A few weeks ago, I was enjoying a Lean Cuisine french bread pizza when I noticed these words on the package.
I sent off this prank e-mail to the parent company, Nestle USA.
Dear Lean Cuisinarts: Yesterday I was eating a Lean Cuisine french bread pizza when I noticed the words "New! Italian-Style Flavor." I'm completely baffled by this. What's new about Italian-Style Flavor? Were the old Lean Cuisine pizzas made by Indians, or Israelis? Were they manufactured in a Korean sweatshop? You don't advertise "New Chinese-Style Flavor" on your frozen eggrolls, or "New Hispanic-Style Flavor" on your beans and rice. Italian-Style Flavor has been going on for over 2000 years, and here you come along and act like you invented it. As a fifth-generation Italian-American, I take the deepest offense at this thoughtless, insensitive product packaging. If I do not receive a prompt reply, I will be forced to switch my loyalty to Hungry-Man. They're not as healthy as your frozen dinners, but at least they respect Italians. And you'll be getting a call from my uncle.
That's a promise, not a threat, John Spinelli-Hargrave
I received a typical form response from Nestle, which I'll spare you, telling me to call their 1-800-number. This always cracks me up, that companies set up a team of workers to respond to complaints via e-mail, then have them refer customers to another team to respond via telephone. Well, that wasn't going to work for my website, so I persisted.
Dear Nestle/Stouffers/Lean Cuisine: Thank you for your form letter, but I must insist that you answer my original question, which was regarding your "New! Italian-Style Flavor" claim on your Lean Cuisine french bread pizza. Why are you just now getting around to making your pizzas taste Italian? Was the old flavoring Japanese? And why would you flavor a FRENCH bread pizza with ITALIAN seasoning? It's like freaking Epcot Center in there! As a fifth-generation Italian-American, I am highly offended by this desperate attempt at ethnic marketing. It takes a lot more than a few extra dried spices on your soggy hunks of lifeless bread to capture real Italian-style flavor. It takes hours of simmering, a few good bottles of wine, and a loving Italian grandmother. I expect a proper response this time, or I will paying you a personal visit.
This time I switched around my last name just to see if they were paying attention. Finally: the payoff.
Dear Mr. Spinelli-Hargrave, Thank you for contacting Nestlé on the Internet. We welcome questions and comments from our consumers. Upon receiving your e-mail, we attempted to contact you by telephone to discuss your comments regarding the statement, "New! Italian-Style Flavor," which appears on our LEAN CUISINE Pizza package. Please be assured, when we added the statement to our package, we did not intend to insult anyone. The statement was added to the package because we increased the spice profile of the product, which enhanced the flavor of our sauce. I sincerely apologize that we offended you and have reported your comments about the statement being insensitive to the appropriate personnel within the company for their review. Once again, thank you for bringing your concern to our attention. In addition to reporting your comments, I have sent via regular mail a letter with several full-value coupons to encourage you to give our products another try. I trust that these actions express our desire to respond to your concerns and I hope that we may serve you as a satisfied consumer in the future. If you would like to discuss this situation further, please do not hesitate to contact me, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Eastern Time.
Sincerely, Dawn Schneike Consumer Response Representative
A few ZUG readers expressed disbelief that I would actually receive the coupons in the mail. Well, lookee here, suckahs: I now have enough free Lean Cuisine coupons to last me through a small famine.
In my seven years of doing prank e-mail, I have never seen such a thorough response to my silly requests. I hereby proclaim Nestle's to have the best customer service of any consumer goods company in America.
Apparently there is such a thing as a free lunch. You just have to pose as a deranged Italian mobster in order to get it.