Around the bend: The squeaky wheel gets the BaNilla
The woman standing next to me in the dairy aisle didn’t share my enthusiasm.
She seemed not to understand she was witnessing one of my greatest personal triumphs.
She did not congratulate me; in fact, she told me not to hug her ever again.
She didn’t care that there, on the bottom shelf next to the butter, lay proof that my voice had been heard.
Stonyfield had listened to me.
Yes, this is a tale of yogurt and the power of free speech, two things I’m in favor of but rarely think about simultaneously. Through my input, I effected meaningful change in the yogurt industry.
I never thought I’d get so worked up about yogurt. As a child, I didn’t eat things like yogurt or granola. We were more of a Jell-O and Fruity Pebbles kind of household.
Even now, I’m hardly a yogurt connoisseur. I only like vanilla — but then, that is the key to this whole saga.
Once, shortly after I started buying Stonyfield low-fat vanilla yogurt, I got home, opened a fresh 32-ounce container and recoiled in horror: The substance inside was not creamy white but nuclear yellow.
At a glance, the label looked the same as usual. But on closer inspection I saw the difference: Instead of “Vanilla,” it said “BaNilla.” Both words were printed in the same color, typeface and size. I had been duped.
Through a quick taste — and the help of the crack marketing team who had come up with the childish yet descriptive name — I deduced the flavor I had actually purchased was banana-vanilla. A check of the ingredient lists confirmed it: The banana-hued tinge was not, as I had suspected, FD&C Yellow No. 2; it was actual pureed banana.
I like bananas. But I don’t like banana puree, especially when someone has snuck it into my vanilla yogurt through deceptive packaging and a silly name. (In my opinion, “VaNana” has more pizzazz.)
I had made a mistake, but I vowed I’d never make it again.
Or would I?
If you’re like me, you shop for groceries the way a steel ball ricochets around a pinball machine. When you’re in a rush it’s easy to grab the wrong item, particularly if it is cleverly disguised as the one you want.
Time after time I came home to find I had once again inadvertently picked up BaNilla. Finally one day, I pulled back the lid, saw the yellow contents and broke down in loud wracking sobs. I couldn’t stand it anymore. It was time to take action.
In my world, “taking action” means (1) identifying the problem, (2) complaining loudly about it to my friends and (3) — well, that’s pretty much it.
But this time I decided to take my complaint to Stonyfield. If I had to, I’d drive to corporate headquarters, force my way past security, storm into the CEO’s office and slam down one container each of Vanilla and BaNilla on his organic mahogany desk.
“Now,” I’d say to him, “can you tell the difference?”
In the end, I skipped the angry confrontation. But I did I fill out a little web feedback form.
Stonyfield responded with a thank-you-for-your-input letter and a few coupons. I figured that was the end of it.
I was wrong.
And that brings us to last week, when I discovered, during a quick grocery run, a newly designed BaNilla yogurt container, its lid prominently decorated with bananas.
Thanks to me.
I squealed. I jumped up and down. I took a picture of the new packaging with my cell phone. And, yes, I bear-hugged an innocent and emotionally distant bystander. Can you blame me?
My husband, Mark, cynical and secretly anti-yogurt, doesn’t give me any credit. He says I was probably not the only person to complain; maybe thousands of other customers had written to Stonyfield to share their BaNilla-induced meltdowns.
So what? Maybe my email was the one that, when added to a stack of similar emails, inspired Stonyfield to make the change.
Whether it was me alone, or me in harmony with many others, is irrelevant. I learned an important life lesson: Raise your voice, because you just might be heard.
And also, don’t hug strangers in the dairy aisle. I wasn’t allowed back into Greg’s Meat Market for a week.
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