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We've been spending an inordinate amount of time talking about meatballs here on MNB the past week or so. At the risk of trying your patience, let's get into it one more time. (I have good reason for this.)

To recap (for those who have missed it)...

Last week, in my FaceTime commentary, I talked about a disappointing experience I'd had in try to track down frozen Italian meatballs made by a company called Rosina's that happen to be my teenaged daughter's favorite comfort food. Since I'm going to be out of town for all of July, I wanted to have plenty of them in the freezer. Stew Leonard's, where we've always bought them, doesn't carry them during the summer, and while they were willing to special order them for us, I also reached out to the manufacturer to find out what other local retailers might carry them. The response there bordered on the dysfunction, and if you missed it you can learn about the whole saga here. My complaint, in general, was that Rosina's risked turning an enthusiastic, long-time consumer of its products into a ticked-off shopper more than willing to share his negative experience.

I got a lot of email about this commentary last week, including from a number of retailers and manufacturers offering meatball alternatives, the one company that I never heard from - despite several phone calls and my very public scolding - was Rosina's. After having made that observation here on MNB, I heard from Rosina's; the marketing manager apologized for having dropped the (meat)ball, and said she'd like to send us some meatballs to make up for the problems. I made very clear to her (and repeated here on MNB) that ending me meatballs was not necessary. This was not about extorting meatballs out of Rosina's or anyone else. This was about using a specific customer service experience to illustrate what I suspect is a much broader problem at a number of companies.

Apparently, not everybody is buying my point of view on this.

MNB user Frederic Arnal wrote:

This meatball episode looks to me like an abuse of your bully pulpit.

Another MNB user wrote:

In order to preserve your integrity as a journalist, you should decline the meatballs! Sorry I had to give you a shot on that one!!!

MNB user Autumn May-Haras wrote:

Glad to hear that Rosina's finally responded and you will be rolling in meatballs. But how about donating some of your winnings to your local food bank?
 
Don't be a meatball : )


And, from another reader:

You wrote: “It almost doesn't matter. What matters - for Rosina's and every other company - is that the lesson is learned. And the mistake not repeated.”

And that once again you receive free product as a result of your use of the bully pulpit. Maybe your credibility would improve if you in fact turned these offers down or donated the items to a worthwhile charity. Just MHO.


First of all, I wasn't aware that my credibility was an issue, or at stake.

I'm a little surprised that anybody thinks that somehow I am using MNB as a bully pulpit with which to extort free product from people. To be clear, I've never thought of MNB that way, nor do I use MNB as a way of getting freebies. Sometimes, manufacturers send me stuff hoping that I'll write about their products. Sometimes, friends who work for retailers or manufacturers send me stuff just to say "thanks" for writing MNB each day. But I think I can say with a clear conscience that such gifts do not affect the stories and opinions expressed here on MNB.

In the case of Rosina's, I made very clear that sending meatballs was not necessary. And when they said they would anyway, I went out of my way to be transparent about it here on MNB. (If I'd accepted the meatballs and not said anything, that would have been a little sleazy on my part.)

However, I think that the folks who suggest that I should donate the meatballs being sent by Rosina's to a local food bank make an excellent point. Not only can I afford to buy my own meatballs, I've already bought two cases of the damned things from Stew Leonard's. So if and when the Rosina's shipment shows up, I will donate them to an appropriate charity.

One final point, though.

I totally disagree with the idea that I am abusing my bully pulpit.

Over the past 11 years, when I've had positive and negative consumer experiences, I've often shared them here on MNB. That includes everything from stores I've visited to wines I drank. (BTW...I pay for virtually every bottle of wine or beer reviewed here on MNB. Just in case you were wondering. I don't get cases of wine and beer from folks hoping for a decent review. Damn it.)

I think sharing those experiences - and trying to put them into a broader context from which people can learn something - is part of what I do. I try not to be mean spirited, and I try to give people the benefit of the doubt.

This story was never about meatballs. It was about customer service, and the broader power of consumers, using the internet and social media, to communicate with people about their experiences. I think it had value, and quote frankly, I'd do it again in a second. And will, next time I have either a positive or negative experience that I think is relevant to MNB's broader mission.

As always, I appreciate the input and suggestions. I'll keep them mind going forward, and I promise to be as fair and as transparent as possible.
KC's View: