In search of chocolate and reasonable customer service

The thing about avoiding gluten is that it isn’t always obvious where the gluten is hiding. I do web searches, but often there’s no clear indication about the product I’m searching, or there’s something clear but it’s 5 years old. Sometimes a product is well labeled, but often it isn’t. And that brings me to my two-day search for chocolate chips.

A different cake made by my aunt

A different cake made by my aunt

Chocolate itself usually doesn’t have any gluten-containing ingredients (though there are exceptions.) However, flour is often used on conveyor belts to prevent sticking, and that means that the chocolate isn’t actually gluten-free. If the chocolate package isn’t labeled, then, how do you know? The answer is that you call the company.

I decided not to have a birthday cake this year. Just having a party will be exhausting enough and I didn’t want to have to worry about stopping at the gluten-free bakery that day. I didn’t mind. Well, not too much. Then my aunt offered to bake me a cake! She’s always been so considerate of my food restrictions, and she’s one of the few who I trust to cook or bake for me.

The other day, with my party fast approaching, she emailed me a list of ingredients. She said she wanted to use Ghirardelli chocolate chips. Yum! I could find the info on the web site, so I called the company 6 times and each time I heard the same message about how no one was available and I should leave a voicemail and it would be returned. I left a message, but it was never returned. Not helpful.

With Ghirardelli not an option, my aunt suggested Callebaut. Again, the information I needed wasn’t on the web site. The first time I called, I got a message about how no one was available, etc. I didn’t leave a message. When I called later, I got a human being – success! Or so I thought. She needed a product number. When I said I didn’t have one, she said she couldn’t help me because they have multiple products. I asked her to tell me which of their chocolate chips are gluten-free, even if it’s more than one, and she said she couldn’t do that. Well, I’m not about to spend hours standing in a store aisle calling customer service numbers where I may or may not reach someone and reading off product numbers! That’s a #customerservicefail if I ever heard one!

Finally, my aunt said she could use Nestle, though it wasn’t her first choice. Maybe it wasn’t her first choice, but it sure was my favorite! I didn’t even check the web site this time. When I called I got a human right away. She didn’t transfer me. She apologized for making me wait about a minute while she pulled up the information. Then she read through multiple items and told me not only that they didn’t have any gluten ingredients, but that the equipment did not process wheat products. That was it. Simple. Straightforward. Easy. The way customer service should be.

I get that gluten-free folks, those of us with an actual medical condition and not just the ones doing a fad diet, might not be the most powerful demographic for companies to reach out to, but they still should. If they ignored every small group, they wouldn’t have many customers left. And really, it’s the right thing to do. Anyone should be able to find out if a product contains allergens. I understand that having a product number might be more convenient for them, but it’s just not realistic for customers. And it’s not necessary. If Nestle can be so helpful without a product number, then should the other companies have that same capability?

So it looks like I’ll get my birthday cake, and it won’t make me sick. Too bad it was so hard to get the information I needed to begin with!

11 Responses to In search of chocolate and reasonable customer service

  1. Hurray for Nestle. And it sounds like their customer service is actually in this country. Enjoy your birthday!

  2. Hope says:

    It can be really frustrating to deal with food allergies/sensitivities. I have a bunch of food sensitivities, and it’s always difficult to go food shopping. I’ve basically narrowed it down to a few specific products I know are safe for me and eat them over and over. It gets boring, but at least I don’t accidentally eat things that make me sick(er).

    • chronicrants says:

      I do the same thing, Hope, and then I get nervous about trying anything new. I can handle the boring-ness, but I worry about having enough variety of nutrients in my diet. I have sensitivities to so many vegetables, that even trying new veggies makes me nervous.

      • Hope says:

        Yeah, I have problems with a number of vegetables too. People seem to think it’s impossible to have an allergy or intolerance to vegetables, so they think I’m making it up when I say it. I just found out the really uncomfortable way that kale and I no longer get along. Also, fiber in general is a problem for me, which means I have to really limit even the veggies I can eat.

      • chronicrants says:

        I generally point out that if they believe in allergies to nuts and shellfish, why not vegetables? What makes veggies so different? Sometimes that helps. I don’t do well with kale either. Or broccoli, which I really loved.

  3. Lorna says:

    Well done Nestle for your customer service. It would be good if all customer services were like them.
    Enjoy the cake and your party. Hope you have a lovely birthday.

  4. Julie Ryan says:

    It seems we are all on this customer service kick lately. It’s been at the top of my thoughts (and posts) too. As for chocolate chips, I highly recommend (and enjoy) Enjoy Life. They are allergy free of most major allergens and yummy.

  5. I also am gluten-free and have no problem eating Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate chips. If I eat the semi-sweet Guiradelli chips I become extremely sick — not just head and stomachache but total body aches — like the flu!! Nothing else affects me so severely! I have no idea why! I found your site because I was trying to find out if others are affected this way.

    • chronicrants says:

      That’s horrible! Chocolate is really tricky because of the way it’s prepared, so you always have to check with the company to find out if it’s gluten-free or not. Personally, I also react to caffeine, so I limit my chocolate for that reason, but I do have small amounts of gluten-free chocolate. You might want to check out this list, and always call the company if there’s any question at all about it’s purity:
      Good luck!

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