Critical Mass at Waldbaum's

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Critical Mass at Waldbaum's

Me 'n' Marty are what our wives refer to as "boo-boo buddies." When one of us suffers a calamity and Linda is off in Wisconsin at a dog show or Jeanne is tending to her octogenarian parents on a mountaintop in Margaretville, we act as one another's transport, usually to the emergency room in Riverhead.

This morning's event, while not a serious MVA, or the non-surgical removal of a fingertip via band-saw, was fairly serious.

Marty, for reasons best known to himself, went to the Sunset Avenue Waldbaum's today and purchased a "4 count" plastic tray of "store-made, quality assured" blueberry muffins.

The first one went down as expected... but a bite into the second one got the attention of the inside of Marty's mouth and left him with the sense that he'd broken a tooth.

Upon examination of the muffin, he found...

The offender The metallic tip

...a foreign object, metallic in nature, whose prongs were sharp-enough to draw blood.

(It was later determined to be the tip of a device, similar to a pastry tube, which extrudes the moist mix into the muffin tin prior to baking.)

Muffin and packaging

Confronted by Marty with a dangerously defec­tive food product in hand, Store Manager Greg Stapleton offered him a replacement package.

"That's won't address your current problem," Marty told him. "What about other customers?"

Muffin package label

"How do I even know you bought it here?" the store manager asked.

(Note "Distributed by Great A&P Tea Company" label.)

Marty took him to the shelves where the iden­tical product was being sold.

Next it was: "We make them right here, so the muffin mix could have come in that way."

At that, Marty threw up his hands and left.

Perhaps Mr. Stapleton felt he'd dodged a bul­let, but he had yet to hear from the big gun.

Ten minutes later Linda had Stapleton on the 'phone... if Marty had been disgruntled, Linda was livid and relentless.

"What am I supposed to do," he asked after she had verbally boxed his ears a bit, "issue a recall? No one else has complained."

They tangled o'er the 'phone awhile longer be­fore Stapleton, desperate to disengage, said:

"I'll contact Pillsbury who makes the mix."

"That's not going to take care of the problem in your store!" she said.

"Let me have your number and I'll call you back."

That was, at this filing, over seven hours ago... nothing!

Marty, to memorialize the event, made a police report which was accepted by Lieutenant Trevor Gonce.

For her part... did we mention her tenacity?... Linda waited a bit and then called corporate Waldbaum's (A&P) in Montvale, New Jersey.

"Spoke to a very nice lady there, who took notes and said someone would call me back this afternoon."

And... and... and?

"Not a word!" she snorted in a very un-ladylike manner! Said several other things that weren't very ladylike, either.

"Look, we did our part and put them on notice," she said. "And there's a police report. Gawd help them if someone is injured in a similar event!"

Suggested reading...

Further critical comments about Waldbaum's Blueberry Muffins are found at Chowhound.


1. The Quiogue Kid said...

WWMSD?......What would Mr. Simonson do?

2. Champ19 said...

Damn, I wondered where that thing went.

3. Linda Dick said...


Stapleton could not tell me how that dangerous metal piece got into the muffin, whether similar pieces could be in other baked items, or how many muffins were sold.

I was the one who suggested that customers be notified so that no one gets injured. I was the one who suggested a recall. He would not.

Yes I was furious. When Marty bit into the muffin and showed it to me, at first I thought someone had slipped in a razor blade. Someone could have been seriously injured.

I would think the responsible thing to do would have been to notify the community so that no one gets injured. That was my request.

We still have not heard back from him, or anyone at corporate headquarters. They obviously could care less about their customers.

Haven't heard much about situations such as this in a long time... in one Summmer in the mid-'50s my Dad got a bottle of Hires Root Beer with a wooden clothes pin in it, and another time a Pepsi with a shoe lace from a sneaker inside but that was pre-A&P... but I agree that the manager's response was inadequate.

4. Hampton West said...

Calling Perry Peyser, Jacobi and Myers, Fitzgerald and Fitzgerald, or simply dial 1-800-law-suit and see who answers.

I truly avoid that store, the place of last resort purchase.

I'm surprised that OtBB regular WST? hasn't chimed in with 39 nasty words about why she does her food-shopping in Riverhead.

5. Jim said...

A friend of mine was just telling me he purchased some foul smelling chicken there... is this place going under?

One never knows, do one! Your friend's story is, sadly, not unique.

It's the only supermarket in Southampton Town West of Hampton Bays, and as Village Zoning Code is currently written, the only one that can be permitted in Westhampton Beach.

6. Hunt Marckwald said...

That store always has been awful and Jim's tale of rancid chicken happened to me as well. The only answer is in Hampton Bays or Riverhead.

Those are temporary and inconvenient solutions... the real solution is in Montvale, New Jersey if their attention could be gotten.

7. Clarity said...

Contact Swindle & Scheister attorneys at law post haste!!!

Great! Everybody's got wise cracks... no one has yet improved on "Flywheel Shyster & Flywheel," though... but few will get off their steatopygian butts and do anything meaningful.
– Dean

8. Linda Dick said...

Why is Waldbaum's "the only supermarket in Southampton Town West of Hampton Bays, and as Village Zoning Code is currently written, the only one that can be permitted in Westhampton Beach?" How does this get changed? As long as "Waldbummer" has a monopoly here, they have no incentive to improve.

Selling foul food is bad enough. Ignoring customer safety takes it to a higher level!

It's a good question, Linda... and it came up inferentially at the Village Board Work Session Wednesday evening.

Various developers have been eyeballing the parcel (zoned B2) on the West side of Old Riverhead Road just South of the LIRR bed, for at least 15 years... including Waldbaum's for a "super-store" back in '96. Even this month, the Mayor has been informally approached about how to get that done.

The thinking seems to be that if a change of zone were undertaken, someone would build a supermarket there, and the location on Sunset Avenue would shortly thereafter go dark. And then you'd have an enormous vista of crayons on kraft paper, not just in the windows of the old National store!

Right now the best move would be a concerted consumer action to boycott that store for your major "food shops," save the register receipts from King Kullen, Stop & Shop, Pathmark, etc., and the next time the suits from Montvale are in Westhampton Beach for one of their in-store promotions, arrive en masse and flap those register receipts in their faces, tell them the gross amount you've spent elsewhere, and let'em know that's going to continue 'til major improvements are made.

That's one strategy, at least.

That said, rumor hath it that a terrific specialty store, Uncle Giuseppe's, is eyeing that Sunset Avenue location. We can but hope!
– Dean

9. Barbara Ramsay said...

Must say I don't miss that store one bit. It was easy to shop at since I lived pretty much across the street. I returned many packages of smelly chicken. I finally stopped buying them there.

Don't feel like the Lone Rangerette!

10. Seeker said...

Traffic on Old Riverhead Road by the LIRR tracks can be pretty dicey – can't imagine what it would be like with a large grocery store up there. It would be more appealing to have a competitor across the way on Sunset Avenue (nothing else seems to be going on there now).

In this economy and with its effect on the other commercial enterprises within the Village, it's understandable why large-scale projects (cf: "the bowling alley") aren't rushing to raze and rebuild.

11. Nutbeem said...

I'm not going to footnote this comment, but I will go out on a limb to suggest that the prevailing wisdom on anchor tenants on main streets is evolving fast. I'm hearing from the planning and urbanism wonks that towns like Westhampton Beach can in fact sustain losing a Waldbaum's downtown. Because few people would drive out of their way from another town – and partly because Waldbaum's has such a bad reputation – it likely isn't attracting much follow-on business for the smaller stores and restaurants on Main Street anyway. So most of its revenue is coming from people who would gladly shop at a Riverhead Road site if the quality was better – and who live in town and therefore still visit Main Street even if they don't shop at Waldbaum's.

Dean, would you consider taking a contrarian position on this and advocating some competition on Riverhead Road? Sure, the Sunset Avenue building would soon be shuttered, but it might be better for the health of downtown in the long run. If it were replaced with smaller units that support shops, cafes, restaurants and the like, maybe the variety and charm of the downtown would eventually be enhanced.

I'm for competition. If Waldbaum's can't master the logistics of fresh chicken (yes, I've had one or two of those, too), then they deserve to be supplanted by someone who can.

P.s. Fruit King forever! Open year round please!


It's axiomatic: "Competition improves the breed," so that's that... but what price... and for how long... that hole on Sunset Avenue?

This one needs to be brain-stormed by professional planners.

Meanwhile, the Farmers' Market is nice, but the Chamber of Commerce needs to re-focus its objectives and try to bring some new business to the area! (Before opening up another book store or bakery!)

12. Beth Flanagan said...

Stop & Shop.


Love the one, no track record with the other.

13. FirstHampton said...

"Right now the best move would be a concerted consumer action to boycott that store for your major 'food shops...'"
And they will care! In one week the Summer crowd is back out here. Compared to the cockroach-infested Manhattan markets, Waldbaum's is a palace.

Ask the citifolk their opinion, and they will tell you that Waldbaum's is wonderful.

I would think that most of Waldbaum's income is from the Summer. Why would they care what the locals think or do?

I for one would rather see crayons and kraft paper!
We differ... but then we often do.

I offered the outline of a strategy, is all... reject it, build on it, or come up with one of your own.

If I am successful in next month's election, I'll attack (note emphasis!) the problem in a meaningful way, and it won't be any temporary smoke such as the Empress of Oneck blew at everyone two years ago.

(Disclosure: The writer [me] is challenging for a Trustee seat in the Village Board in June.)

– Dean

14. Tugboat Bertha said...

After seeing the photo of the blueberry muffins in the blog this morning my appetite was whetted – not for the foreign object your friend bit into but for blueberry muffins. There was nothing to do but bake some myself.

As the day progressed I noticed that the Waldbaum's topic stimulated a good conversation on the blog. Most shoppers agree that the Westhampton Beach store needs to clean up its act. But some suggested the downtown business area will thrive without a grocery store. It is that kind of thinking that caused the downfall of Bayshore's Main Street and then Patchogue's Main Street, and then Riverhead's.

Also to be considered is the problem of gas prices. Driving out of town for groceries is already prohibitive as well as time-consuming. We need and deserve to have a grocery store in the heart of the Village that serves us well and monitors the quality of its merchandise. That's not asking too much.

I trust you and believe that when you are elected you will indeed attack the Waldbaum's problem in a meaningful way. That's why you've got my vote.

Thank you, ma'am. Won't let you down.

15. Jeanne Speir said...

And here I make arrangements to travel into Manhattan for Zabar's and Fairway.

This is a "tony" (apologies to Dean) village. It even used to have a nice Gristede's. What are we, chopped chicken liver we can't have an upscale supermarket?

You don't need the box store for Stop & Shop if you have

As much as I generally like S&S, all we have out here are duplicate supermarkets with incestuous relationships. (Not to mention the price fixing.)

I never got a huge chunk of pointed metal in my childhood Jane Parker Fruitcake, back in the day... jus' sayin'.

"Tony," indeed! I may hurl! Yes, dear.
– Dean

16. FirstHampton said...

Tugboat Bertha says "you've got my vote." And mine too!

By the way when do you start campaigning. I would think that your opponents and their friends are already out there spreading more lies and garbage about you.

I figure we are all due for another lie-filled anonymous letter. If they try that stunt again, I am going to go to Waldbaum's and buy them blueberry muffins.smiley

Yeah, they may do that, but I think enough people knew it was garbage, but more importantly, anyone who saw that anonymous letter, saw that no one had guts enough to sign it.

17. RedheadMom said...

I tried this winter and it was terrific. The deli was super fresh, the service was great, and the delivery was on time.

For anyone interested I just received a flyer with some discount codes: "PFC4" - $15 off 1st order; "RPFREE" - Free shipping.

Nice to know... thanks for sharing.

18. Who Said That?! said...

Sorry for my tardiness, was out for the evening.


Yes, there's that... guess I shouldn't ask how the date went, huh?
– Dean

19. The Quiogue Kid said...

Contact the law firm of Dewey, Cheatum & Howe for a succe$$ful lawsuit.

You Stooge!

20. Tugboat Bertha said...

Mrs. Speir is right; we used to have Gristede's. And many years before that we had Weixelbaum's, Bohack's, Howard Firth's and Gelston Walters' -- all of them grocery stores and all of them made deliveries. Gloria Seeley's father delivered his goods with a horse and wagon.

During WWII when no one had gasoline or tires to travel elsewhere, we shopped in the Village and were grateful for the Main Street stores. All the grocery stores delivered to your door. There were two pharmacies on Main Street and they delivered as well. But when one was able, walking to the grocery store was a social event.

Maybe is the wave of the future but it will never be as much fun as shopping locally and meeting up with all your friends.

Perhaps not, but it is the natural progression of calling in your order with Buddy Mainzer at Weixelbaum's before you left the City, and finding it on your kitchen table when you arrived. ( won't put your perishables in the ice box, however.)

21. Who Said That?! said...

I stopped using Peapod because they deliver in those wretched plastic bags that always seem to end up caught in the limbs of tall trees... not green!

To "borrow" from Gordon Gecko, "Green is good!" But thanks for the caution.

What I'm not getting is how do those "wretched plastic bags" get into the trees? Do they come apart on the porch in the slightest breeze before you can get them inside, or are they not secured properly when they are disposed of?
– Dean

22. Tugboat Bertha said...

It's the garbage trucks, Dean, the garbage trucks. They pick up trash and dump it into their trucks and whatever falls out stays on the street until the wind blows it into the trees. It's a far far better thing to take one's own garbage to the dump.

Thank you, Sydney Carlton... always having taken our refuse to the dump transfer station, I wouldn't know about such things. We are illuminated.

23. Pam Beccaria said...

I have read all your comments and agree with everyone totally (except the "Cheatum" writer).

Your Comment is so articulate, level-headed and focussed that I'm making the bulk of it an OtBB entry.

In re the "Cheatum" comment: that's just The Quiogue Kid ringing in an old Three Stooges movie reference. We, and others like Hampton West, do that from time-to-time.
– Dean

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