Granted, the eight disgruntled customers — each of whom got to bring a pal along — only represented about .1% of approximately 7,500 complaints Ben & Jerry’s receieves each year. But even if you’re unhappy with the texture of your Chubby Hubby or the malt flavoring in your pint of Schweddy Balls, it’s undoubtedly pretty cool to see where the stuff is made.
“It’s like a Willy Wonka-type journey into a factory and I’ve got a golden ticket,” one customer, who had complained about the brownies in his batch of Half Baked ice cream, tells the Boston Globe.
He had already received a coupon and a refund check from Ben & Jerry’s when he got the invite to discuss his gripe with the company’s “flavor gurus” in the Waterbury, VT, factory.
“We didn’t want to just take the complaint,” a company rep explains about the field trip. “We wanted to move it further… We are the kind of company that takes what customers say seriously.”
Another customer who got a pint of Pistachio Pistachio containing nuts nuts that tasted stale stale, explains that she originally wrote the company to express her concern.
“If you are a lifelong fan of something, instead of saying, ‘I got bad pistachios; I will never have that again,’ I’m more inclined to voice my opinions,” she tells the Globe. “It’s an opportunity to influence a company that I care about.”
“I’ve never seen a company do this type of thing,” she said after the trip. “It makes me even more inclined to buy their products.”
Even though Ben & Jerry’s is now owned by global food goliath Unilever, employees say the brand has a certain amount of autonomy, especially in how it deals with customers.
“From the day we started, we’ve always been concerned about the complaints we got. Whether they like us or hate us,” explains one longtime staffer.
Alas, before you fire off a mountain of complaints to Ben & Jerry’s in the hopes of scoring a free trip to Vermont, the company says this was a one-time-only deal.