Sunday, March 4, 2012

Bad food? It pays to complain

Aisle of a Costco Wholesale warehouse in South...
Costco Wholesale has one of the best return policies around.

Editor's note: Today, I discuss complaints about spoiled store-bought food, and three new menu items at a Korean tofu restaurant.


Earthbound Farm's Organic Spring Mix is one of the most delicious ready-to-use salads you can find, but occasionally, some of the delicate leaves rot before the expiration date.

When I've sent e-mails to the company, the response has always been quick and I've also received coupons or a Costco Wholesale gift card for more than the cost of the spring mix. 

Of course, Costco's return policy is one of the best around and you don't even need a receipt.

On Saturday, I received three full refunds: 

$13.99 for unopened cans of Kirkland Signature Solid Albacore Tuna, $4.29 for Galil-brand Roasted Chestnuts and $9.99 for two jars of Kirkland Signature Natural Peanut Butter.

Solid albacore tuna has much more mercury than the light tuna I asked my wife to buy. The organic chestnuts turned slimy and moldy in the refrigerator, and I dumped them in the garbage. My wife and son didn't like the peanut butter, because the oil separates out of it.

I e-mailed Cargill Meat Solutions about oxtails I purchased at Costco, complaining there was so much fat and bone, a package of more than 4 pounds barely served three people.

The meat processor said it would send me a full refund of $18.68.

I also e-mailed Trident Seafoods of Seattle, Wash., about finding mold in a can of Bear & Wolf-brand wild Alaskan pink salmon. I will be getting a coupon good for one of Trident's frozen seafood items at Costco. 


I have had mixed success with complaints to Groupon and Travelzoo, online publishers of restaurant and other deals.

When we used an $18 Groupon to buy a $36 meal at Gammeeok, a Korean restaurant in Palisades Park, we were charged $3.74 extra for two small bowls of rice, a staple that is usually served free with every Korean meal.

Groupon responded to my e-mail by giving me a full $18 credit toward the purchase of my next voucher.


Our $65 voucher from Travelzoo was supposed to buy a three-course dinner for two valued at up to $130 at Maritime Parc in Jersey City, plus wine, coffee or tea.

But when we were seated in the expensive seafood restaurant, we were given a menu without prices that listed many extra-cost supplements, and poured glasses of wine that were only a third full. Each glass was supposedly valued at up to $12

My wife urged me not to take it out on the waitress by leaving a smaller tip than the recommended 20% or $26 on the full cost of $130.

Travelzoo responded to my e-mail by telling me to take the matter up with the restaurant, which issued the voucher, and offering me a $10 credit toward the purchase of another voucher.

I'm not sure I want to buy another Travelzoo voucher, especially one that seems to exaggerate the value of the deal.

I bought a $159 Travelzoo voucher for a room and another "$130 dinner" for two at the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City, then asked for a refund when the hotel said I would have to pay $5 for parking.

In addition, the menu for the dinner at one of the Borgata's restaurants was valued at less than $35 per person, and no alcohol was included.

Expanded menu

A popular Korean tofu house in Palisades Park has expanded its menu to include a few other classic dishes.

The place-mat menu at So Gong Dong has added stone-bowl bibimbap, but serves the rice-based dish in three varieties (usually topped by a fried or raw egg): beef, vegetable or squid.

Two other new menu items are pan-friend pork slices in a spicy sauce or jaeyook bokeum, and squid barbecue with spicy sauce.

All are $12.99 each, including tax.

We had a great soft-tofu dinner there on Saturday night. My son explained he likes So Gong Dong, because when he asks for the spiciest tofu, he gets it. 

A complete meal of soft-tofu stew, rice and side dishes is $9.99, including tax.

So Gong Dong, 118 Broad Ave., Second Floor, Palisades Park; 201-313-5550. Open seven days. Valet parking available.

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