Dancing Deer Apologizes For Blondie-Encrusted Metal Spear

Dancing Deer wasted no time responding to yesterday’s post featuring a two-inch metal spear in a package of blondies. Trish Karter, Dancing Deer’s President, Chief Deer, and Floor Sweeper sent tipster Helen a wonderfully detailed apology and promised to conduct an investigation. Read her excellent mea culpa, after the jump.

Dear Helen,

Thank you so much for your patience and please accept my sincere apologies for your trouble. I was not aware of this situation until someone emailed me from the Consumerist site. I had been tied up yesterday when you called and it surfaced internally that the UPS package had never gone out to you. Apparently there was a lot of conversation about it here but none of it reached me. I had previously been aware that someone had reported a possible foreign object in a Blondie and that we were following procedure to get information from the consumer and obtain the foreign object so we could examine it and proceed with internal investigation.

It being a Saturday I have not been able to speak to everyone individually, but I have garnered some information and it is on that basis that I am responding. I didn’t want to his to go unanswered until Monday.

There were many failures here on our part:

  • The call tag from UPS should have been issued the same day. I learned from Anna that your initial call had come in close to the time she leaves for the day on a Friday and her expectation was that the service team would have sent the package out the following Monday.
  • Neither Anna nor the service team followed up to confirm that it had been done and then it apparently fell off everyone’s radar screen while we were busy with Valentine’s day (I offer that not as any kind of excuse but by way of hypothesis how we could possibly have dropped the ball on something so important).
  • When it did surface yesterday, no-one informed me that we’d had a major customer service failure. Two weeks is a totally unacceptable period of time for such a thing to go on. Two days is unacceptable! We needed to know immediately not only to serve you better, but so that the internal tracking could be done as close to the production date and ship date as possible.

All of the people here at Dancing Deer that were involved in this failure are actually really terrific, talented, intelligent, caring, conscientious and hard working people. I am happy to tell you that this failure is not a pattern, but a really rare incident. Customer service is something we do really well. I am perplexed and troubled by the incident but more curious than anything else. It may, in the end, simply be explained by there having been a perfect storm of several people making an unusual error in both judgment and follow through simultaneously with the same customer. Sorry to say that would be you! I hope you will forgive us and stick with us while we seek to understand what that foreign object was to begin with.

By the way I am confused by the photograph that is posted on Consumerist.com. It appears to be Brownies, not Blondies, so any information you can give us will be helpful, and the more specific the better. If there is nay product left over please send that out. Anna confirmed to me today that the UPS call tag has now been issued. If you would like to speak to Anna this weekend please let me know and I can contact her.

You will note that the entire office team was copied on this email and I can assure you that there will be focus on this issue Monday morning and we will use our learnings from our poor performance with you to build a better organization with a higher level of confidence that such a thing could not happen again.

I have left you two voice messages, office and cell, and look forward to speaking with you. I am very sorry for your poor service and response from us. My cell phone is xxx-xxx-xxxx. Feel free to call me at your convenience.

Best regards,

Trish

That right there is the human touch that multinational conglomerates spend millions trying to emulate. It’s the difference between sugar and high fructose corn syrup: you just can’t beat the real thing.

PREVIOUSLY: This Two-Inch Metal Spear Does Not Belong In A Dancing Deer All-Natural, Organic Blondie

Comments

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  1. Stephen Colon says:

    *Way* better than “taking this seriously.” Way.

  2. Katharine says:

    Obviously she didn’t look at the photo to closely. It is definitely a blondie and not a brownie. She also didn’t state WTF Anna was doing by not following up on the problem.

    Overall it is a good apology and she did include her cell number so it has personal feeling in there.

  3. vision4bg says:

    Decent response, but still smacks of excuses rather than just getting things done. Last time a metal object was found in baked goods in Australia the company recalled *everything* immediately. None of this two weeks “oh, Valentine’s kept us busy” crap. What other bits and pieces are floating around in their stuff? I feel sorry for the person who gets a broken tooth or a perforated colon – this “mea culpa” means nothing.

  4. forgottenpassword says:

    What’s truely sickening is you would have never gotten this response without making a big stink on the consumerist about it.

  5. courtneywoah says:

    I would love it if this story ended with an explanation of what went wrong and an apology being accepted, case closed. Yet knowing how greedy people are I am wondering if this lady is going to be happy with just an explanation and an apology or if she is going to want a check.

  6. legotech says:

    Wow, what a great excuse “hey, we are a food company and someone found a large shard of metal in one of our products, but screw it, its Friday, I’ve got better things to do than worry about it”

    Are you KIDDING me??

    And THEN to continue to process product to go out on a busy holiday when you have NO idea WTF someone found in their food????

    Be nice to hear that Anna was removed from any responsibility for customer service until she learns that a hot date is not a good reason to blow this sort fo thing off. It shouldn’t take a post on Consumerist to get a response from what is supposed to be a smaller friendlier company.

  7. forgottenpassword says:

    @courtneywoah:

    IMO she deserves MORE than an apology for getting the runaround.

    The apology is enough stage was passed when they decided to ignore her.

  8. endersshadow says:

    It always strikes me as a bit odd when companies do internal investigations. It sounds like they’re “taking it seriously” but you wonder where that investigation leads…a la “the Soviets did it.” The Consumerist should track “it’s under investigation” statements like “taking it seriously.” Then we can see how many incidents that are taken seriously and investigated, or any combo thereof.

    But congrats on the apology! Consumerist FTW!

  9. forgottenpassword says:

    @endersshadow:

    well, at this point you really cant trust a business to do an investigation after you had to publically embarrass them about it.

    Its like the police who will tell you they will investigate an incident, but never planned on doing it until you MAKE them by bringing it to the public’s attention…. and even THEN you still cant trust them to investigate fully. Its just for show.

  10. Insder says:

    I’m actually gonna try and follow up with Trish when I head back into work and see where this is going. She got a forward from me also, from my work email, about this, as did a few others at DD. I’ll try and email her Monday, because the investigation isn’t that big of an issue as is the apology and follow-up with customer (definitely looks like a piece of machinery). I’ll note that it doesn’t seem like Trish was throwing out excuses as much as she was trying to explain how it could’ve possibly occurred that they dropped the ball so badly. I can personally attest that nearly every customer service issue is resolved with a callback in less than one day, two days max if the issue has to be investigated. Glad this was resolved and great to see Dancing Deer on Consumerist in a better light.

  11. Bald_Ben says:

    I give the Dancing Deer respect for this kind of apology and responsibility. Hopefully they really do a full investigation and truly learn from the incident.

  12. ed45 says:

    who the fuck is Anna?

  13. lobst says:

    This obtuse bit of the letter bothers me the most:

    “Customer service is something we do really well. I am perplexed and troubled by the incident but more curious than anything else.”

    If I had found a metal cylinder in my fancy, expensive snack, I realy would not want to hear that the person in charge was “more curious than anything else.” Be curious in private. To me, be abjectly apologetic, or if nothing else keep your attitude of curiosity-that-overrides-all-other-responses to yourself. You wouldn’t present your feelings this way to someone standing in front of you that you had inadvertently hurt or treated with disrespect. This is not about your intellectual response to your own failings. Sharing your “curiosity” with me adds insult to injury.

    Oh, and another thing: Customer service is NOT “something (you) do really well.” It may be something you NORMALLY do well. But don’t tell me how well you (always, generally) do it. That’s for me, your customer, to decide. And, based on the lengths it took to get you to respond to MY stabbing metal cylinder incident, it’s something you do pretty poorly.

  14. Hoss says:

    I have no connection to Dancing Deer but I live in the Boston area and Dancing Deer gets frequent business press and excellent notice in philanthropic community. This is certainly not a company approaching the scale of a Mrs Smith’s, nor is it a phony division of a Sara Lee or Kraft or other companies on a scale that people’s well being and the community is not their focus. Dancing Deer Baking is a small company which is growing rapidly by contracting with Whole Foods and the like. There are no doubt growing pains – and I think it’s a class executive that in seeing a crisis situation continues to champion staff as she should.

    (As a disclaimer, I did receive Dancing Deer heart cookies for Valentines last week and am partial to the brand.)

  15. formergr says:

    Keep in mind that it’s Saturday and I’m sure everyone involved in this likely isn’t in the office. Monday is a holiday too, so some might be hard to reach if they are out of town. I think Trish is responding as best as she can at this point– it’ll be the follow-up that is key.

    I’m sure heads will roll on Tuesday (Trish sounds pretty pissed at the staff in her email), and I wouldn’t want to be part of the CS team right now…eek!

  16. homerjay says:

    @ed45: Automated Nuclear Neo-Human Android?

  17. theysaidwhat says:

    @legotech: I don’t think the reference to Valentine’s Day had anything to do with ‘hot dates’. DD has a thriving gift basket business and would have had an unusually high number of orders to process for Valentine’s Day. ;)

  18. ClankBoomSteam says:

    Correct me if I’m mistaken, but didn’t the initial post detail a number of calls made to Dancing Deer that were not returned? Were those also somehow an oversight? Something smells funky to me here.

  19. DeltaPurser says:

    I’m copying the letter to use for any situation where I may need to send anybody a letter of apology… That was the most genuine letter of concern I have EVER read! Well done Dancing Deer!!!

  20. helen says:

    @courtneywoah: Come on! If you’d read my original post you wouldn’t think I was likely to sue over this. That’s the last thing I’m interested in.

    I had a terrific phone conversation with Trish yesterday afternoon (giving out a personal cell # and answering on a Saturday? A+) and she was grateful that I have maintained from day one that this isn’t about me trying to get money out of them – first it was about concern about the GIANT POINTY METAL STICK, and then it became concern about customer service gone wrong.

    I am a little disappointed that it took a mention on The Consumerist to get the kind of resolution I’d have hoped for with only a piece of pointy metal as ammo, but a heartfelt apology is a heartfelt apology, and I’m certainly not going to look this in the mouth. Once I have my UPS label and hear back from DD, I will be a happy camper.

  21. yesteryear says:

    how can a food manufacturer really prevent something like this? unless you’re hand mixing and baking every product, and then scanning it through a metal detector, you’re not going to catch a piece of machinery that breaks off and ends up in the batter.

    a few years ago i was eating trader joe’s instant garlic mashed potatoes and got a mouthful of broken glass. i was disappointed that i couldn’t finish my dinner, but i knew it wasn’t malicious, nor was it something that happened because the trader joe’s mashed potato factory was run down and the evil dwarves who worked there were partying instead of making sure everything was running smoothly.

    i think it’s unfortunate, but this is the price we pay to live in a convenience-based, pre-fab, manufactured world and i think DD’s response (via trish, and whomever will be in contact on monday) was totally appropriate.

  22. legotech says:

    @theysaidwhat: I wasn’t referring to Valentine’s Day as the hot date, I was referring to the statement that the call telling Anna about the metal shard came when she was getting ready to leave on Friday. She was more worried about hooking up with her Friday date than dealing with this.

  23. erica.blog says:

    @yesteryear: You don’t actually need a full-blown metal detector (at least not in the sense of the big ones at airports, etc). An inductance sensor at the end of the conveyor can set off an alarm (blinking light, beeper, or stopping conveyor); the whole system won’t cost more than a few hundred and can be integrated with the production stream with no interruption UNLESS something is present.

    The more important thing for any manufacturer is to focus on prevention (regular machine maintenance, basically). But there’s going to be those rare occasions where things break, detection systems fail, and bad things get out. For example, let’s say the mashed potato factory had sensors to check for metal pieces; they still wouldn’t have noticed broken glass.

    Even in hand-mixing and baking there’s a chance SOMETHING bizarre would happen, like something flaking off the inside of the oven while your brownies are inside.

    When being a manufacturer of ANYTHING, you should (1) try to make sure your product is as high-quality as possible, (2) respond quickly when a customer finds a problem, (3) follow up internally to find the cause of any problem and prevent it in future if possible. Dancing Deer is now in the position of catching up on #2, but there’s lots of good lessons they can learn from it. And it sounds like Trish wants her company to learn those lessons.

  24. azntg says:

    @forgottenpassword: Agreed. While the response is getting near the level of decency, borderlining excellent, why does it take a nasty stink with the Consumerist and a couple of commenters (myself included) advocating that the purchaser sueing the company before you can get such a response?

  25. Rachacha says:

    Most commercial bakeries have metal detectors on their assembly line that are set to detect even the smallest shard of metal. More often than not, small slivers of metal (that you probably would never notice) come from the baking pans as they are handled during the manufacturing process. I am not familiar with DD but I assume that they are reasonably large enough to have some sort of metal detector before the packaged product makes it to the shipping area. If not, perhaps it is something that they will consider adding after this incident.

  26. AD8BC says:

    Some of you complaining about the response….

    Have you ever not made a similar mistake in your job?

    What exactly could they have put in their response that would have pleased you more?

    I think their response was probably the best I could expect in such a situation. It would have more than satisfied me.

    Remember, people and businesses have faults, and sometimes it is how they respond to them that makes or breaks them.

    And some of you, it appears, just cannot be satisfied.

  27. @forgottenpassword:

    ABSOLUTELY incorrect. As someone who does contract work for DD, I know how extremely conscientious this company is. Their work ethic, their business model, the way the company is run, is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. This situation was a mistake. One that could have ended much worse (thankfully the OP was not hurt), but a mistake that will be seriously looked at nonetheless.

    I guarantee (because I’m following internal emails, and I know how the company operates) that everything will be done not only to rectify the situation, but to continue to communicate with the OP until both parties are satisfied.

    I would urge all subsequent posters not to apply Verizon-esque (or other big conglomerate) assumptions to Dancing Deer. When I’m at Dancing Deer, I hear the customer service reps apologize whenever there is a problem (though mostly I hear them receiving compliments, if truth be told), and work to rectify situations with above-and-beyond actions that, again, I’ve not seen anywhere else. I have no knowledge of and am not sure where THIS particular situation broke down, but it is truly an aberration.

    This is the kind of thing that (president) Trish would respond to *immediately* and with great concern, so I’m absolutely sure that in this situation, she simply didn’t know (part of the mistake, surely). As soon as she did find out, she responded not only internally, but externally to everyone involved. There are internal emails addressing this issue that she sent at midnight last night (Sat). But her response is not insincere, nor is it just a prompt by visibility on Consumerist.

    Again, a STRONG urging to commenters to not make assumptions about Dancing Deer’s motivations in responding or not responding, and to stop with the “sue them” suggestions. This situation, again, is very much a rarity, if in fact anything like it has every happened before (not to my knowledge).

    There are very few companies out there like Dancing Deer. I hope that the OP and that Consumerist readers will take that into consideration before engaging in further (inaccurate) speculations.

    Thanks.

  28. humphrmi says:

    In the previous post, I was giving this company a hard time, mainly because they had not responded.

    Now they have, and it’s a pretty good response as those go.

    Good job Dancing Deer. Thanks for doing the right thing.

  29. drunken marmot says:

    I ‘m not a big fan of Dancing Deer.
    I’m amused at the reaction, though. Since DD is a small company and eveyone’s terrific and philanthropic, they don’t have to have QA and customer service in place? If it were Wal-mart, people would be jumping all over the evil, big corporation. The truth is, smaller companies can often slip through the cracks regarding health and safety issues.

  30. MARTHA__JONES says:

    It is unfortunate that most of you are so cynical that you seeming cannot be pleased. I feel this was a very heartfelt, personal response in light of compounded human errors. I applaud Trish for standing by her associates rather than immediately terminating them for making one mistake as some of you have suggested.

    I hope all of you should be so lucky to have management who supports you in that way.

  31. Insder says:

    @watchwhathappens:
    From one person who does work for DD to another, well said. Thanks for the support.

  32. courtneywoah says:

    @ Helen: Sorry Helen I didn’t mean to insult you! I just re-read my post and I was a bit hasty and judgmental. I hope everything gets resolved! Glad DD responded the way they did. Good luck! :)

  33. bohemian says:

    This was a pretty big fumble on the companies part. It is also pretty sad that an article on Consumerist was what it took to get them to finally deal with this after weeks.

    I do hope they do the right thing and actually investigate this, determine how it happened and make a statement as to what they are going to do to prevent it in the future.

  34. Addison says:

    Have to agree, if it had been just one small mistake in handling this, we could have seen it, but this stinks of being caught while looking the other way. If two phone messages were unreturned after the initial contact and it took two weeks and some consumerist time for it to be handled, then Trish is just shoveling deer shit in an attempt to cover up their lack of customer service.

  35. CharlieSeattle says:

    I think this is a great apology, how many CEO’s hand out they’re private cell phone numbers in response. This shows me that they actually care about the customer.

  36. Snarkysnake says:

    Nice apology, but…

    You people at DD are leading a charmed life. If it took a post on Consumerist to get the ball rolling, the initial contact person should pay with their job. You’re damn lucky that the customer isn’t the litigious type,because two weeks silence is two weeks to tell a friend and have that friend tell a friend that is a lawyer and cook up a winning,company destroying lawsuit.Two weeks silence is long enough for a problem to replicate itself and adulterate someone else’s blondie.The customer did you a FAVOR by contacting you in a friendly way. “mistakes were made ” is bullshit. SOME BODY made a mistake. You best fix it before the next customer with a problem is the customer this one could have been.

  37. Shevek says:

    This is a food company: they do not ‘look the other way’ when a chunk of metal is found in their food. That’s not the sort of thing that ones hopes will just blow over. In fact, ignoring it on purpose is basically the stupidest possible response. For that reason, I think this is exactly what it looks like: somehow, the issue completely fell through the cracks and they’re trying their best to make up for it.

  38. timsgm1418 says:

    I have to agree@AD8BC: I work for a manufacting type company, and we have made mistakes. When we say “we are seriously looking into this” we do mean it. However we do not give out names or exactly how we are fixing the problem. Everybody I work with is human and we all make mistakes. If for some reason I get a call from a customer (generally I don’t) even if it isn’t something I worked on, I follow up completely to get it fixed, but I don’t blast the fellow employee to the customer, if I made the mistake I own up to it. And honestly sometimes we really DON’T know how something happened, it just does.

  39. timsgm1418 says:

    @Shevek: couldn’t agree more

  40. timsgm1418 says:

    maybe the DD reps monitor is off color or something, the picture I saw definitely looks like a blondie, not a browning

  41. timsgm1418 says:

    oops brownie

  42. cryrevolution says:

    While I really like the apology letter & it does actually seem like Trish is heartfelt, I must say it does kind of suck that it took 2 wks for this to be “taken seriously”. Most likely the products from the same batch have already been distributed & sold, right into the mouths (& stomachs) of other unsuspecting patrons. Who knows what else could have been deposited in the food. This was not only bad customer service (of course, leading up to this letter) but a bit too late, as it could have lead to a potentially BIGGER problem.

  43. AmericanClio says:

    We’ve been eating Dancing Deer cookies for years and never had a problem.

  44. quiksilver says:

    @Bald_Ben: I agree.

    I think a lot of the commenters on here don’t realize that these ARE HUMANS and humans have FUCKUPS too. You people need to chill. When you have a business, whether it being 20 employees, or over 20,000, not everybody will be around the water cooler talking about every corporate issue that come up. Also, it’s not a CEO’s job to know EVERYTHING… it would be nice if they did, but it doesn’t happen. The “sue, sue, sue” response is ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS. Luckily, no one was hurt and it wasn’t a matter of life or death. If it was, then yes, I think a better end result should result of that.

    Yes, Dancing Deer dropped the ball for Helen’s unfortunate “find,” but the CEO wrote a very sympathetic email apologizing on what happened. You might or might not find out what happens afterwards, but at least the CEO is admitting they had a customer service problem, taking responsibility for the issue, AND personally doing doing a followup with Helen. Hopefully this all works out and both Trish and Helen are satisfied with the results.

  45. quiksilver says:

    @watchwhathappens: Awesome response. It’s great to hear from someone on the inside. I’ve worked at a few small businesses, some in food, and I know things like this happens. Everyone blows it out of proportion.

  46. lobst says:

    I’m not so crazy about the fact that T questions whether the item is a blondie or a brownie (it is obviously a blondie, btw)…sounds like she’s trying to undermine whatever case she thinks the customer might have if it comes to that. I agree with the poster who said people are going too easy on DD. It’s a small company that has built its brand through intense PR. PR is something they do focus on (though don’t always do well) so I would expect a decent apology letter–especially when it is being cc’d to a public forum like this. This is a decent apology letter with some glaring shortcomings. Don’t fall all over yourselves about the human touch; it’s still business.

  47. ElizabethD says:

    @AmericanClio:
    Well, AmericanClio, thank you for that interesting data point, which proves …. ? Huh.

    At this point I believe DD’s follow-up will be the dealmaker or -breaker. It would be nice if Trish or her PR person could provide Consumerist.com, not to mention Helen, with a detailed action plan developed to address all the issues that created this giant FAIL on DD’s part, within the next week.

    DD is very lucky indeed that the Helen/blondies incident has given them a lawsuit-free opportunity to improve various aspects of their processes — from safety in the production area to accountability and tracking in the customer-service department. I think we all want to love DD — heck, I’m half in love with *Trish* after reading that letter! — but we need to have trust restored via action-plan specifics.

    The ball remains in your court, Dancing Deer. (PS Your baked goods are divine.)

  48. Mr. Gunn says:

    If these had come from a Chinese company, you wouldn’t have seen this congratulatory follow-up post.

  49. thatgirlinnewyork says:

    A few too many words words for an effort that doesn’t end up with a result.

    The lesson: If you want the assurance of getting a brownie that’s free of debris that are germane to a manufacturing environment (they’re not baking brownies one 9×9 pan at a time), bake them yourself. It’s a far greater love gesture, one worth not outsourcing. Or at the very least, patronize a local baker whose products you can easily scrutinize and send on your own.

  50. AmericanClio says:

    Look. It’s a good company. They make, as you say, “divine” brownies (not to mention the molassas cookies.

    And they made a mistake. Stuff happens. Get over it.

  51. cacic says:

    I agree with the previous poster about the reputation of Dancing Deer. They have such a good reputation and the quality of their products is top notch. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if they are going through some growing pains and this is the result. I think they are probably overwhelmed at this point and something fell through the cracks. I would give them a second chance to do the right thing.