Sometimes my life feels like a bad episode of the Twilight Zone. It’s like I live in Bizzaroland! Seriously. I seem to have a knack of getting myself into situations where sometimes all I can do is thwack myself on the head in disbelief at the lunacy that surrounds me. Take last weekend, for instance. On Friday I received my much anticipated order of fancy schmancy, imported French fruit purees. These are the purees that I use to make my lovely pate de fruits that I give as Holiday gifts. After processing, the order was supposed to only take three days to deliver. It took two weeks. But, that’s beside the point.
As you can imagine, when my package arrived, I opened it immediately. Since the purees were frozen, I wanted to get them all settled in the freezer as soon as possible. As soon as I reached into the box, I noticed a pool of sticky orange liquid lying there. When I lifted the first container of puree out of the box, said sticky, orange liquid began dripping all over my hand and onto my floor.
Uh oh! This was not good.
Upon further inspection, I realized my precious fruit purees were all completely melted. Yes, people, all six kilos! In fact, the containers weren’t even cold to the touch. And, two of them were not even sealed, which explained the sticky orange liquid. Of course, since they were already thawed out, I couldn’t use them anymore. They were worthless to me. And let me tell you, they were not cheap!
I was furious! I had ordered the purees from a company that I had heard about, but had not dealt with before – L’Epicerie. Their web site does recommend shipping frozen products overnight, but the cost of doing so was $140.00, which was more than the cost of my entire order. However, the web site also states that frozen products will be shipped in insulated containers and packed with dry ice or cold packs. Since I had ordered these purees before from other sources with no problems, I felt that they would be okay a couple of days with the cold packs, especially in November.
Well, there were no cold packs anywhere to be found in that box. The purees were just plopped in a Styrofoam container and shipped out.
I sent an email to the company’s Customer Service department explaining what happened and expressing my displeasure. Meanwhile, I had thirteen pounds of fruit juice taking up valuable real estate on my kitchen counter. On Saturday afternoon, I was at the market doing my Thanksgiving shopping, when a call came in on my cell phone. It was some guy with a very heavy French accent. He said, “Blah, blah blah “L’Epicerie, blah, blah, blah.” (He didn’t really say “Blah blah blah”, but L’Epicerie was the only word I could make out.) I replied, “Oh, hello! Thank you so much for getting back to me.”
Things went downhill like a runaway freight train from there.
His next question was a very curt “What eez your problemme?”
I tried to explain as politely as I could what had happened. Instead of a sympathetic “Mon Dieu! I apologize. How can we help?”, I got an “Eempossible! Eet could not have been our fault. Eet must have been somezeeng you did.”
He then pointed out to me that I should have had the purees shipped overnight as recommended on the web site. I told him that I would have loved to, but an extra $140.00 for shipping was too rich for my blood. I also pointed out that his web site specifically states that frozen orders will be shipped in insulated packaging with dry ice or cold packs – and it was not. I mentioned that I had ordered these purees from other vendors before and had never had a problem. He then started yelling (yes, yelling) at me about:
a) How they do not use ice packs because they have spent thousands of dollars on scientific research to develop the perfect method for shipping frozen products so that ice packs are not necessary – again reiterating that I must have dome something wrong.
b) How, out of the thousands of orders of frozen fruit purees they have shipped in all the years they have been in business, mine was the single, one and only complaint they have ever had.
c) How I could not have possibly ordered the purees from another company before because they were the only company in the United States that carried them.
I tried to remain calm as I felt the outrage billowing up inside me for fear that my head would explode and quite possibly burst into flames. I didn’t even lose my cool when he very rudely snorted, “So, what do you want me to do about eet?”
I told him that I would be happy to send the melted purees back in exchange for frozen ones. I think he actually chortled at me then. He said that he absolutely would never ship another order to me again because I was obviously a problem customer and he did not want the aggravation of dealing with me. After I told him that I would contact my credit card company, he grudgingly told me to send back the purees and he would give me a refund. He also told me not to order from the company again because they did not want my business.
The final blow came this morning when I received an email from the company’s alleged Customer Service department stating that they would issue a refund if several conditions were met. These conditions included refreezing the purees for at least 24 hours at 0ºF – 5ºF prior to shipping, and waiting one full week to ship them, on November 29, so as not to interfere with the holiday. The email concluded by saying that they were offering this “ONE TIME ONLY” courtesy to me even though they were not at fault. And, it was signed: “Thank you and best regards, Olivier, Customer Service Manager, L’Epicerie”
Well, f@%# you, Olivier.
I do not want to fill up my freezer on Thanksgiving week with a bunch of melted, leaking, rotting fruit purees. I also do not want to keep them sitting in there for one solid week just to convenience you. Customer service my a$$! YOUR company screwed up by sending my order out improperly sealed and packaged. And, your customer service representative was rude, arrogant, argumentative and downright abusive to me when I complained about it.
Now, I know that I am not completely blameless in this situation. I could have coughed up the dough for the overnight shipping, and in retrospect, I probably should have. I own that. In fact, I had initially decided not to write about this fiasco at all, despite the company web site’s misrepresentation and the shoddy treatment I received. But that email was the proverbial last straw. If L’Epicerie has shown the least little bit of remorse or concern about what happened, you all would have never heard about the incident.
So, now what, folks? If I don’t meet their “conditions”, I’m out $120.00. If I do, then I’ll get my refund, but will be more inconvenienced than I already am. Plus, I feel like I’ll be rewarding the company’s bad behavior. What do you think I should do? I could really use your input.
Oh, and in case you haven’t already guessed, I do not recommend ordering anything from this company – especially, anything frozen – unless money is no object.
Okay. Rant over. Let’s move on to something more fun. How about a recipe for the most awesome turkey condiment ever? This cranberry chutney is sweet and tart and spicy and mellow – all at the same time. I started with a base of sour cherry preserves, because I had a jar in my pantry, but you could use any kind you like. I think that apricot jam or orange marmalade would be just as delicious. Then, I added some dried fruit, brown sugar, fresh cranberries, apple chunks, and a fiery little chili pepper, and simmered it all in some orange and lime juice until everything got all soft and oozey. To finish it off, I tossed in some tiny bits of crystallized ginger for a little extra zing. I’m telling you, people, this stuff is so good, that I could barely keep myself from eating it right out of the pot! Plus, it is a breeze to make. You just dump the ingredients into a pot, give it some heat and it practically makes itself.
If you’re looking for a last minute cranberry recipe, this is the one for you.
Sweet & Spicy Cranberry Chutney
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) sour cherry preserves
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup orange juice
1 cup water
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Zest of 1 orange
1 birds eye chili pepper, seeded and minced
4 cups fresh cranberries
1 medium apple, peeled, cored and diced
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely diced
In saucepan over medium heat, combine preserves, raisins, cherries, brown sugar, orange juice, water, lime juice, zest and chili pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Add fresh cranberries and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently until cranberries begin to pop and mixture thickens, about 15 minutes. Add apples and continue to simmer about 10 minutes more. Remove from heat and stir in the ginger. Chutney will thicken more as it cools.
Serve warm or chilled.