By Hannah Berman

Cooking is not my thing during hot and humid summer days. For this reason, when I was expecting a few friends for a light lunch last week, I chose to buy some soup. It was one of many mistakes!

But one is never too old to learn new lessons. The most recent lesson I have learned is that, when buying a few of one item for the first time, it is wise to open them one at a time. The item in question here is soup, specifically mushroom-and-barley soup. The soup I bought comes in a container with a clear plastic seal under the cover and over the top of the soup, which makes it spill-proof. Unfortunately, it also makes it impossible to see what the soup really consists of.

My first mistake was not buying the soup in the kosher supermarket where I routinely shop. But I had run into another store for a quart of milk, and when I spotted a section with a sign above the shelves that read KOSHER, I walked over to see what they were offering. Foolishly, I bought soup. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the price was three dollars more than what the kosher store charges for the same item! Only later did I discover this aggravating piece of information, and then I told myself that this was my penalty for shopping in a non-kosher supermarket.

Mistake number two was that, once I got home, in an attempt to save time later on, I removed the plastic seals of all three containers of soup without checking to see what was inside one of them first. Only later, as I was pouring the soup into a pot for reheating, did I see that it was very watery. I prefer a thick, hearty soup, especially if I am paying for it. There was more liquid than anything else in those containers, and when I routed around in it with a spoon, hoping to find barley or mushrooms at the bottom, I discovered that there wasn’t a single piece of barley anywhere. And, there were only three very small slices of mushrooms. This was true of each of the three containers. The solids in that soup were a few pieces of diced carrots and celery floating around in the liquid. That was all. In short, I had paid almost $24 for nothing. It was a tale of three Zs — zero, zippo, and zilch!

My disappointment was palpable. I wouldn’t serve that to anyone, much less to friends. The only option for me was to check the label on the container and locate the phone number of the company that put out the so-called soup. The customer-service phone number was prominently displayed and, to my surprise, it was large enough to read. Since this is so often not the case, I assumed that someone would be taking my call. Wrong again, Hannah! My first mistake was to buy the soup. My second mistake was to open all three containers at once.

But my third, and by far biggest, mistake was to assume that I could get some satisfaction from my phone call. When I called that number, I heard the following recorded message: You have reached our 24-hour hotline; please leave a message and your call will be returned. Maybe somebody else got the return call because I never did. And, I had called that number no less than five times and listened to that worthless message on each occasion. To say that I am angry is a major understatement. And when I am angry, I complain!

Since a lawsuit is decidedly unappealing to me, I am declining to mention the name of the company, but hopefully it is safe to give the following hints. The company name is two words; the first word is suggestive of a vast piece of empty, fertile land, and the second word implies a place where one might plant flowers or grow vegetables. At this point it is doubtful that I will ever get the callback that I had hoped for, but if I ever do get to speak to anyone from that outfit, I will be sure to give them an earful! My foolish purchase took place several weeks ago but I am still outraged when I think of it.

Taking the containers of soup back to the store was not an option since I had broken the seals that covered the tops of them. And, in any case, the store is not responsible for the meager contents in the containers. The store’s only responsibility is for overpricing the item and that is their prerogative. Based on the pricing alone, it is the last time I will patronize that store. It is also the last time I will buy soup from that company even when I see it in the kosher store and despite the fact that they charge three dollars less.

None of this gets me anywhere. It doesn’t get my money back for me, nor does it assuage my annoyance about having to throw out the soup. The only thing I get is a small sense of satisfaction from doing this somewhat public venting and hoping that shoppers will be savvy enough to determine, by my description, what the actual name of the company is and not buy their soup. There are other choices of soup to purchase in the kosher store. What is surprising, but nevertheless true, is that the price of this soup is less in a kosher supermarket than in a non-kosher one. But that’s exactly the way it is.

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-295-4435.

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