Monday, February 11, 2008

Dear Hershey's, Thanks for Nothing.

Dear Hershey’s,

I just wanted to let you know that I’m not very pleased with you right now. Cadbury creme eggs list "invert sugar" in the ingredient list. Most of the time I've found that "invert sugar" is derived from regular table sugar. But I've also seen people listing corn syrup as an invert sugar. So I emailed you to find out if the “invert sugar” in your Cadbury Creme Eggs [yes, y’all, I know, CADBURY makes the creme eggs, but Hershey’s has the license for the U.S.] is corn syrup or is derived from corn, and then we had a brief, spectacularly uninformative email exchange. I thought you’d be helpful because you had previously answered a question for me about the ingredients in Peanut Butter Cups. I was wrong.

You replied, but your response did not actually answer my question. You said that “invert sugar is a 50/50 mixture of glucose and fructose. It is sweeter than sucrose (table sugar). It's used as a sweetener or humectant. Your interest in our company is appreciated.” I replied that, yes, I know that invert sugar is a mixture of glucose and fructose, but it comes in a variety of forms. For instance, corn syrup is an invert sugar. Is the invert sugar you use corn syrup or derived from corn?

You replied, “We would like to get some additional information in order to provide the service you need. Please call us toll-free at 1-800-468-1714.” Oh, and, “Your interest in our company is appreciated.”

I did not understand this. Why do you need more information? I do not have any information that will help you determine whether or not there is corn in your invert sugar. Only you have that information. So I replied, basically, thanks, but what information do you need, because I can’t imagine why you’d need information from me when I’m just trying to find out if there’s corn in your invert sugar. I have not heard back.

But here’s the deal. I don’t want to call you, because why should I take time out of my day to sit on hold for who knows how long just so I can talk to some guy who doesn’t actually need information from me in order to “provide the service [I] need”? I don’t know what your angle is, but it’s making me not want to buy your products anymore. Especially when you are about to raise your prices anyway. If you don’t want to put that information in writing, that annoys me, but at least if you had told me that, I’d respect your honesty. But this “need more information” line, that’s just a lie, and I can’t go for that. No can do.

[Oh, and incidentally, I also e-mailed people at Cadbury directly, and they never responded at all. So I guess Hershey’s could be worse. What’s up with the British? No customer service over there?]

[I should have known that Hershey's wouldn’t be helpful because they have this statement on their website, in response to the question “Can you send me an allergen list?”:

“We have found that allergen lists quickly become outdated as our product lines change over time. Rather than have you make purchase decisions based on outdated information, we encourage you to check the ingredient label on the package. This label provides accurate, current information about all the ingredients in the package.”

Except that the label does NOT provide information that will help you accurately determine if the product contains something that you’re allergic to, not really. For example, the Hershey’s peanut butter cups list dextrose as an ingredient, and dextrose usually comes from corn, but it doesn't always. And sure enough, the Hershey’s response told me that their dextrose “may be” derived from corn (so now I don’t eat them). But even if you know dextrose usually comes from corn, you don't know for sure if peanut butter cups are off limits, because they don't tell you on the package where the dextrose comes form. And if you don't know that dextrose usually comes from corn, you would assume (incorrectly) that peanut butter cups are ok to eat. Thanks, Hershey's!]

So here’s a suggestion for you and your Cadbury friend. Why don’t you just put a big disclaimer on your website that says, “If you have a food allergy, we are not interested in your business, so don’t even ask us.”

Your interest in my problem is appreciated.


A former customer


Lia said...

Oh, wow. I never even thought of that particular problem. I hope you send this email to Hershey's - exact text. Although even the post might accomplish something, as some companies do random google searches to see what people are saying.

Also, now I want chocolate. Actually, I usually want chocolate, but I thought that just now, I could blame it on your mentioning Hershey's.

Emma Sometimes said...

Full recipe disclosure unless you want full disclosure. Are you sure that isn't the FDA you were emailing?

Hey, and have it be known, ALL coffee is mountain grown, so there.

Heather said...

I've had to return emails, and my favorite FAVORITE things at my disposal were the pre-formatted responses. Sometimes I would barely read an email, pick out a keyword, and respond with that in mind.

In my case, I was dealing with people who asked things like, "What's an internship?" and "What are the deadlines?" and it took everything within me not to respond, "If you read our goddamned website, you would have found those answers, dickbag."

In your case, it's different. This is food. People should have the right to harbor legitimate concerns about the ingredients. Telling someone to just read the label because "allergen lists quickly become outdated" is lazy and extremely irresponsible.


jes said...

This is why I love you.

Deals On Wheels said...

I would like to take this opportunity to remind you that you are not actually allergic to corn. Your sister is. I say you should continue to eat PB cups in secret. Just don't tell RR. I promise not to tell her either. See? Problem solved.

And, no. It isn't lying. Just omitting the truth, which is totally different. Yes, really. Don’t badger me with law-yer-ish technicalities.

If I sound bitter it is only because I can’t eat PB cups or Hershey’s either right now thanks to (stupid) Lent. Since I can’t enjoy any chocolate yumminess for the next 40 days or so, it is only fair that someone else pick up the slack and enjoy some in my place. In this particular situation: You. You should eat (lots and lots of) chocolate in my place. So get to it. NOW!

(Did I mention my boss just gave me a Valentine’s Day gift of several small Hershey bars? No? Yeah, that’s probably the root of my problem at the moment. Sigh. Please come eat them for me. I’ll pay you!)

JLR said...

lia: It's sad! Corn is everywhere. So sorry to fuel your chocolate need!

ems: HAHA! It's like coffee companies have PT Barnum stowed away, alive and well, and writing copy.

heather: Indeed. I don't really have a problem with form letters, if it's "we've received your question and we'll get back to you" variety. But the "we need more information from you" thing, I don't get.

deals: It's true that I haven't been *tested*, but considering that RR and I have the same genes and that after I stopped eating corn, my persistent acid reflux all but disappeared (after invasive testing by doctors failed to figure out what the problem was), I'm steering clear of corn for now. But that doesn't meant that *all* Hershey's products are off limits. We think we can have kit kats--and plain Hershey bars. Yea! So, if you're looking to unload that candy, I won't say no.

jes: :)