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A curious snack food aficionado calls the home of Mr. Peanut.

The Full Transcript:

[00:00:00] Phone ringing.

Wailin: [00:00:04] Hi, Nikki?

[00:00:07] Welcome to a bonus episode of Rework. I’m Wailin Wong. Today’s episode is about a phone call. Not the one that you heard opening the episode. But, it’s about what happens when you call the 1-800 number on the back of a consumer packaged good. This episode is also about one of my favorite topics: processed cheez snacks.

Nikki: [00:00:32] My name’s Nikki Sylianteng, and I am a product designer. So, I grew up in the Philippines. My mom’s a huge snacker and Cheez Curls is her favorite. So, that was like, my snack growing up.

Wailin: [00:00:45] How would you describe the taste of Cheez Curls as you remember it from your childhood?

Nikki: [00:00:52] It was a thick cheez. And very dense. And my goal would be to get as much cheez as I could on my fingers and then just start scraping them off with my teeth.

Wailin: [00:01:06] How did Cheez Curls compare to other processed cheez snacks for you? I mean, was your heart kind of like… did it just belong to Cheez Curls or did you try other processed cheez snacks, and enjoy them.

Nikki: [00:01:20] Yeah. I don’t think I eat any other cheez snack, except maybe Doritos. But I know a lot of… what was popular in the states, I know, is Cheetos. And I hate Cheetos.

Wailin: [00:01:31] [Gasps]. You hate Cheetos. What is it about the Cheetos that you dislike so much. Kind of, vis a vis Cheez Curls, your holy grail?

Nikki: [00:01:39] Yeah… So, there’s Cheez Curls, and there’s Cheez Balls, right? That’s another Planters… that’s like the sister… I don’t know, they kind of come together. Cheez Balls are very much like Cheetos, I would say. It’s puffy, and light. Cheez Curls is not like that, it’s like a heavier snack.

Wailin: [00:01:57] Right, they’re like, crunchier, right?

Nikki: [00:02:00] Yes. Crunchier. And then—

Wailin: [00:02:03] Have you tried the Cheetos, because there’s two kinds of Cheetos, there’s the puffy kind and then there’s like the thinner crunchier kind that I think is closer to the Cheez Curls texture.

Nikki: [00:02:10] Really…

Wailin: [00:02:11] Yeah. Because those are the kinds of Cheetos that I like. I don’t do the puffy ones. Although, oddly enough, I do do Cheez Balls.

Nikki: [00:02:18] What’s it called? What are the… is it called something else.

Wailin: [00:02:22] I think it’s just called… they might be called Cheetos Crunchy? And then the other kinds are called Cheetos Puffs.

Nikki: [00:02:29] Okay, that makes sense.

Wailin: [00:02:30] But yeah, no, I do see what you mean about the puffy because I don’t really like the puffy either. Aside from, like a Cheez Ball, and I don’t know why in spherical form, I’m okay with it, just not in an elongated form.

[00:02:44] Okay. We’ve established that Nikki is a Cheez Curls super fan. In 2006, Planters phased out the Cheez Curls. Then, in 2018, citing popular demand over the last 12 years, it brought them back.

Nikki: [00:03:00] So, I was super excited to find out that it came back. And then, I knew I would have a hard time finding it in a regular, just like, a brick and mortar store, so I basically ended up ordering it online on Amazon. I sort of live ate it. I mean, not on video. Livetweeted my excitement, I guess. Or the arrival of the Cheez Curl, but was very disappointed when I finally ate it and it tasted like Cheetos.

Wailin: [00:03:33] The puffy kind..

Nikki: [00:03:33] The puffy kind. And not just that, so we had only covered the cracker or base or whatever we want to call it. But the cheez itself was what was most disappointing. It was basically like a Cheetos cheez which is a… it’s much more like, it’s like, lighter and more powdery and so it doesn’t—when you get on your fingers it’s just more like… it doesn’t stick as much and it doesn’t get sticky.

Wailin: [00:04:04] Did it taste different, too, like, besides the consistency of the cheez.

Nikki: [00:04:07] Yes.

Wailin: [00:04:07] Yeah, it tasted different?

Nikki: [00:04:10] Mm-hmm. It tasted like a Cheeto.

Wailin: [00:04:11] So then, did your heart just sink?

Nikki: [00:04:12] I think I always expect to be disappointed and I’m very skeptical of sequels.

Wailin: [00:04:20] Of all kinds.

Nikki: [00:04:20] So—of all kinds. I’m very much an original. So, I would actually have been surprised if it was as good as I remembered it being.

Wailin: [00:04:34] And then Nikki saw something. On the can was a little box that said, “Visit us at” and then underneath that, it listed a phone number. “1-877-677-3268. Please have package available.”

Nikki: [00:04:52] I have always wondered about who calls that number and what they say and how they actually handle your complaint or your feedback. And it was just a spur of the moment thing.

Phone Recording: [00:05:03] Thank you for calling the Kraft Heinz Company Consumer Center. Your call is very important to us. As part of our commitment to quality, this call may be monitored or recorded. [Music starts to play.]

Planters Rep: [00:05:15] Thank you for calling Kraft Heinz Company. My name is [inaudible], how may I help you.

Nikki: [00:05:19] Hi, yeah. I just had feedback about the Cheez Curls.

Planters Rep: [00:05:22] Okay, how can I help you.

Nikki: [00:05:24] So, my comment is just that—so, I’m really happy that you guys brought it back it but it doesn’t taste like what it used to. It actually tastes like Cheetos, which I don’t like. So, I feel like it used—the cheez used to be denser and saltier, and I feel like now it’s like a little bit more powdery. And kind of more like a light cheez like Cheetos. That’s all.

Planters Rep: [00:05:48] Before it used to not be powdery, like the powdery cheez?

Nikki: [00:05:52] Yeah, I feel like, before it used to be denser and almost like stickier. Like, it would really thicken up on your fingers whereas now it’s kind of a more powdery type of cheez.

Planters Rep: [00:06:02] All righty, so we’re going to record that information, ma’am so they could go and look into your feedback on the product. By any chance would you have the product packaging with you?

Nikki: [00:06:12] Yes.

Planters Rep: [00:06:15] You know the black lines that you scan at the grocery store?

Nikki: [00:06:17] Mm-hmm.

Planters Rep: [00:06:19] That bar code? I need the numbers underneat the black lines.

Nikki: [00:06:21] Oh. 29000023871

Planters Rep: [00:06:29] All-righty, and that’s the 4 ounces, right?

Nikki: [00:06:31] Yes.

Planters Rep: [00:06:32] All-righty, ma’am. I am very sorry that you dislike the taste of the product. I will forward your comments on to our marketing staff so they can be aware of this incident. And also, may I just go ahead and get your first and last name for the—to submit the suggestion for your feedback.

Nikki: [00:06:49] Yeah. It’s Nicole, N-I-C-O-L-E, and then my last name is Sylianteng. S-Y-L-I-A-N-T-E-N-G.

Planters Rep: [00:07:01] All-righty and as a record of the call would you like to provide a phone number?

Nikki: [00:07:04] You need my phone number?

Planters Rep: [00:07:06] As a record of the call.

[00:07:07] [Censored tone]

Planters Rep: [00:07:09] All-righty, ma’am. So I did—went ahead and add you to the, as a record of the call, your phone number. Is there any thing else I can assist you with, today?

Nikki: [00:07:18] No, that’s it. Would—I guess, how do people find out if the company changes something about the product? Like, if they, you know, get the feedback, and then they decide to change something, how do people stay updated. Or is it just, just happens.

Planters Rep: [00:07:38] [crosstalk] Most of the time if they do make a change they will say it to the store personnel, to put it out. And they will go ahead and put it—they should pretty much put it on the labels.

Nikki: [00:07:49] Okay, got it. Okay.

Planters Rep: [00:07:52] Is there anything else I could assist you with today?

Nikki: [00:07:54] No, that’s it. Thank you.

Planters Rep: [00:07:56] All right, thank you for calling ma’am. Have a great rest of your day.

Nikki: [00:07:58] Thanks. Bye.

Wailin: [00:08:00] How do you feel about how that call went?

Nikki: [00:08:02] It was okay. I think—I didn’t get any information. It’s like, it’s just—they just take your feedback and say, we’ll tell the marketing team or the product team. I kind of would have wanted them to get back to me about, like the thinking behind why they brought it back, or how I could follow along and kind of subscribe to if they made any changes, you know.

Wailin: [00:08:32] So, have you heard any follow-up from them? Because they took your information, right? But have you heard anything from them since then?

Nikki: [00:08:37] No, I have not.

Wailin: [00:08:38] Are you expecting to, or no?

Nikki: [00:08:39] No.

Wailin: [00:08:39] I mean, with your experience of calling Planters about the Cheez Curls do you feel like it makes you more inclined or less inclined to pipe up in the future if you ever have feedback for a big consumer brand like this?

Nikki: [00:08:54] I think it makes me more inclined. I think, because, for a long time it was a mystery about what actually happened on those calls. And so now that I know, I think it’d actually be interesting to see how different companies respond.

Wailin: [00:09:06] Oh, interesting. So, even though you felt like they didn’t give you very much, or they weren’t—they didn’t really give you the information you were looking for, that you might still want to try your luck and see if another company is different?

Nikki: [00:09:16] Yeah, I’d be curious. I want to ask you about the time that you called.

Wailin: [00:09:21] Oh yeah, yeah. Freshman year of college, I had a friend who lived down the hall from me in my dorm. And, she once said, whenever you see a 1-800 number on the back of a package, you should always call it because you get free stuff. And I was like, oh! What do you mean? And she said… Well, she said, I was eating a Quaker Chewy Chocolate Chip granola bar—

Nikki: [00:09:46] Oh my God.

Wailin: [00:09:46] —and I decided to call the number on the back of the box and tell Quaker oats that I felt like my granola bar had fewer chocolate chips in it than usual. Which is like, so petty. It’s like, so funny that in college, you just have like, all the time in the world to do goofy things. So she called and complained about her particular package of granola bars and then Quaker sent her free granola bars, or like, a coupon for a free box of granola bars. And she was really pleased with this outcome. So, she said, always call the 1-800 number.

[00:10:22] And then, years later, I had this stick of Secret deodorant and one day, I realized that I had literally been using this stick of deodorant for like, three years. I mean, it was some, like, really strange amount of time where I was like, I don’t think deodorant is supposed to last this long. Is it bad that I’m still using this deodorant? Because it’s like the date—

Nikki: [00:10:46] Expired.

Wailin: [00:10:46] —you know, yeah. It had, like, expired. So I was like, oh, now I’m using expired deodorant. So, I called the 1-800 number and I like, explained—I, of course, over-explained this whole situation. And the woman was like, well, she’s like, there’s nothing that is—you’re not going to hurt yourself by using an expired stick of deodorant but the efficacy will have run out, basically. So, we do recommend that, you know, you get a new thing of deodorant because the one you’re currently using probably isn’t doing anything for you. And then she took down my information and I believe I was sent a coupon for like, some amount off of a new stick of deodorant, Secret deodorant. So, I went and bought a new one. But I thought maybe they would be more intrigued by the story of a customer who had somehow managed to make a stick last for this long. But she did not seem that interested in it.

Nikki: [00:11:38] Oh. Interesting.

Wailin: [00:11:40] Yeah, so that’s my story about calling. I think that’s the only time I’ve called the 1-800 number on the back of a package.

Nikki: [00:11:46] Your stories have just made me want to keep calling the 1-800 numbers now.

Wailin: [00:11:51] You should start a podcast where you just—

Nikki: [00:11:53] Because I have not gotten anything for free yet. I know!

Wailin: [00:11:55] You just call…

Nikki: [00:11:57] All right, well, thank you for having me.

Wailin: [00:11:59] Well, thank you so much taking the time. All right. Have a good one.

Nikki: [00:12:01]Okay, you too.

Wailin: [00:12:01] Okay, bye.