Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mole in front of a Mountain

Cadbury have now recently repackaged their family-sized blocks of chocolate by slipping them inside slimline cardboard boxes, presumably to add an extra air of sophistication (because Lindt and Nestle are doing it too) and perhaps to stop rows from snapping loose and trying to make a break for freedom in their foil packs. Truly front page news if ever there was, particularly if sticky leaks are involved.

The trouble is, it's too easy for loser low-lifes in the supermarket to prise open the back flap, eat a row or two, tuck the flap back in like a reusable envelope and put it back on the shelf still looking brand new, inviting and untampered-with. Then, an honest, upstanding citizen and trusting, unsuspecting shopper - such as my good self - innocently pushes her wonky trolley along with the back wheel that jams so firmly I have to lean in with all my might on the far left side like the insane captain standing alone on the foredeck in a life-threatening sea storm. Despite this physical challenge this steadfast shopper - ie me - still manages to notice the chocolates sitting there on special for the week.

Last night, Love Chunks and I were comfortably blobbed on the sofa settling in to watch 'Good News Week' and of course, that most satisfying primeval urge, the one that continues to consume us every single night, was stirring again. We looked at each other hungrily and I knew what was about to happen. His eyes were dilated in anticipation and I eagerly leapt up and left the room, leaning on the doorframe to whisper throatily, "I'll be r-i-g-h-t back darling, don't you go anywhere."

And I was back in a flash with the block of Cadbury in my hot, trembling hands.

Love Chunks paused. "Hey, did you crack into this beforehand?"
I affected my most haughty and indignant tone. "Chocolate may be my lifeblood and the reason for getting up in the mornings, but I do not tell lies and I'm not desperate enough to sneak it."

Love Chunks scoffed. "Of course not - not with the way you shop each week."

OK, that was a fair point. Especially with the lot I’d brought home that day:

My Note To Self remains the same every single time: Don't Shop When You Are Hungry.
Still, despite having a truckload of other brands and flavours available we still eyed this particular block critically. "Maybe we could just snap off the first row and have a go at the rest underneath," I suggested.
"Maybe.... but what if it was done by an insane psychopath with a grudge against society who then injected the rest of the block with something deadly?" Love Chunks flung the block from him as though it was a flat-packed Andrew Bolt carrying swine flu.
"You mean carob?"

We sat there, hands clasped in our laps, thinking hard.
"Plus we have no idea where the perpetrator's hands have been before this most un-Australian act of sabotage, let alone anything about their personal hygiene...."
"Or lack thereof."

Feeling all self-righteous the following morning, I went back to the shop with the offending block and my receipt, ready to ask for a replacement. For equivalent of three dollars and forty nine cents, as per their weekly advertised special.

Despite having a fairly ‘loud mouth’ on this blog, my method of operating largely unnoticed and unmolested by the general populace at large is due to going to great lengths to avoid making a fuss. Tampered chocolate however, was a serious matter. I stood uncertainly by the smokes counter being studiously ignored by a young man packing something underneath it. He snuck a quick look at me and ducked underneath again. Surely I didn’t look too much like a crackpot?
I stuttered, "I'm a regular customer here, y'see, and bought this block yesterday and found out that someone has tampered with it and put it back on the shelf. And um, I need this new flavour to review because, well, it's my job, and..."

He gestured for me to hand over the offending block so that he could study it closely. "OK," he sighed, "Go in and find a replacement block and I'll ring it up on your way out." Yep, another crackpot sent in to waste time that could have been spent sorting through out-of-date risla papers.

This cringeing scenario reminded me of other times I'd been disappointed and short-changed enough to complain, but they had all done by post. Such as the dodgy packet of menstrual pads that instead of being lightly infused with a 'shower fresh scent' were squelchingly marinating in yellow, greasy liquid that must have been destined for an entire suburb's monthly needs and not in ten small white surfboards. As such, any ‘absorbency’ strengths boasted in pink letters on the front were null and void as the merchandise within was already ‘full’ and didn’t have any more room for either the blue fluid used by advertisers or the vermillion favoured by nature. Avoiding any blushing at the Returns Counter, I sent them off to the 'If you are not satisfied, please contact us....' address listed on the back of the packet.

Several weeks later, an enormous cardboard box arrived with what appeared to be at least three samples each of the entire company’s product range. Conspicuously absent was the product I'd sent in to complain about and there was no letter acknowledging mine inside the box. Perhaps they were even more embarrassed than I was. Still, the three x 120 metre rolls of waxed mint dental floss more than covered the costs of postage and the three unplanned days missing that special ‘feeling of confidence’ that all ‘women of today’ expect with a small packet of ten ‘heavy’ strength.

It spurred me on to expect better quality from my purchases. Those Tut-tut Tea bags with staples but not the string and tag attached were considered Just. Not. Good. Enough. Off went an indignant letter of complaint and offending product enclosed in a padded postpak. Again, a large box arrived with a year’s supply of bags – all properly tagged and strung and a heartfelt letter of apology for ‘any inconvenience caused.’ Lord knows what kind of multi-million dollar payout the company was fearing should I have decided to press for legal action.

Having experienced the despair of opening a twelve-pack of ‘fun sized’ bags to find that the twelfth was not filled with salt-and-vinegar chips but air resulted in it being posted back in a box of styrofoam (so that they could see that it wasn’t just an empty bag that had been eaten, flattened and sent back, but was still puffed up with air and not falsehoods) with a letter describing in intricate detail my outrage, suffering and utter disappointment. Again, a box that dwarfed my refrigerator turned up with enough bags of chips to keep me and my flatmates snacked out for months. Perhaps Samboy would be cheered to know my thighs that summer quite truly reflected their generosity in rectifying their original packaging error.

Dad heard my stories and was similarly inspired. His favourite milk flavouring and hot night-time beverage of choice (rhymes with Silo) had changed their lids and he was angry. He read out his letter to me over the phone: “They are fiddly, contain extra packaging to seal properly and make opening a frustrating waste of time and energy. Why did you change what hasn’t needed to be changed and has worked perfectly well for at least the past thirty years?” Go for it, I encouraged him: let ‘em know that you’re not happy. You’ve paid your money!

He did but went a step further than I’d ever be prepared to go. No, he didn’t front up to their head office or factory or post them back a big tin with pellet-holes in it to frighten them. It was far worse.
He rang the 1800 ‘Any Questions or Comments’ number listed on the back of the tin.
I shrank in shame. “Oh Dad, please tell me that you didn’t.”
“I did and I’m proud of it. That’s what those numbers are for.”
“Dad, I love you. You’ve been a wonderful father to me – still are – but you’ve now entered that dreaded Zone.”
“What ‘zone’? What are you talking about?”
“That zone where you move from being a fairly normal human being with needs and wants that fall into the acceptable range into the forbidden territory beloved of the Stark Raving Mad Loony Tune who feels sad, lonely, bitter and twisted enough to read that phrase on the back of a packet and actually decide to ring in!”

For the first time in living memory, he didn’t have a comeback or a justification. There was just silence on the end of the line for the longest time. “Er yes, I used to wonder who’d actually be bored enough to bother to have a question or comment on something like Sard Wonder Soap, cup-a-soup sachets or Chux superwipes and now ----" there was a muffled sound, almost a whimper ---- "I did it.”

“Hey Dad, don’t worry. At least it wasn’t to rant at a harried call-centre employee trying to pay their way through uni about the uselessness of the Deeko paper serviette holder that you won as a consolation prize instead of the first-class-round-the-world holiday you entered on SMS on twenty separate occasions." Now that was baring my soul….

“Yeah but---" *sob* “I gave them my real name and address.”

Update Thursday 21st May:
I phoned the Cadbury Consumer Services line and spoke to Eunice.*
Who calls in to the Cadbury phone line?
"Anyone and everyone. People are very passionate about chocolate."
What do they mostly complain about?
"How dare we change things is the most common one. They're also annoyed right now that the blocks are only 210g instead of 250g but we're charging the same price--"
Sounds like a fair issue to me.
"Yes but we've reduced the price of the block we sell to the supermarkets. It's them that are marking up the prices."
I discussed my tampered chocolate issue with her. Anyone else said the same thing?
"No. Maybe it's just your supermarket that has those kinds of people who do that sort of thing."
What? Steady on Eunice, that's being a tad judgemental don't you----
"It'll change as people like you get more familiar with the packaging and check that the back 'Cadbury' oval hasn't popped out. If it has, you know it's been opened already."
Yeah but I was trying to raise the issue of safety, like when a few years back some psycho injected packets of painkillers and now they're sealed so that no-one can get into 'em without it being noticed....
"Oh I don't think that will be a problem."
I applaud your optimism and loyalty to your product line but it might just be a tad misplaced just because I'm the first person to ---
"Recycling fans love the new packaging because it can be put out with the cardboard and paper."
Fine, I give up. Let's change tack - what's your favourite product?
"Cadbury Old Gold Peppermint Cream. Plus we have to be 'familiar' with all of their brand lines, so it's readily available to us to have whenever we feel like it."
Any stonkingly strange calls you can share with me?
"No, sorry. We're not allowed to tell anyone that kind of stuff, but we do have a good laugh amongst ourselves after some calls." Eunice sounded as though she might actually now be smiling over the phone.
Is the rumour that the Full Moon brings out the crazy callers more often?
"I don't really notice until I've had a really bad, weird day and then yeah, I realise that it has been a full moon. Still, it's better than my old job working in retail where the weirdos approached me directly and there wasn't any chocolate to eat!" There was a hint of a giggle. Maybe Eunice wasn't so bad after all.
* Not her real name.


ashleigh said...

It might really have been poisoned. Shame on the twerp in the store - it should be sent back to the maker for analysis. (And it would help the maker get the message that their new packing sucks)

Anonymous said...

Hey Kath, I s'pose every man and his dog has told you about the mention of you and the book in Peter Goers' Sunday Mail column?



Baino said...

Haha . . well done on all counts. I wonder if Mac will give me a box full of power books because the case on the laptop cracked? Somehow I doubt it. Actually my son is a fantastic complainer and did get a new iPod for his woes.

Anonymous said...

we said all alongyour word will spread it has hit the UK next Germany soon the world, your domination will be achieved, oops change from my mad professor mode.
Not all companies send you lots of goodies I have heard many stories of people who have had big boxes of chocoalte sent where they returned a bar of plain chocolate with one raisin in our experience of returning some mouldy tortillas was to get a packet of sauce mix as an apology!! and our postage back

Nutty Notons

Kath Lockett said...

Ashleigh - you know what? I think I'll ring the number on the back of the packet! Yep, I'll join my father! Seriously though, their packaging is going to make it easier for nutjobs (as well as lowlife thieves) to tamper with it.

BS - yeah, my Dad told me. I've been in touch with Peter Goers over email and he invited me to go on his 'Goer's Gals' radio show next time I'm in Adelaide. But, what I'd dearly like him to know is that writing such an 'upbeat' book is much more than the end product. It took a case of severe burnout to change my own work/life balance and then after doing so, to be bullied out of a job I liked by someone who is known as a 'work/life balance' expert herself was puzzling, depressing and pretty unforgivable really. But I guess that doesn't make as entertaining or pithy a Sunday Mail column.... Bitter, moi?

Baino, you should contact Mac - as we find more and more in life the meek ain't inheriting the earth but the complainers are at least being listened to.

Nutty Notons - that's measly to the extreme, isn't it - I mean as *if* you're trying to rob their factory of tortillas... Oh and the book has apparently been sighted in Dubai (god knows what they make of some of my personal examples and anecdotes there).

Word verification - I swear their generator has a sense of humour - FOODYBA!

helen said...

Kath, when we were kids we used to buy a certain brand of muesli and one day I found a galvanised roofing nail in it. Always the merry japesters (as you would know by now) my bro and I, and I think my cousin as well, collaborated on a faux-snotty letter complaining of the too-high levels of iron, zinc etc. compared with their nutritional information on the pack.
The company sent us a lovely big box of dried fruits, nuts etc - hope that wasn't a veiled comment - and thanked us for having a sense of humour about getting a big fat nail in our cereal!
(And yes I am gunna do that meme... promise...)

squib said...

Kath, have you ever read 'the timewaster letters'? I think you'd love it

I thought that new packaging was something to do with being more recyclable? I heard so on the news but looking at the pic you posted, I'm not really sure how it is an improvement

Nadim said...

will have to keep an eye open for any half eaten bars of chocolate on the shelves


River said...

The young packing something under the counter SHOULD have said, Good Morning, I'll be right with you. or he should have left what he was doing and attended to you. That's what we're taught. AND we're supposed to do it cheerfully, smiling,wishing you a nice day, all while we're attending to numerous other tasks that need to be done in between customers.....
Am I wrong or does Cadbury's new packaging hide a downsized block of chocolate?

River said...

Ooops. The young 'man' that should be...

Why not email Peter Goers and tell him not only about the book, but how it came to be, the burnout, the bulldog, etc. He could possibly turn the whole saga into a very interesting read on how to cope with life changing experiences such as yours and come out on top. As you did.

franzy said...

I once spent 24 hours (straight) composing an outraged letter to send to McCains, along with the toe-nail clippings I had discovered in the final munchy mouthful of frozen peas ... until I ran the letter past Mele and she confessed to putting her own toe-nail clippings in the bowl I had stored the peas in. Without looking for toe-nail clippings - my fault really.

So, the moral of the story is: it was LC who ate the row of chocolate. Ha!

Miles McClagan said...

(Psssttt...it was the Supermarket staff, they did it all the time in Coles, and they'd drink...)

Oh hi, er...carry on...look, a big picture of Miley Cyrus!

The Man at the Pub said...

I thought Cadbury has done a Cascade Premium Lager with this one ie, they've reduced the size of the product without reducing the price. Hasn't the 250gm block been replaced with this 200gm jobby without a price drop, which is in effect raising the price by about 20%?

From Crikey.com...
"It seems that the GFC has forced cost-cutting measures at Cadbury. The standard 250gm block is no more. The Top Deck block I bought yesterday was only 220gm and the Black Forest is now a measly 200gm. Of course the price hasn’t decreased despite the decrease in quantity. Cadbury have attempted to disguise the thinner blocks by substituting the paper wrapper for cardboard packaging."

In reply Cadbury claim to have dropped the price to retailers, but apparently some shops are not passing the reduced price on to consumers. I think it might be time to firebomb some Milk Bars.

What say you on this pressing issue, O' Queen of Cocoa?

The Man at the Pub said...

Please excuse me if you have done this already in a previous post.

The Man at the Pub said...

A bit of reading that might interest you...


Kath Lockett said...

SNAP, Man At The Pub! - I was just typing my update out as your comments turned up. Great minds and all that.