Earlier this week food producer Sunfrost recalled packs of its frozen string beans after a piece of a snake was discovered in a packet. It came a couple of weeks after half a dead mouse was found in another packet.
Parent company Tnuva’s CEO apologized and issued a recall, promising compensation to people who returned their already-purchased products.
The dead-animal-in-frozen-food scandal came a few months after the discovery of multiple salmonella samples led Strauss to issue a recall for thousands upon thousands of chocolate bars, cereal bars, cakes and puddings from shelves throughout Israel.
Shortly thereafter, a shocking investigation by the Health Ministry led to the discovery that the Strauss-owned Elite factory where the food was manufactured was in violation of several health guidelines, most notably the age-old guideline that you probably shouldn’t have pigeons flying around in a food manufacturing facility.
The Israeli food sector is not that big and is mostly run by monopolies. Seeing two large food manufacturers forced to issue significant recalls within a few months is a major matter.
It should concern us since sometimes there is a feeling here that companies think they can simply get away with treating consumers poorly. It is like a Facebook post that Liat Lerner posted on Thursday in which she told of how her family flew back to Israel from a vacation in Italy and had purchased seats on her El Al flight with extra legroom. Shortly before the flight, the family was notified that the seats were no longer available since the airline had to switch the plane and the new plane was not furnished with the premium seats.
That is legitimate, right? Airlines have logistical challenges that sometimes require planes to be switched. What was not legitimate was that the airline told the family that they would only receive a refund of 80% of the difference between the regular seats and the extra legroom seats.
This doesn’t make sense, right? The airline canceled the service, the new plane did not have the better seats and the customer only gets refunded 80%? Why not 100%?
There are other examples, too. Amihai Siboni posted on Twitter this week an experience he had with Bezeq in which he had called to cancel his home internet service. The internet plan was under his wife’s name but the credit card and the ID number were his.
The Bezeq customer service agent refused to accommodate Siboni’s request. First, she demanded to speak to his wife. When she also got on the line, the Bezeq agent started to question her all over again trying to convince her not to listen to her husband and to stay with the company.
Now, think about the cost of hotels in this country. Want to go away with your family for a couple of nights? Get ready to pay a fortune. It is hard to believe, but some families have shown how it’s cheaper to fly to Greece or Turkey and stay in a five-star hotel with three meals a day, than it is to go to Eilat and stay at a lower-grade hotel without any meals included.
There is little doubt that everyone reading this has her or his own nightmare experiences with Israeli customer service. But it doesn’t have to be this way. People can be treated nicely, Israeli customer service can be respectful and the customer can sometimes walk away happy without feeling like they had to go to war.
These are small things that make a difference in peoples’ lives. They might not seem as important as trying to stop Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon but they do matter in our everyday lives.
This is something for the politicians who are running now for public office to think about. Israelis pay more than people in other countries, and are getting less. At the same time, we are treated poorly by companies that oftentimes have monopolies on specific industries and there is little that we can do about it.
These are issues that must change and improve for the average citizen, for the government and for the companies that think they can keep getting away with it.