Monday, February 14, 2011

As if Valentine's Day Doesn't Suck Enough

I've been eyeing Lagusta's Luscious Bluestocking BonBons for a loooong time.  And by "eyeing" I mean that I have painstakingly studied the offerings to the extent that I have long kept a detailed post-it on my desk at work with all of the flavors that VM and I should try.  Guilt assuaged by the fact that the "chocolate care" section of the site distinctly points out that, "...chocolates store beautifully in the freezer, so if you're thinking of buying a few, why not buy a few more?", a hefty order was placed.

In record time, a huge USPS box was at my door, bringing with it the immistakable smell of deliciousness.  Unfortunately, when I was recycling the mailing box I was disappointed to see that the actual shipping cost was a fraction- about 25%- of what I had been charged.  Considering that if you live in the vicinity, Lagusta offers free delivery, such a mark-up comes across as a penalty to those who don't.  While it is my choice to spend a lot of money on product, I tend to feel taken advantage of when there is an absurd profit made on shipping. [Update, 2/15/11: Lagusta has been kind enough to credit my account in the amount of the shipping over-charge.]

The first box VM and I opened contained the Valentine's chocolates of the month.  According to the website, the "The sweet simple heart shape is filled with rosewater (dairy-free) cream, punctuated with a high note of pomegranate."  I enjoyed it at first bite, but then extreme floweriness took over.  I personally like rosewater, but this contained entirely too much for my taste; VM agreed.  The anatomical heart was described as "solid chocolate made with 66% dark chocolate, packed with lightly crushed cacao nibs, locally-roasted coffee beans, black salt enriched with volcanic minerals, and crunchy bits of bright dried cherries."  This flavor started out fantastic: chocolate, crunch, mocha...and then the salt hit me.  Hard.  Before I could say anything, VM, lover of all combinations of chocolate and salt, said between chews, "Very salty, no?"  The saltiness continued to overpower our tastebuds long after we'd swallowed.  They were so overwhelmingly salty that I actually suggested that they might have caused our blood pressure to elevate.   

I was disappointed, but undeterred and anxious to dig into the big assortment.  I felt that it was possible that the Valentine's selections were simply too highbrow for me, as I am admittedly a fan of traditional flavors.  For this reason, I was very specific about the flavors that I wanted in my big assortment, and even sent an additional message in order to confirm my request.  The prompt response stated that they would "try to put as many of those in the box as we can!", which I took to mean that there would be as much quantity of my selection squeezed into the box as possible.  However, when we opened the box my glee at finding a handwritten flavor key quickly disappated at the realization that it contained less than half of the varieties I had requested.

Certain that the error could be rectified, I immediately returned the box- untouched- to the fridge and contacted Lagusta.  She responded with apologies that they do not guarantee that you will receive exactly the assortment you request, suggesting that her intial response did not refer to the quantity of my selection, but rather to the fact that they would try to comply with as many of the requested varieties as possible.  She closed her response with encouragement to try the chocolates I'd received, most of which either don't appeal to me or are repeats of the flavors in the previous box.  As someone who doesn't make a habit of spending $100 on chocolate (and shipping), this was not the solution I was looking for, nor expected from a small, independent business.  If I'd wanted to order a generic box of whatever was on hand, I wouldn't have been so specific.

Make no mistake, I was so excited at the prospect of trying Lagusta's chocolates that as soon as I'd placed the order I began writing what I assumed would wind up a completely complimentary post about an admirable, vegan owned and operated company.  But, while I am undoubtedly impressed by Lagusta's commitment to quality, vegan confections (one need only check out the what they're made of section of her website in order to be), there is something equally important to be said for an interest in customer satisfaction, which, I am disappointed to say, is severely lacking in this case. 

In our collective disgust, neither VM nor I have yet to taste any of the selections in the big assortment, nor do we have any inclination to do so.  Quite frankly, for the purposes of this post it doesn't much matter, as they've already left a bad taste in our mouths.


  1. Hello Abby,

    I'll post here the email I sent to you earlier. As well, if you're not a fan of salty chocolates, perhaps you should not order them?

    Again, so sorry you were dissatisfied.

    Hello Abby!

    Oh dear! I'm so sorry for the communication failure! Well, here's the situation--as stated on the site, we can't unfortunately allow people to select exactly what goes in the box--for that reason, it's a better deal than buying that same amount of chocolate separately. As I said in my email back to you, we always try to accommodate requests for special chocolates when people make them for the Big Assortments, so we'd try to put as many of your selections in the box as possible. In your case, we wanted to ship your order out in a timely manner (though I now see that since you weren't going to open them until Valentine's, we could have waited! Alas.), and as it happens, we make pb cups and patties on different days than we make truffles, so we didn't have those on hand--I could have sworn there were some kahlua and coconut rum truffles in your box, I'm so sorry that apparently they didn't make it in! Valentine's is our busiest time of the year, and it seems that though we try to do what we can, in this case we just didn't have your selections on hand. I do encourage you to try the chocolates you did receive, though, and I have a feeling you will like them. :)

    Have a great Valentine's!

  2. Lagusta, as I responded to your numerous remarks on Facebook: I did not expect an expensive chocolate to taste like a mouthful of salt.

    I'll take this opportunity to point out that being sorry I was dissatisfied is completely different than making any attempt to correct the situation. This fail is inherently more disappointing than the order "miscommunication", flavor disappointment, and shipment overcharge.

  3. Well, I am, sorry, but not sorry because we did anything wrong. I'm sorry your palate doesn't line up with mine, I'm sorry you failed to read the website carefully. I'm sorry this happened. But I'm not going to send you a new box when you admit you haven't even tried what was sent. One of the flavors you requested was "chocolate truffles." I see many chocolate truffles in your box. And, in your email you said you didn't receive peppermint patties, but you did. You received four of your seven requests--and I specifically put white chocolate yuzu truffles in the box for you--the very last ones we had--because I know all vegans adore those, and I was excited for you to try them.

    I am sorry this happened. But I did nothing wrong.

  4. Lagusta,

    If you'd privately put as much effort into customer service as you currently are publicly in your defense, we wouldn't be having this problem.

    And, if you want to be particular, I received 3 of my 7 requests:
    Raspberries de pizan- received
    Chocolate coconut pyramids- received
    khalua truffles- NOT received
    coconut rum truffles- NOT received
    Pauline's pb cups- NOT received
    Selma's peppermint patties- received
    chocolate truffles- NOT received

    Since you seem to be in the mood to discuss, perhaps you'd like to broach the subject of the inordinate shipping charge.

  5. Abby! You received no less than 10 truffles! I can see them in the photo. Chipotle, yuzu, and pomegranate!

    The shipping thing, honestly, is a mystery to me. I can tell you that I hate the PayPal shipping system, and that if you had brought that up in your initial email to me I would have really appreciated it. The PayPal system is extremely inefficient and penalizes East Coast orders. I'm working with my web site person on implementing a new system as we speak, actually.

  6. My last comment doesn't appear to have shown up, so, to reiterate:

    -There are 10 truffles in that box--chipotle, pomegranate, and white chocolate yuzu.
    -I wish you'd mentioned the shipping thing in your initial email to me. Here's what I know: PayPal shipping is insanely stupid. It penalizes tri-state customers, and I'm working on implementing a new system.

  7. Lagusta, There are as many chocolates as will fit in the box, they are just not my cup of tea.

    As for Paypal determining the shipping charges, I have no way of knowing how that works. But I would have been willing to write off the loss if I was in chocolate bliss.

    It was never my intention for this to wind up an unpleasant experience.

  8. I'm just pointing out that you stated you didn't get chocolate truffles--you received ten of them.

  9. Yes, Lagusta; technically everything I received was made of chocolate. Thank you for pointing that out.

  10. No wait--honestly, I'm very confused, Abby. Here's the list of what you said you wanted:

    raspberries de pizan
    chocolate coconut pyramids
    khalua truffles [sic]
    coconut rum truffles
    Pauline's pb cups
    Selma's peppermint patties
    chocolate truffles

    I seriously, honestly, truly don't see why you can't see (and won't change the original post to reflect, and why you lied about in your email to me) that you received four of your seven selections. You asked for two specific flavors of truffles that we didn't have at the moment. But you also listed "chocolate truffles" without specifying a flavor--I was happy I had lots on hand, including ones I specifically thought you'd love. So I put ten in. So I'm really confused about why you are unhappy about that.

    And again, we state in several places and I personally emailed you to reiterate that the deal with the Big Assortment box is that we choose the flavors, so that we are able to price the box a bit cheaper. I'm really sorry you neglected to see that both on the website and in my message, but an entire blog post seemingly intent on taking down my business, particularly from someone I considered a pal, is just astonishingly hurtful. So I'm not going to stop responding until you see my points.

    I care intensely about my business. My chocolates aren't for everyone, but I stand by the choices I have made.

  11. Lagusta, you offer a plain chocolate truffle in your boozy box; I did not receive any of those, thus, for the umpteenth time: I rec'd 3 out of my 7 requests.

    Your big assortment page suggests that you take into consideration specific requests. Even after my second message to you reiterating my selections, you never once corrected me to say that you solely select the flavors. Had you simply said, "we cannot accommodate special requests" we would not have had a problem.

    With a clearer head it would be obvious to you both from this post and the tone of all of my emails to you that I respect your intent, even if the outcome isn't necessarily my personal taste preference. What has been unacceptable, however, is the fact that you are argumentative above all else: including a fair resolution.

    In closing, I will include here my final email to you, minus the portion I promised to keep private.

  12. Hi Lagusta,

    I don't know why you feel the need to continue this conversation when you obviously never had an intention to come to a fair resolution, but, I will explain this one more time in an effort to be clear. These were my requests and receipt:
    Raspberries de pizan- received
    Chocolate coconut pyramids- received
    khalua truffles- NOT received
    coconut rum truffles- NOT received
    Pauline's pb cups- NOT received
    Selma's peppermint patties- received
    chocolate truffles (not general, anything chocolate, as you have suggested, but rather the chocolate truffles in your boozy box)- NOT received

    I interpreted your email stating "We'll will [sic] try to put as many of those in the box as we can!" as you would put in the box as many of those shaped chocolates as would fit, perhaps not exactly 28; I was not under the impression that you "would somehow put more chocolates in the box than usually fit"; not only doesn't that make sense, but it is the second insinuation you have made that I was trying to get something for free.

    Your website explains that you take people's requests into consideration, so I would have figured that, as a businesswoman, when you received a second request from me with the specification reiterated, you would have thought to mention any one of the many things that would have prevented you from complying: that you inexplicably choose self-imposed timeliness over request fulfillment, that you make truffles on different days than patties and pb cups (even though I received truffles and patties, but no pb cups), etc.

    Because you read my blog, you claim to have anticipated that your chocolates are not for me. Yet instead of fulfilling my order as requested and putting the onus on me to decide, you felt that you were best equipped to determine which chocolates I would most enjoy. Why does it not make sense to you that the simplest way to have satisfied this customer would have been to fulfill the order appropriately, rather than to have decided for yourself that I'd instead "adore the caramels and the yuzu truffles and the pomegranate truffles, because for some reason those three items are ones every vegan seems to go crazy for". Vegan or not, it's been my experience that people tend to prefer what they've requested.

    And for you to say that I don't know the extent to which you think and care about each and every order, yet you "could have sworn there were some Kahlua and coconut rum truffles" in my box? I hope that you will eventually be able to recognize the incongruity of these statements.

    You seem to feel that congratulations are in order for having responded to my correspondence promptly, albeit not in a way I'm satisfied with. No, I'm not satisfied when your response to my inquiry regarding what I sincerely thought was an error was met with "Valentine's is our busiest time of the year", "...we try to do what we can", and "...try the chocolates you did receive..."

    If you were aware of a problem with Paypal overcharging, you had business to take care of it. I'm sure you would have done so promptly if you found that they were under-charging, would you not? You know what the right thing to do would be; whether you choose to do it is another matter.


  13. I don't know you, Abby, but I do know Lagusta. Having said that, if you want to completely disregard this comment, feel free. Also having said that, I should say that Lagusta doesn't know that I'm commenting here, nor did she ask me to. I have a google alert set up for it and if that makes me a creeper, then so be it. There are so many sucky, awful businesses out there that when I find a business that delivers a stellar product and stellar customer service, I'm going to stand by them and defend them at every opportunity.

    I'm wondering at what point does any of the responsibility fall on the customer? I know, the customer is always right, but people who say that also tend to have limited experience with customer service. When you placed your order, the shipping charges were reflected in PayPal before confirming your purchase. If you thought they were exorbitant, why did you confirm? If you were so concerned about it, why not contact Lagusta and see if there was an alternate form of shipping available? It seems that after you perceived some sort of negative experience, you've decided to nickel-and-dime a small business owner who is responsible for ethically packing and shipping your product with your full awareness of the applicable fees simply because she didn't cave to your every whim and demand. You're pretending that her customer service sucks, but what other business have you ever purchased from that will exchange emails and comments back and forth attempting to find some sort of resolution? Just because you don't like her position doesn't mean she's doing a lousy job.

    As for the "special considerations" on the website, it doesn't provide for a laundry list of do's and don't's. It clearly pertains to people who have specific dietary concerns, such as food allergies and sensitivities. It states, "If there is a particular ingredient you are avoiding, please let us know in the “notes” field of your order and we will take that into consideration when choosing chocolates for your assortment." To me, that hardly suggests that I can pick and choose exactly what I want and expect that my order will be filled in exactly that way. If you wanted only certain types, I'm certain Lagusta would've accommodated your order and charged you accordingly, instead of providing you with the discounted big assortment.

  14. I've ordered from Lagusta dozens of times over the years and have never been dissatisfied with her work. With my choices? Yes. After sampling a particularly salty bonbon, I realized that I'm not cut out for salty chocolate. Same for spicy chocolate. When I order assortments with those types of chocolates, I don't freak out and write nasty things on my blog. I share them with others (who happen to LOVE them - upon recommendations, I tried the anatomical hearts and, yup! Still don't like salty chocolate! Everyone else I know does, though!) and decide to avoid them for my next order by ordering something that DOESN'T contain them. Same with when she was doing her meal delivery service. I was allergic to celery, didn't want too much garlic, onions, beets, fennel, etc. etc. etc. And you know what? As it turned out, I simply wasn't the right type of customer for that product! It doesn't reflect badly on me or her business; it is simply a choice I made to try something, and it wasn't really to my liking. It would be incredibly presumptuous of me to assume that a business owner responsible for delivering a product to many, many customers can stop and adapt to my many requests. If I want that level of service, I should hire my own chef or chocolatier.

    There are plenty of things that Lagusta makes that I hate, and plenty of things that I'm crazy about (the rosewater hearts, for one). It doesn't say anything about her as a business owner. Just different tastes. A person I had been giving bonbons to as gifts finally acknowledged that she knows they're high quality chocolates, but she's more a Hershey's kind of girl. She didn't deride the product or talk about what trash it was. She just acknowledged that it wasn't really her cup of tea.

    Finally, at some point, common sense should really be a factor. When you make a generic request such as "chocolate truffles," you should expect it to be filled generically. *ALL* of the truffles are chocolate truffles. If you wanted something you saw listed in the Boozy Box, and ONLY in the Boozy Box, perhaps you should've ordered that instead. Same goes for your irrational expectation that the order was somehow filled too quickly. If you order CHOCOLATE from a CHOCOLATIER before the VALENTINE'S DAY DEADLINE, you should expect less selection, less communication, and an order that arrives in time for Valentine's Day. Duh. And if you think a business owner should somehow refund or replace something that you "didn't like" (and never even tried!), well, double duh. That's not customer service; that's just creating problems where none really exist.

  15. Thank you for your input, Brittany. I am not surprised that you have had numerous, positive experiences with Lagusta and her products; I was more surprised that mine was as negative as it was, becoming even more so with her irrational responses.

    If you would have read my entire post, you would have seen that I certainly agreed to pay the price quoted for shipping, I was just surprised to find out that it generated the business a $19 profit.

    Further, I didn't expect Lagusta to "cave to my every whim or demand"; I expected that if she wasn't going to be able to fill my order as requested, she should have said so before fulfilling it with whatever she had on hand that particular day.

    As for my email correspondence with Lagusta, it was minimal; her real interest in my dissatisfaction came when the blog post was published and never offered a resolution, only encouragement to eat what she sent.

    Of course I don't expect to like everything I taste, but saying I didn't like something isn't "writing nasty things on my blog", it's stating an opinion. But, again, it's obvious that you didn't read the post in its entirety before commenting.

    And, finally, I didn't expect a replacement of something I didn't like. I expected to receive what I ordered.