WHY PAY FOR FOOD WHEN WHITE LIES ARE FREE?

In Arts & Life /

BY MATT LLEWELLYN

Al Capone was a criminal kingpin, Bernard Madoff swindled millions, but Sam Orwell saw the green in a bag of red loops.

You’ve likely never heard of the last person, probably because he doesn’t exist. But customer service representatives from some of North America’s largest food companies have heard him complain for the last couple of weeks.

I am Sam Orwell. A university student in the current economic climate, I was curious to see if food companies would respond to a complaint about their product by sending a replacement. In other words, what if telling some white lies would score some free swag — even if I presented them with outlandish stories or little proof.

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At Kellogg, an entire box of red Froot Loops is apparently a spectacular sight. So spectacular, in fact, that it doesn’t really exist. The Kellogg customer service representative claimed it was “nearly impossible,” and offered to pick up this holy grail of sugary cereal at my convenience. But since I lied about that mystical box of all-red loops, I agreed to expedite the box using a corporate Purolator account.

Calculating that it would take approximately 1,500 loops to fill a 580 gram box, I purchased three 925-gram boxes from Cosco and a smaller 580-gram box from Metro. Although I have no scientific proof, it seems there are significantly fewer red loops than any other colour.

Kellogg’s website boasts they have a highly efficient facility that uses computer-automated machines to do everything from “mixing the grains to packing the boxes in cartons.”

Though I didn’t have an automated computer system at my disposal, I did have something far more accurate: Ryan, one of the Eyeopener’s high school intern.

Tirelessly sorting the loops for what seemed like hours, the bag was finally full and so were our stomachs.

It took just over 12 hours for Kellogg to receive the package and respond via phone. Kellogg guaranteed that the box was safe to eat and that the box of red loops was an “isolated and rare” incident.

For years companies have placed their contact information on the packaging of food, mainly because it’s the law. Health Canada requires all food packaged for distribution to include a contact for the company. But these companies also want to know when their manufacturing process goes loopy.

Dialing the first 1-800 number feels strangely comparable to losing your virginity. Quickly your heart begins to race and you feel a little bit naughty. But then, when you’re done the deed, you experience a great of surge of satisfaction.

Along with Kellogg, I created a variety of scenarios to companies such as Pepsico (nothing in the sealed can), General Mills (Nature Valley chewy bars were as hard as patio stones) and Bellisio Food (Michelina’s’s dinner had too much pepper). But none were as elaborate as the one told to Kellogg.

Still, all of the companies “Orwell” spoke to agreed to send out replacements, with several of the companies sending additional products. So far I have received seven vouchers worth $30 in free food. They also sent me letters reassuring that the information was past along to ensure the problems never happen again.

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