IN BAD TASTE: Many complain about festive hampers which contain expired foodstuff
DURING the festive season, it is always nice to receive gifts but the next time you open the beautifully wrapped hamper, you may want to check the expiry dates of the items in it.
Streets recently received complaints from a number of individuals who received expired or almost expired foodstuff and other items in their Hari Raya gift hampers.
A man in his 30s, who unwittingly bit into a piece of chocolate which arrived in a hamper, said he was shocked when he saw the date of expiry printed on the box.
"I didn't want to make a fuss as the hamper had been sent by a business associate and I'm sure it was not packed by his staff. But I think it would be good if stores refrain from packing their hampers too early.
"To be on the safe side, I think we should always check the expiry dates of the goods regardless of whether we are shopping for ourselves or when we are sending out gifts," he said, adding that he had come across expired goods on shelves of stores and even bought them by accident.
"Stores could come up with a policy that each hamper must be packed under the buyer's watch. If they are worried about being flooded with too many orders, maybe customers can book a slot a week or two before the date of delivery," he added.
Another complainant was also worried that some gift shops could be taking advantage of the festive rush to get rid of expired or almost expired goods.
"They capitalise on the situation as most of the time recipients will not complain to the senders for fear of embarrassing the senders.
"The senders are therefore not aware that the hampers they ordered contained expired products and will not complain to the shop. It becomes a vicious cycle."
The complainant was also worried that such hampers would find their way into charity homes and orphanages.
One woman, who only wanted to be known as Ong, said she got an expired bag of pasta in a hamper that was sent to her office recently.
"This is unacceptable.
"I can understand human error when you buy an expired item off the shelves at a shop or supermarket but sending a hamper with expired goods is plain cheapskate. I don't know what's the point of sending a hamper like this.
"What goodwill is the sender trying to create?" she asked, noting that a number of the hampers that was sent by clients to her office had items which were almost expired.
"And they were bought from reputable companies, too," she added.
A call to a hamper and gift company revealed that they took the public's complaints on expired goods in their packages seriously.
The worker who took our call asked for the reference number of the item in question. He said the company would pick up the expired goods and deliver a replacement free of charge to any location within the Klang Valley.
Expired goods can also be returned to the company within two months from the date of delivery.
"We give a two-month window because we want those receiving the hampers to open their items within this time frame.
"If possible, the hamper should be opened immediately after delivery," she said, adding that recipients with expired foodstuff will be compensated with five times the number or amount of the expired item.
The worker also said customers who had purchased goods which would expire within 30 days or less could return the goods, and get a replacement within a day.
She also said recipients who felt shy to return the products to the sender had no reason to fear.
"They just have to call to check the reference number to replace the product and the sender doesn't have to know," she added.
A spokesman from Giant hypermarket said the hypermarket which got most of its hampers through suppliers said it blacklisted middlemen who faced more than one complaint of stocking expired goods in the hampers it had commissioned.
"We make them compensate the customer.
"If we find that the supplier repeatedly does this, we will terminate his services and put him on a blacklist, freezing future dealings," he said, adding that the hypermarket did not receive many complaints and that there were no such complaints last year.
He also said that Giant had a flexible return policy.
The expired products can be returned up to six months from the date the hamper is purchased, provided a receipt is produced.
He also said that the customised hamper packing service Giant offered would help minimise such human errors.
"They can chose their items and if the number of products are small, with only a few hampers, we can do it on the spot," he said.
Another hypermarket said it would replace expired goods in any of its hampers within seven days of purchase if the customer brings a receipt.