Being the ice cream fiend that I am, I suppose it was bound to happen one day.
In what would be about the third from the last scoop from a tub of this incredibly chunky ice cream, I bit into something that wasn’t quite a nut. I spat it out and found what appeared to be half a tooth.
Could it be mine?? I panicked. Quick, tongue check! Nope, all there, even if I did chomp pretty hard on the stowaway. Perhaps it’s a pebble. A wayward stone. A little rock. Please God, oh please just make it a really rocky road!
I washed it and checked it further. Could it have been a bone fragment from meat or fish? Fat chance; our household eats chicken breasts and tofu.
Plus, it was translucent. I took a photo of the ice cream intruder and posted my complaint on the ice cream company’s website.
In less than 24 hours, I received a reply that even began with an apology! I was impressed that a company as large as this would not only reply as quickly, but take immediate responsibility without even seeing some evidence. I emailed a photo of the foreign object I found, and the lady set a house call.
Their representative arrived in two days with two half gallons of their premium ice cream, profuse apologies, and possible explanations for what could have happened. Having consulted with a friend who worked in the company, I offered his hypothesis that perhaps the culprit came from their supplier’s nuts/inclusions, since they have an automated system and perform x-ray checks. She looked at the fragment and traced it onto a piece of paper.
I had also done some snooping around the Internet to find out what happened to people in similar situations. Most of the time, they were sent a self-addressed and stamped envelope for them to put the foreign object into, plus a few coupons for free ice cream.
Sometimes a representative arrived the next day, very hands-offish, stressing that they were only there to collect and they know nothing else. A lot of these finders expressed regret over turning over the only piece of evidence they had, aside from photos some of them took and posted on their blogs. They wished they had had it inspected by an independent third party before turning it over to the manufacturer.
And so that’s what I did, especially since I was due at the dentist’s anyway. Two out of the three dentists I showed the item to identified it to be a tooth, with one even specifying that it was part of a lateral incisor. A fourth dentist commented that it would’ve been better had it been an entire tooth; half could mean it was rotten.
I almost puked. A biological hazard, in essence, medical waste, was in my mouth! Of course, this was just a naked eye inspection, not a thorough chemical analysis. If I knew any geologists I probably would’ve had them give it a whirl, too, and perhaps some would identify it to be a rock. The point is, whatever it is, it wasn’t meant to be there.
I emailed my findings to the company, and I received an express-delivered formal letter from the quality assurance and factory managers the next day. They thanked me for my patronage, but made no mention of what I found, and instead referred to the incident as a “complaint.” They talked about the checks they’ve done on the lot in question, and found them all to be in compliance with their standards.
Full disclosure: my brother works for a rival company (and yet we purchased their competition!). This, I had also communicated to their representative. I mentioned it because I cited an example of how one consumer of that company’s had also found a foreign object in their product, which led to a product recall in that country.
Did I want a recall? I did not make such demands. All I requested for was an explanation, but their letter did not pacify me. What did I want anyway? I wasn’t asked. If I was, I would say, what was fair: the truth. But I reckon that was too much to ask.
Much can be said about the ice cream manufacturer’s customer service, their responsiveness and initiative. But as for their willingness to make amends…I suppose the idea that I could’ve just made it all up was weightier. Their representative said this was the first time they heard of such a complaint.
More often than not, I suppose our culture subscribes to no harm, no foul. Turn a blind eye. Ok lang yan. Shrug it off, whatevs, meh.
The myriad permutations of coulda, woulda, shouldas would make an excellent business school case in management communication or crisis management. While they did more than what other companies would probably have done, I felt disappointed, let down by their lack of urgency to investigate further, since it could’ve also gone horribly wrong; i.e. a child could’ve choked. But must we wait for something more dramatic?
They didn’t even bother to collect the fragment. To me, it meant they were not taking it seriously and that to them, it was already a closed chapter.
Besides, they probably thought, who was I anyway? If I were a lawyer, I would probably take legal action. But my goal is not to tear down. Since I am a writer, I am compelled to write about my experience.
As a social media participant, I sought possible explanations from my network of almost 1,000 friends, hoping someone could assuage my fears and explain what the object is and how it got there. As a consumer, I will exercise my right to choose something else next time.
I thankfully missed chipping a tooth or getting infected, but I wonder where the other half of that tooth went. Could it be innocently buried deep in your tub of ice cream (insert horror movie laugh here)?
But seriously, this unhappy accident could happen to any food processing company. So for now, I think I’ll start experimenting with making my own ice cream.