Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I'm A Good Mom, Charlie Brown

It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is on TV and Des is watching it.

I never liked Peanuts. I know it's anti-American to say so; Charles Schultz is like the Norman Rockwell for my generation. But I've always found it incredibly sad. Lucy taking the ball away, that snotty girl telling Charlie Brown he'll never ever be elected student body president, Schroeder having to put up with Lucy's obnoxious hanging around -- all sad. The comic in the paper wasn't much better than the specials either.

The only redeeming thing was Snoopy. But even his brother Spike was sad and lonely... always in search of a home.

But not letting the kids like &/or watch Peanuts is probably tantamount to child abuse, or at least neglect. So it's on the TV. And I just try to pretend I don't want to go cry somewhere.

Kraft Pizza: An Inconvenient Truth

Clearing out my photos I found these horrid reminders of the first night after the kids started school. I had decided to make pizza because it's fast and easy on a night which is hectic enough as it is. So the Sunday before, we had bought pizzas at Wal*Mart and I thought I was on top of things.

But I wasn't.

Upon opening a Jack's Pizza (Canadian Bacon), I discovered that well over one inch of the crust was not covered in sauce and toppings.

Flipping the frozen pizza over I discovered two other things: One, the pieces of meat were not attached and they slid onto the cardboard (with about as much vitality)...

and two, that on the edge opposite the bare crust there was a ring of frozen sauce and cheese.

It was like the sauce and cheese were a separate frozen layer which was supposed to be set atop the frozen crust and then re-frozen to set, like cement, into 'one thing'. 'One thing' I was supposed to cook for my family as a convenience meal. But this 'one thing' was crooked.

Now that the sauce wasn't all on top I knew I was going to have a gooey mess which would smoke, if not burn, in my oven -- if I could cook it at all. For no where on any of the packaging was that sticker with the directions, ingredients etc.

Now I was not pleased.

This was the only dinner food-stuff I had and it was almost dinner time.

Any one with kids knows that they are all howling with hunger at this time of day -- along with tired and ornery from the first day at school. Not the best time to discover I did not have dinner well in hand.

So I called Kraft.

To their credit, I got a human right away.

I told him I had a complaint, describing the pizza and even telling him I had taken photos to show him -- was there a place on their website to send such things? I was told that wouldn't be necessary. Then gave him the store info from the Wal*Mart receipt. This was too easy, I thought.

Next he asked for some information on the wrapper -- the expiration date, which was supposed to be on some white box-thing on the label.

"There's no sticker. Like I told you, no cooking instructions at all," I said.

"No, no. It's a white box on the packaging."

"Yes, I know what a 'white box' is, and I know what 'packaging' is," I said getting very frustrated. "Let me read to you the only text which appears on any packaging -- which is the top paper, with the photo or image of a pizza on it--"

"There's no white box?"

"No, there's not."

Now he sounds annoyed, "Are you sure?"

So I begin to read to him everything on the packaging. He interrupts.

"No white box?"


"No, none. No boxes of any kind. And before you ask, there is nothing on either side of the cardboard, nothing on the plastic wrap."

"OK, maybe it's on the back of the paper with the pizza image," he says, getting creative.

I check, again, and tell him no.

Now he's feeling really creative, "Get a scissors and cut the paper... sometimes the tag is between papers."

"Between what papers? I have only one paper here," I say feeling stupid but cutting where he says anyway -- and growing angry that I'm doing the stupid thing he asks me to. And I'm no closer to dinner, thank-you-very-much.

Well, glory be, there's no discovery. No white box, no white bit of paper, just the original paper with lines cut into it.

Then it hits me.

"So, we have no idea when this pizza expired...?" I ask.

"Not without the white box," he says.

I'm beginning to feel this white box is rather like the little black box on a plane -- and we need that data to clear up this mess.

"So, this could be a very bad pizza to eat -- not just messy, but food poisoning bad..."

"We don't know that--"

"Would you eat it? Without a date and in this state? Which, by the way, can you tell me how this happens to a pizza?"

"Improper handling," he says. Which isn't good enough.

"I'm no food manufacturing pro, but it suggests to me that at some point this pizza became unfrozen -- just enough to slide the top layer to one side and loosen the pieces of meat... Which, if this is so, also implies a possibility of temperatures changing allowing for bacteria or other nasty things, right?"

"That could be, there's really no way of knowing at this point," he courteously replies.

Very Customer Service 101.

Only this makes me wonder, what good is my call doing anyway...? I imagine a room full of people trying to take all the data and track pizzas, from Kraft Kitchen to trucking, to Wal*Mart & other retailer check-ins. Only they can't with this pizza because information is incomplete.

They can't learn from this information, this mistake -- and I'm no closer to dinner. On a school night. The first night of school yet. :sigh:

"Well, would you eat this 'improperly handled' pizza without an expiration date?" I ask him.


"Well, would you? Would you feed it to your kids?"

"No, I probably wouldn't," he admits.

"So, what are you -- what is Kraft going to do for me because of this?"

"I'll need your information, your name and mailing address, so that we can send you a coupon," he says, secure on normal ground now.

"A coupon? For what?"

"For a replacement pizza."

"A replacement pizza. A replacement pizza? Are you serious?"

"Well, we at Kraft are very sorry for your unhappy experience and we hope that with this coupon you'll give us another try," he says -- straight off his paper.

"Do you understand that this isn't just a pizza -- not just a food product? This was my family's dinner tonight. The first dinner after the first day back to school, no less. A very hectic day. A day I had prepared for by purchasing your pizza because, it is, you understand, not just 'a meal' but that I am, in fact, paying for the convenience of a meal. A supposedly nutritious meal, though without your product label I can't really vouch for that. Or cook it. And now I need to go to the store, buy another meal, bring it back home and cook it -- all after our usual dinner time -- all of which is anything but convenient."


"And you're telling me that all Kraft is going to do is send me a coupon?"



When the coupon arrived, it came with a canned letter from Kim McMiller, Associate Director, Consumer Relations, Consumer Relations Group, which is supposedly part of Kraft, but who can tell for sure... The only real connection is the Kraft logo at the top of the letter and "For Food & Family Ideas Visit Our Website at www.kraftfoods.com".

Did I use the coupon? Sure. Why should I be out the money on top of everything else. Will I continue to buy Jack's pizzas? Sure, when I feel like playing dinner roulette.

Will we or won't we eat? Will we or won't we eat on time? Oh, let's open the mystery packaging on the Kraft pizza and see...