Valley Voices

Francine M. Farber: Consumer complaints make a difference

If a grocery product is not satisfactory, don’t hestitate to call the manufacturer. You may get compensated.
If a grocery product is not satisfactory, don’t hestitate to call the manufacturer. You may get compensated. Fresno Bee file

OK, I admit it: I’m taking advantage of my senior citizen status to be as cranky as I like. I’ve taken on a new cause. I like to think that, in my own small way, I am fighting for truth, justice and the American way of life by making justifiable complaint phone calls to suppliers of supermarket products.

I’ve never been shy about making customer complaints, but now I have more determination. Recently, we purchased a carton of a caramel popcorn treat. The illustration on the box clearly shows peanuts scattered throughout the product. We felt it our duty to plow through the box looking for the peanuts. Not one did we find. Now, most product boxes have a customer service phone number on them if you look carefully enough. The next morning, I was on the phone to Con-Agra with my complaint. After pressing a couple of buttons in the message cycle, I was connected to a super-polite young lady who listened to my complaint and apologized profusely.

Helpful hint: Be sure to have the box handy, because they always ask for the bar code number, and sometimes the expiration date. They also ask where you bought the product, and finally for your name and address. The customer service person said she would mail me two coupons for the product or other similar products made by Con-Agra. Sure enough, in about two weeks, I received two $2 coupons. The original product cost $2.

Several weeks passed and I decided to use one of the coupons to purchase a similar Con-Agra snack. Once again, we devoted ourselves earnestly to looking for peanuts. This time, we found only two. That’s right — the next morning I called again, but this time the number on the box was different from the first one because, although it was the same company, it was a different product.

Again, a polite young lady responded quickly and went through the usual procedure. She thanked me for informing the company about the problem and insisted that without customer complaints, they would never know when anything was wrong.

“I just know that there must be something wrong with the assembly line,” she said. “You can be sure that somewhere there is somebody who got a box full of peanuts!”

I thought this was an interesting possibility even though, clearly, it wasn’t us. Again, after taking product and store information, she offered to send us coupons. Soon, two more $2 coupons arrived in the mail. I am happy to say that on the third try, the product was satisfactory.

Pleased with the success of my new preoccupation, I went on to bigger things. We had been struggling with a 200-foot box of plastic wrap for several weeks. Each time we would attempt to tear off a sheet, the edges would get stuck and we wouldn’t be able to make the tear. We tried to dig at the edges with our fingernails, then with a knife. Occasionally, we would get the plastic roll straightened out, and we could use the product a few times. Then the same difficulty would occur. Pretty soon, the bump on the end of the roll was getting thicker and thicker and more difficult to break into. The time came when we couldn’t even budge the roll to get some plastic wrap off of it. I was thinking of giving up and buying a new roll, even though more than half was still unused.

But wait, I thought. Is there a number to call? Yes, a Glad Wrap Co. customer service number was on the edge of the box. After the usual polite conversation and questions, the customer service lady announced that for the inconvenience we had experienced, she was going to send me a coupon for $5.50 to be used for any of their products.

I take a great deal of satisfaction in airing my complaints to an understanding customer service person. It’s cheaper than therapy and, just like petting your dog, it’s good for your blood pressure. I hope that other people with consumer complaints will make phone calls. Together, maybe we’ll make a difference, and don’t forget those coupons!

Francine M. Farber is a retired school district administrator and a full-time community volunteer.