Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"One's life must seem extremely flat with nothing whatever to grumble at!" ~W.S. Gilbert

I'm not one of those serial complaint makers to manufacturers or retailers - but more power to 'em - I'd join them more often if I could be bothered. How frustrating it is though, when after getting up steam enough to write a detailed complaint to a manufacturer about one of their products, all you get, at best, is a standard format reply with no evidence that they've read what you've written - even if they refund the purchase price.

Back in December we bought a couple of cartons of Dole soup - a new kind not seen before. We thought they'd be handy to have in the cupboard in case of power outages during the winter - it'd be something easily heated on our little camping stove.

"NEW!" the cartons exclaimed - "Dole Garden Soup, all natural. No GMO. No MSG, preservative free, no cholesterol, low in calories and fat". What more could one want?

We chose the Carrot and Ginger flavour and the Tomato and Basil. A few weeks later we decided to try the Tomato and Basil on a lunchtime of a particularly frigid day; if the soup was good we'd buy more for emergencies.

Yikes! The soup was downright nasty! "Something's wrong with this!" we both said, and poured both servings away after first tastes. I detected a taste, and smell similar to chlorine. Husband thought the nasty taste to be more like cardboard (never having eaten cardboard myself I couldn't comment on that!) We decided this carton might have been stored in the supermarket or warehouse too close to a heater, or maybe frozen and wrongly defrosted - or something. Probably a one-off slip-up. A few days later we decided to try the Carrot and Ginger, just to check. The nasty taste and smell were there, exactly the same as before.

Because the soups were not cheap and tasted so wrong I decided it might be a good service to warn Dole about, at least, the consignment from which ours had come. I filled in their online complaint form, with all the detail required: consignment number, other numbers, expiry date from the carton, address of supermarket where purchased, dates, etc. and wrote a note in the available space telling exactly our findings, and explaining that I no longer had one of the cartons so detail given was from the Carrot and Ginger carton only.

A letter arrived this week from Dole - not bad for a complaint response, a cheque for $7 enclosed. Cheque is nice -letter less so. They hadn't paid any attention whatsoever to what I'd said about the strange taste and smell common to both flavours - simply went on about how they beta test flavours and were sorry we didn't like the Carrot and Ginger, so enclosed a recipe leaflet for using carrots!

Ah well...Dole did respond in timely fashion, and did refund, which is more than can be said for my other complaint (two in such quick succession - maybe I'm becoming a serial complainer!) This one happened a couple or three months ago, when my foot problem first began. After buying three compression bandages from an outlet online, to supplement the 20-year old supply I had (from my previous problem back in the UK), I found the new product, now manufactured by a different company (Mölnlycke - previous company was Convatec) to be vastly inferior. The bandages are probably made in China now, though I've found no label to that effect. The bandage didn't seem to me to have the same firm compression value, and it slipped around on my leg, soon became uncomfortable - just quite different - not good at all, yet being sold under the same patented name. The new company must have purchased the patent from the original company in intervening years.

I received no reply at all from the seller website, even though I'd sent a detailed, typed, snail-mail letter and suggested that, at the very least, they might pass my letter on to the manufacturer. What did I receive in return - from anyone? Niente, nada, zilch, or as we'd say in Yorkshire now't! I carried on using 20-year old bandages.


Sonny G said...

as I visit various sites and blogs I find this story often, I'm sorry to say:-( product price 3 to 30 times higher than what was normal just a few years ago-- product quality way less, customer service- just plain crappy..
Add to that how employees are used, abused and subtly threatened if their speed does'nt maintain a near breakneck level..
I feel bad when I have to complain as I know full well the person on the receiving end of my rath is the one being paid the least, working the most hours, forced to follow company policy to the letter , which has everything to do with the profit level and as little as possible to help the customers.
Its just a sad situation for all involved except the corp. owners and major stock holders who live a very lavish lifestyle at everyone else's expense.
lets dont even talk about the sweat shops and their working/ living conditions.
We all want it as fast and as cheap as possible and the price is paid by untold thousands who live in the misery that causes.
oh yea, Happy Wednesday to Ya'll:-)

Twilight said...

Sonny ~ Very little, if anything we buy now is of equal or better quality than, say, 10 - 15 years ago. As you say it's due, mostly to the greed of corporations and companies and shareholders, making more and more profits on the backs of exploited workers.

"Cheap" is a requirement for some people, due to their own poor income/wages, but there's little that actually IS cheap now. (gas at present, maybe - the one thing that ought to be more expensive!)

If more of us don't complain though, they'll carry on doing what they're doing.

I've seen articles which advise finding out the names and addresses of CEOs or Area Managers, etc and addressing one's complaint to them rather than to the customer service dept. - which is often anything but. It's not easy to find those names and addresses though - a deliberate ploy, I'm sure.

mike said...

Twilight, you said, "'s due, mostly to the greed of corporations and companies and shareholders...". Most shareholders are those with retirement investment funds in their 401K or IRAs. I've mentioned prior about a friend of mine that was grumbling about some corporations only to find that he was invested in those same businesses via his 401K. He loved his 401K, because he was seeing it grow profusely. Can't have it both ways.

I made a product complaint several months ago by emailing the company a concise, polite note. I heard nothing for many days, so I went to a website that was used by that company for customer feedback and made my complaint there. Well, I IMMEDIATELY (within an hour!) received a response from the company's assistant to the CEO and then the CEO stating their "sincere apology" for my distress. All was cleared-up in hours. Social media and feedback sites ARE powerful resolution tools, assuming the company cares in the first place.

Many online companies have a "review this product" section under the product description. I do examine the review comments and if there are too many negatives, I don't purchase. I'm often surprised at the number of negative reviews, but I appreciate that the company continues to sell that product, though with a buyer-beware review section...LOL.

I had a top-of-the-line pedestal sink installed a few years ago. It quickly developed cracks in the sink, which then darkened due to mold growth. The manufacturer (name starts with the letter K) took no responsibility and blamed it on the plumber tightening the drain portion too tightly. The cracks were not in proximity to the drain. I visited internet complaint sites regarding this company...their products had been made in the USA for years, but are now made in China. Many, many complaints about this company's products. The company removed this particular sink from their product list a year later. Many companies are riding on their perceived quality from years ago, but are now producing shabby merchandise. I paid double the typical price for this sink believing I would have a durable, quality sink...WRONG!

I'm typically more disappointed in various major corporations that provide telecommunications, banking, utilities, etc. I hope that Elizabeth Warren continues her assault on these disgraceful outfits.

mike (again) said...

Twilight, my comment posted, but when I refreshed my screen, it disappeared. I guess my comment is in your in-box, as you said yesterday. The only change to commenting that I've noticed is that now when I put a mark in the "I'm not a robot", I receive a check-mark rather than a captcha image to type.

mike (again) said...

My 10:02 comment has appeared. Weird! The NSA filter must be malfunctioning.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Your 10.02 comment landed in the spam file this time - now retrieved. Comments seem to be suffering from random hiccups! I get e-mail notifications of yours but not of Sonny's; one of yours disappeared altogether the other day, not even in spam, only in my e-mail notifications. :-/

Re shareholders - you'll have to excuse me on this because I'm still a foreigner in many respects - don't know nuffin' about 401Ks and suchlike. When I think of shareholders I think of them in the British sense - usually well-heeled professionals with lots of spare money to play with to bolster their already considerable wealth, and a few gamblers who play the markets, small-time as a hobby.

I'm glad to know that you've had some decent results from complaints.

I always read reviews where they're available, but lately I've become suspicious that some are "planted", both the good ones and the bad ones - bad ones by competitors.

A couple of other experiences spring to mind on declining quality - #1.Sperry shoes - I've mentioned this before. First pair I bought soon after arriving in the US were wonderful - I've bought several pairs since and year by year the quality has deteriorated - the leather isn't supple as it once was, sizes are all over the place, and the shoes are now made in China.

#2 Waterproof Elastoplast/Band Aid.
They used to actually be waterproof - but those I recently bought to shield a healing wound on my foot while stepping into the tub allow water straight through, even using two, one on top of t'other.

OK - that's my complaining done !

LB said...

Sorry, Twilight. Doesn't sound like they much cared.:(

I used to LOVE Lands End. Until I became more aware and discovered my favorite t-shirts were made in a country where sweatshop abuses have been documented and (presumably) are still a problem.

When I sent them an email telling them I'd no longer be purchasing from them and *why*, to their credit, they sent me back a very polite email, definitely composed by a human concerned about losing a customer.

Your story about the soup reminded me how our local food co-op recently stopped carrying a particular brand of organic, PBA-free canned goods because the company's insurance plan doesn't cover (chemical) forms of birth control for female employees.

Yet this same food co-op continues to sell chocolate produced by companies who source cocoa from West Africa, where without 3rd party certification, child slavery and human trafficking remain huge problems.

Consumer boycotts -for whatever reason- can be very effective. The question is, how does one issue gain favor with consumer groups while others don't or remain largely underreported on?

"Nothing changes if nothing changes." Don't know who said it, but it's the truth.:)


mike~ I wholeheartedly agree about how individual consumers and investors (those of us with retirement vehicles) play a major role in shaping corporate decisions. If we wanted to, we could divest. I did, as much as possible.

I also understand some consumers have limited choices when it comes to access and affordability. Plus, trying to be an ethical consumer can be very time-consuming and confusing.

For instance, I spent hours yesterday searching for a retail business in our area that carries organic cotton socks and underwear (items I don't want to buy 'used') where employees enjoy descent working conditions and are paid a 'fair' living wage.

Most of the time, I try to avoid Amazon whenever possible. And until recently, I'd gotten much better at avoiding the mall. This year, I gave in a few times, though my conscience bothers me.

So now I'm back to searching.

LB said...

Twilight ~ About the 'natural' label . . . you probably already know this, but in case not, natural, GMO-free doesn't necessarily mean organic.

With a big company like Dole, if a product isn't labeled as being certified organic, it probably isn't organic, though being (relatively) GMO-free is something.:)

LB said...

Oops! In my first comment, I meant to type BPA-free cans, not PBA.

Twilight said...

LB ~ No they (the medical supplies company) didn't care - I'd expected better of people dealing in what are supposed to be products to assist healing. Anyway - it's water under the bridge now.

It's becoming more of a retail jungle out there, even more so online, by the day.

I used to like Lands End too - even back in the UK - and Eddie Bauer, but both (or rather their products) have changed a lot quality wise, with prices higher for less, and less stylish too. The horrendous sweat shops aren't producing cheaper clothing for ordinary people, they are just filling the coffers of the companies involved - making the exploitation even worse!

Re re "Natural" on cans, cartons, labels - yes - we've come to ignore it as pretty well meaningless in that context. In the Dole carton soup's case, whatever was causing the nasty taste was definitely not natural. :-)

mike (again) said...

"Retrograde Beliefs"

Twilight said...

mike ~ Oh my - don't they think they know everything! I'm not a big fan of what we read about Merc Retro a few times every year, but I'm a fan of Mercury. Dang people with too much Saturn smothering their intuition!

More Americans believe in astrology, or “sort of” believe in astrology, than believe that climate change is influenced by the burning of fossil fuels.

Ahem - some of us can walk and chew gum at the same time madam!

Jefferson's Guardian said...

Personally, I believe that formally complaining to anyone who isn't the owner of a company (true owner) -- or at a level such as CEO, president, or some similarly designated position of true authority -- is a waste of time.

The people in "customer service" more likely than not don't have any recourse other than to issue an apology and/or redeem the value of the product. In reality, anything beyond that, they don't really care. The people fielding the complaints have no real stake in the matter, and as previously mentioned by others, are overworked and underpaid. In addition, they hear and read complaints by the hundreds each day, by a society that's becoming more cynical, more narcissistic, and feeling more self-entitled by the year.

I don't complain anymore. It's not worth my time or frustration. I just blacklist the company and stop buying from them.

Twilight said...

Jefferson's Guardian ~ Nowadays I suppose you're exactly right, JG. :-(
It was not always this way though.
I'm living a little bit in the past expecting things to remain the same.

It's just another area where "we the people" have become unheard, irrelevant.

I blacklist companies too, where it's practical to do it, if there's a more acceptable alternative - those are becoming few and far between though!

mike (again) said...

Shoddy and fraudulent merchandise has been around since the beginning of humans trading with one another. I recall reading a history book and a section dealt with ground rock as an adulterant in ground grains for flour, which has been an historical problem since antiquity. The ground rock was "dirt" cheap and added weight, and sometimes contained heavy metals (arsenic, lead, mercury) and caused mysterious deaths.

Here's an excerpt about the olive oil market of times past and applicable to the present:
"Olive-oil fraud has been around for millennia. The earliest written mention of olive oil, on cuneiform tablets at Ebla in the twenty-fourth century B.C., describes teams of inspectors who toured olive mills on behalf of the king, looking for fraudulent practices. The Romans established an international trade in olive oil, and certain emperors rose to power on olive-oil wealth—they were the ancient counterpart of today’s oil sheikhs. In their practical way, the Romans instituted elaborate mechanisms to prevent fraud. At Monte Testaccio, the Romans stored twenty-five million amphorae that held 1.75 billion liters of olive oil. Many amphora fragments bear tituli picti, stamped inscriptions or handwritten notes in black or red ink that record information such as the locality where the oil was produced, the name of the producer, the weight and quality of the oil when the amphora was sealed, and the name of the merchant who imported it, the name of the imperial functionary who confirmed this information when the amphora was reopened at its destination in Rome, and so on. These careful records were intended to prevent the siphoning off of oil en route, or the substitution of an inferior product."

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ And I bet complainants have been around for the same length of time too! In those early times complaints probably did about as much good as they do now - none.
But in the meantime, inbetween times, there was a period when customer complaint depts were set up and actually worked, most of the time. That period was short-lived.

Incredibly, when we have the technology to send messages in an instant, our messages of complaint mean nothing. It's as though our ability to make ourselves "felt" has declined at the same rate as communication technology has progressed.