Some days, it’s the small things that get to you

Like snack foods. OK, not something to worry over too much in the scheme of things, like global warming or something.

Still, it’s annoying. Here’s what I’m on about: Frito Lay in Canada (and maybe in other markets too, I wouldn’t know) has discontinued their “Tostitos® Baked! Bite Size Triangles” — white corn tortilla chips that are baked, not fried. They have replaced them (now, I’m not really sure if these existed before, so they may not strictly “replace” the bite size triangles, although as I explain below, they seem to believe that they will fill the void in the market they’ve created) with “Tostitos® Baked! Scoops” — little basket shaped (as in a basket filter for a coffee-maker) thingies that are intended to make it easy to scoop up copious quantities of dip or salsa.

Now, one of the products that Frito Lay also makes is — wait for it — bottled salsa. Evidently the product planning people in marketing got together and said “Synergy! High-five!” or something like that. Scoops vs triangles = more salsa sold.

Except. I don’t want little basket shaped scoops in order to “consume mass quantities” of salsa, as Beldar and Prymaat of The Coneheads fame (played by Dan Akroyd and Jane Curtin on Saturday Night Live) would say.

I like the plain triangles. If I had them with salsa, I could easily get enough on one — OK, sometimes they’d break (the flattish shape not being as structurally sound as the corrugations around the edge of the scoop version’s basket shape — sorry, you can take the boy out of engineering, but you can’t take the engineer out of the boy, to recast an old maxim…) but it wasn’t the end of the world (we’ve got global warming to look forward to for that…) and it was useful in limiting how much salsa one would consume.

So after having bought the triangles quite regularly (though not frequently, as I try not to “consume mass quantities” of anything) as my snack food of choice, I suddenly couldn’t find them in the stores. Just the scoops, which come in a smaller package but seem to sell for a similar price as the triangles did.

Then one day, I happened to run into one of Frito Lay’s “store merchandisers” — a route sales person who goes into the major stores and restocks the company’s display area on the shelves, making sure that the product is properly arranged and the “frontage” is filled in (I used to work, at one point in my career(s), in the IT department at Hostess Frito-Lay Canada, which is what Frito Lay Canada was called at the time — that’s how I know about this stuff, and I can also say that the company is a actually a pretty decent one, but like any company in the consumer product game they’re prone to the occasional marketing strategy misstep… can’t hit ’em all out of the park, right?) — and I took the opportunity to ask him what was up with the Tostitos® Baked! Bite Size Triangles.

He explained that he got asked that question at least three or four times a day since they’d discontinued the triangles in favour of the scoops.

He felt the packaging for the scoops wasn’t as effective either, as it does not have a clear “window” showing the product inside the bag the way the triangles did; people had commented that they weren’t keen on trying them out without seeing what they looked like, their size and so on.

He told me that the company’s marketing department wouldn’t take the route sales peoples’ word for this seriously (big mistake on their part — listen to your route sales force, they’re a lot closer to the customer than you are!) . I told him that I would contact the company and voice my dissatisfaction with the change, to tell them they had effectively lost me as a customer by discontinuing the one product in their line that I bought on a regular basis. There was the occasional bag of chips, but not often enough to count for much.

So I did. I called their Consumer Response Centre (toll free in Canada: 1-800-376-2257, weekdays from 9am to 4:30pm, Central time) and let them know. The very nice woman who took the call sounded like mine was not the first she’d received about the subject.

She asked if I’d tried the scoops, and I told her they didn’t really interest me but thanked her for the suggestion. She told me that she would pass on my comments to the marketing department.

So, there we are, today’s rant. About not much at all really (there’s still that global warming thing to look out for). But some days, it really is the small things that get to you.

Oh, and maybe another day I’ll let you know the Unconventional Wisdom’s take on the whole climate change issue.

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