd do the same about the milk. Something in their system isn't working properly, and until they "fix" that, you're just going to continue having the same problems.

      Okay, so good of the movie theater to try to appease you, but weird assortment in the gift box. I think it went something like this -- "Herb, I need to send a lady some stuff to get her off our backs, what have you got in your desk, there?" " Hmm, Fred, hey I've got this stuffed animal and some stickers. What"ve you got?" "Not much, Herb. Just a package of dental floss from the last time I visited the dentist." " Oh throw that in there, too. Mom's like that kind of stuff." LOL!

      As you said, you were acknowledged, and that counts for something.

      Delete
    2. Well ... I'm assuming part of their thinking was that I had taken my daughter to a kid's movie, so they wanted some "perks" in there for her. As for the floss, the theater sells it (probably for young people who go on dates who want to make sure they have kernel-less smiles when they try to impress their date) and it has their theater logo on it, but it was definitely weird!

      I think the concern I have with both encounters is that I feel more like I was being appeased, and what I would rather have happen would be to have the problem fixed. I've been back and forth with Aldi on their problem with their milk (I've always gotten my money back) and I felt like I needed to let someone higher up the corporate ladder know my concerns. While the gift card was a nice gesture, really what I would like would be to be able to consistently purchase milk that doesn't go bad ... same thing with the movie theater--nice gesture, but I don't want to have to worry about taking my kids to the movies and viewing something that is age-inappropriate, especially when I've taken the time to research the main feature. I've always been polite about my concerns, and it frustrates me when I feel like I will only get action on something if I take a more aggressive stance. That being said ... a company can't fix a problem if they don't know it exists, so I do feel that the appropriate first step is to politely inform them of a problem. Sometimes I wonder if the reason why we have so much government "interference" in our lives is because everyday people don't act responsibly and so the government has to become the "parent".

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    3. Okay, so the floss makes slightly more sense, now.

      I totally agree with you, and theaters really need to select their previews of coming attractions more carefully. I've taken older kids to a movie, that I've also been careful in recommending for us, only to have a trailer for a much more mature film played beforehand.

      It was good that you brought this issue to the theater's attention.

      Delete
  4. I remember when my sister was nine she found a mistake in a book that was inconsequential, but still wrong. So,she wrote them a letter. They thanked her and corrected the next printing of the book. I only wish some of the news reporting of today would do the same thing. (Can you tell what's a pet peeve of mine?)

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    1. Hi live and learn,
      oh good for your sister! I know what you mean about news reporting. The "news" often feels more like a business than a service, nowadays.

      Delete
  5. Lili
    If a company is not made aware of an issue, how can it be corrected? They need to research their company and figure out how the issue came about, and make corrective measures. If no one complains, naturally, they assume that all is well. In one of my college business classes, I remember a CEO telling us that they take letters/communication very seriously from consumers. Fast forward to current day and instant social media-you can understand the concern over negative press. It is an opportunity to also get some positive reviews: customer complained, here's what they did about it. Back to the CEO-they assume that if they get one letter, it represents 100 customers (or at least it did back in the '80's). So yes, if I feel that I have been wronged as a consumer, I speak up, state facts, being polite, make a request when appropriate as to how to make it right by me.

    And yes, I complained about a wingless Thanksgiving turkey! If the label was marked B grade, may have seom defects that do not inhibit consumption just astetics, for any other occassion save a holiday where the turkey is literally center stage on the dining table, I would have willingly bought the wingless turkey, assuming that the price reflected this defect. The company had their turkey processor contact me by phone, and they ended up sending me a full refund for the cost of the turkey I bought. $5 would have been fine, I was more than pleased with the outcome. Yes, I continue to shop that store.

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    1. Hi Carol,
      The information you received from your business professor echoes the information that Jayne, in the comments above, received in an econ class. A successful company recognizes that the consumer can be an important voice in quality control for their product or service.

      Bringing matters to their attention helps both sides The consumer gets a better product and the company gets a chance to "make right" on a service or product that failed expectations.

      And thank you, for your original post on that turkey purchase. It really did spur me on to bring my lettuce issue up with the company who sold it.

      Delete
  6. Yes, I have made a complaint about an inferior product before, in fact, several times. One time I bought some Brach's candy off the shelf and I could tell when I took the first bite, that is was very old. I contacted Brach and they sent me a coupon to replace what I had lost. Just recently I purchased some pumpkin seeds that were old and I complained to the company and they sent me two $1 off coupons. It always pays to let them know when something is off. Only one time have I ever had a company just ignore me and that is the Sunshine company that makes Cheez-Its. More than once I've had a burned cracker or two, and I have said something to them twice, but they never do anything about it, unfortunately.

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    1. Hi Belinda,
      Good for you, for addressing these concerns with companies!

      I am surprised that you wouldn't even get an acknowledgement from Sunshine. It wouldn't take them much effort to reply that they'll be working on quality control in the future. But still good that you brought this up with them twice. Possibly, if they receive enough complaints on this issue, they will eventually do something about it.

      Sadly, some businesses get so "big" that it seems to the consumer, that the company feels like they'll make profits whether their product is excellent or just good, so they choose the easiest path.

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