Last year, a company that advertised a Passover-friendly counter lining became a household name — but for the wrong reason.
Traditional Jewish law demands that homes be cleaned rigorously for Passover, and that surfaces used for cooking or bearing hot food be made kosher — which can be achieved for some countertops by scalding them with boiling water. Another method of making surfaces fit for Passover is, arguably, easier: covering them completely with material such as plastic or aluminum foil.
So Kosher Dekal, a company based in New Jersey, thought they had a winning product with temporary counter linings they began selling last year, designed to quickly and easily make a surface kosher for Passover with its sleek silver, black, gold and gray faux-marble coverings. But while the peel-and-stick design may have been easy to put on, customers were dismayed that the linings were hardly easy-off.
Company issued refunds following backlash
Last year, Kosher Dekal was promoted by Orthodox Jewish influencers and advertised itself as an “elegant and easy solution” for covering countertops during the holiday. But after Passover ended last year, dozens of customers left comments on the company’s Instagram page complaining about the sticky residue left by the product. The criticism of the company began circulating on the messaging platform WhatsApp.
In the aftermath, the company, citing a “mistake from a production line worker,” owned up to its gaffe and offered $140,000 in refunds to thousands of customers who were charged from $32 to $37 per roll. Then, with the refunds in hand and Passover firmly in the rearview mirror, things fell quiet.
That is, until earlier this month, when Kosher Dekal sent out a press release announcing its return, calling its product “new & improved.”
“After Pesach, the founders were determined to rework the formula and perfect the product,” the press release said. “The Dekal founders searched the globe to find a trustworthy factory.”
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In a phone call with the New York Jewish Week, Davidi Crombie, who co-owns the company with his brother, Shraga, said that this year, Kosher Dekal partnered with Continental Manufacturing in Germany to make this year’s product. (Last year’s version was made in China.)
“We searched for a factory that specialized in that kind of product, that has this trustworthy history,” Crombie said. “We had sent people there to visit. They’ll deliver and it won’t be like last time.”
“We searched for a factory that specialized in that kind of product, that has this trustworthy history. We had sent people there to visit. They’ll deliver and it won’t be like last time.”Davidi Crombie
Crombie believes that this year is a course correction for Kosher Dekal, “if not financially, at least morally.”
“The need for the product was always there,” Crombie said. “We just screwed up on our first chance. There is no second chance to make a first impression, but we are working from the ground up to correct the experience for ourselves and for our customers.”
He added that the most important change the company has made is to the glue that sticks to the counter. “The glue is what it’s all about,” Crombie said. “The glue is our secret formula. I am not an engineer to be able to describe it. We’ve also added new designs and different sizes.”
Crombie added that the company bought three years of advance product from the factory in China which all had to be tossed, though he declined to say how much that cost or how many rolls of material that included.
“Last year, my brother and I were sitting during Pesach, we were literally shivering,” Crombie said. “We were sitting on our computers. We were destroyed. This was the end. We couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Some people, at least, are giving Kosher Dekal a second chance. One such customer is Chanie Apfelbaum, who runs the popular Orthodox Instagram account “Busy In Brooklyn,” which has nearly 100,000 followers.
Apfelbaum told the New York Jewish Week that she tested this year’s product on three different surfaces at her house, leaving it on her countertops for 10 days and placing hot dishes on the coverings. “As an influencer, I was on the hook last year because I promoted it,” Apfelbaum said. “I definitely want to do my due diligence and make sure it’s all good.”
She posted an Instagram story on Monday in which she removed the new lining and said it was “smooth as a baby’s bottom.”
“There is no sticking, nothing,” Apfelbaum said on Instagram. “I’m impressed. There’s nothing on my counter whatsoever.”And yet, Apfelbaum did not give the product her “official” Busy in Brooklyn stamp of approval because she has “PTSD from last year,” she said.“Although I did want to give them a chance, and try it, and show you for myself that it does seem to be new and improved, and be completely non-stick,” she said. “I can see a difference. If you had a bad experience and you’re scared, I get it. But it seems to be really great.”
Apfelbaum told the New York Jewish Week that she gives the company credit for “owning up to what they did.”
“They refunded and apologized,” Apfelbaum said. “They could have just shut down, but they went back at it.”
Crombie said that he is expecting at least a 50% return rate, but won’t know for certain until next week — the days leading up to Passover is Kosher Dekal’s busiest time for sales. He added that the company is getting hundreds of returning customers — and that not everyone was displeased the first time around. In an email exchange that Crombie shared with the New York Jewish Week, one customer wrote that “contrary to all the bad publicity you received last year, I was very happy with my kosher Dekal last season, and am looking forward to using the new and improved product this year.”
In another email, a customer wrote that she had difficulties removing Kosher Dekal, but “did not feel right in asking for a refund” and used baking soda and water to remove the residue.
Some customers, however, still felt trepidation over last year’s product. “Some parts of my counter are still sticky today,” one customer wrote in an email to Kosher Dekal.
“It is exactly what I’m looking for but it was a nightmare last year,” another wrote. “The residue was impossible to remove. I still find sticky spots in my counters a year later.”
Crombie understands the hesitation.
“There are a lot of people, we understand, who would never buy it again,” he said. “But the people who do buy it, the people who tested it, are very happy about it. Thank God, the outcome is heartwarming.”
He added that Kosher Dekal has been giving discounts and free orders to many returning customers who have reached out. Dozens of customers, he claimed, sent their refunds back.
“We are excited because we know and are certain that this product is indeed the right formula,” he said. “I have it in my house, on glass, on wood, on the cabinet, I put it everywhere.”