Controlling Quality of Products on our Websites

Periodically we receive calls from suppliers asking us to put their items on our websites. We usually tell them that they need to be a member of our industry, and then if they are we will order a sample item from them to see how the item is packaged and the quality of the imprint, or if their company has food related items, we taste the items to make sure they are up to our standards before thinking about adding them to our website.

Recently, we were approached by an industry food company that wanted to add their gift baskets and imprinted cookie tins to our websites.  We looked through their catalog and decided on a holiday sleigh filled with brownies, cookies and Ghirardelli chocolate squares as the sample piece. We called to order the sample and we were told that the boss was the only one who could take an order and the person who answered the phone said she wasn’t sure if her boss would be back in later that day or the next day. This should have been our first warning of what was to come.

The next day, the owner of the company called and I answered the phone and gave her our sample order. I also asked her about the strange conversation from the day before, knowing full well that during the peak holiday season we needed a reliable company that could handle a large volume of business. I also asked her about how her items were packaged, as we are used to working with Maple Ridge Farms and their items are packaged so that a truck can roll over them and they still arrive looking perfect! She assured me that they package as well as Maple Ridge, so I gave her our company UPS number and agreed to 2nd day air shipping.

Two days later a huge, oversized box arrived. It was filled with those horrible foam peanuts, and in the middle was a large bundle of bubble wrap and tape. We had to cut through the tape and the bubble wrap to find the sleigh inside. I believe because I had mentioned my concern for how the items were packaged, the company decided to package it in the oversized box and wrap the sleigh many times with bubble wrap to prevent the cookies from breaking. However, this oversized box filled with stale cookies and homemade brownies wrapped in plastic wrap with no FDA required ingredient labels, cost us $121 for the 2nd day air shipping!! You can imagine my relief that we have the rule to view and taste all products of this nature BEFORE we put them on our websites to sell to our customers!

I did speak with the owner of the company today and expressed my dissatisfaction with the presentation and taste of the items. She said they will be crediting me the price of the basket. I am just glad that our research saved us before we sold an unsuspecting customer 20 or 30 of these cookie and brownie baskets and had them shipped 2nd day air all over the country to the customers’ recipients. Can you imagine the shipping bill, not to mention the ill will my customer would have received when the recipient received such a poor quality gift? Not to mention if someone got sick from eating a product without labeling that states that the products were made in a kitchen where peanuts may also be used in other products.

I think for now we will stay with our tried and true factories, where we know we receive good service, on time ship dates and a great tasting product and presentation.