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Killing Consumer Confidence

Donna and I are dinosaurs. Since we gave our 1991 Toyota sedan and 1992 Toyota 4x4 pickup truck (both bought new) to our son and prospective daughter-in-law, we recently purchased a 2014 Honda Accord from Nardy Honda in St. James, New York on March 27th, 2014. We were also slated to take delivery of a 2014 Honda Ridgeline Sport vehicle. The Accord sedan purchase went smoothly; the Honda Ridgeline Sport purchase became a nightmare.

The truck had significant scratches in the paint, most likely from someone holding keys against the driver’s side door. Our salesman said that the truck would go to the detail shop to remove the scratches and repaint. No problem. We came back to the dealership in a couple of days, certified check in hand, and the scratches were taken care of perfectly. However, there were paint splatters on the inside driver’s door as well on the fabric. Furthermore, upon closer examination, the passenger side door was misaligned. The misalignment was not there when we initially examined the truck after our test drive. We, of course, refused delivery of the truck. Our salesman, Dale Cha (the best of any salesman we ever dealt with—cars, boats, et cetera), said that he would try and get us another Ridgeline. In fact, Dale bent over backwards to find us the Ridgeline in the color we wanted (silver), agreed to our price, and we were on line for delivery the third week in June. However, we had lost our reduced rate re a double-discount vehicle insurance policy.

On March 30th, we wrote a letter to the president of American Honda, Tetsuo Iwamura, explaining the debacle and requesting compensation in the form of parts: oil filters, air filters, and spark plugs for both vehicles for our time and considerable aggravation concerning the 2014 Ridgeline Sport; we had given Honda Corporate Headquarters ample time to respond, which they did not. Eventually, we received a voicemail from Matt Caldarella of American Honda Customer Service. We called Mr. Caldarella back that same day; however, he was not available as he said he would. So we again reiterated our request to the company. Matt left another message on April 10th, but once again did not address any of our points re our letter or voicemail, nor did he give us a time when he could be reached. We wrote another letter to Mr. Iwamura, dated April 11th referencing the company’s lack of concern and not being able to reach Matt Caldarella, requesting an answer to our letter of March 30th.

Mr. Caldarella sent us a letter dated April 28th, giving us the times he was available. We called his office, but his message stated that he would be out until the following Monday, May 5th. We called that Monday, and the same voicemail instructed that he was out of the office. Donna left a detailed message, and Matt called back that afternoon. He listened to the debacle and our request, stating that he could not honor our request in the form of parts for both vehicles, but he could offer a $500 gift card contingent upon our purchase of a 2014 Ridgeline Sport. We agreed. Our salesman, Dale Cha, said he located us a new (fresh) 2014 Ridgeline Sport. We sent a letter to Mr. Caldarella, informing him of the above.

On May 19th, we received a call from Chris (no surname). We then learned that Matt Caldarella was no longer with the company. Donna asked Chris for his surname; he would not give it as “per company policy,” quote unquote. Donna then asked for an I.D. number as he would not give us his last name; he would not. Chris told us he would be handling our case and that our request cannot be put in writing “per company policy.” Donna told Chris that would be a deal breaker because we would have no recourse should the company renege on their agreement. Chris, again, refused to put the offer in writing.

Donna called American Honda back immediately after talking with Chris asking for the president’s office. The clerk connected us back to customer service, and a Tony (again no surname as per company policy) answered. Donna gave him the case file number. Tony also said that the offer could not be put in writing. He wanted to give us Chris back on the phone. Donna asked to speak to his superior. Tony said that Athena (no surname again), the regional case manager, would call us back in 24 hours. Athena did not call us back; a Walter (again no surname) called late the next day and reiterated the same litany about not being able to put the agreement of a gift offer in writing per company policy. Walter said that the only thing in writing is the warranty information.

Since we could not ascertain any documentation of Honda’s agreement and could not speak or work with anyone at the corporate office, we decided that we would pass on the purchase of the Ridgeline. Our salesman was totally surprised at the company’s policy and behavior as well as being, obviously, most disappointed. Donna told Dale that we feel American Honda could not be trusted given the fact that they would not put their offer in writing and would not give us surnames, nor connect us a customer service executive; namely, Athena (no surname). Our salesman said that he could not intervene with corporate.

The fact that we were spending $53,668.79 for the two vehicles had no bearing on the matter. Donna and I find American Honda un-American. Followers of my writings find American Honda’s policies disturbing.

As an aside, we have a Honda lawn mower (from day one), which is very difficult to pull back because the wheels lock. Our neighbor has the exact same mower with the same problem. We brought the mower back to Home Depot, where it was purchased and were told to bring it to a Honda authorized dealer. Even though the mower was under warranty, the authorized dealer had said we would have to pay to have it repaired, then to take the matter up with Honda. “It’s a clutch disc problem,” said the assistant manager at the dealership. Honda told us that they warranty the engine, not the lower mower’s parts. You do not get past the Customer Service Department, as we tried. Why? The answer is because Honda Headquarters insulates itself and makes it Company Policy. Imagine the hoops that you’d have to jump through if you are having an issue with their 185 and 250 horsepower vehicle engines [Honda Accord, Honda Ridgeline Sport, respectively] in lieu of a Honda 4.4 horsepower lawn mower engine.

The issue became purely a matter of principle.

Caveat: It’s an old cliché but well worth remembering. Buyer Beware.

President Robert Mudge and CEO Lowell C. McAdam ~


Verizon – Over the Horizon of Horrible, Horrible Service

Our phone and internet service could not have crashed at a more inopportune time. My newest book, The Fishing Smart Anywhere Handbook for Salt Water & Fresh Water, was recently released, and Donna and I were in the midst of press releases, Web site updates and e-mails. The phone had been ringing off the hook, but our callers were greeted with static that made conversations unintelligible.

When we notified Verizon and explained the situation, they told us that they could have a serviceman come for four days. After stating that this was unacceptable, the customer service representative said that she would have our calls transferred to my cell phone, which she did not do. This was the beginning of a long line of letter writing, phone calls and conversations with a myriad of people who were less than helpful. Whenever we called Verizon, we never could talk to the same person. When we did secure a phone number to call back a Verizon representative, they did not answer the phone, were on vacation, or their voicemail box was full.

To date, Verizon has not attended to the crux of the problem according to the Verizon lineman; that is, the wires in the outside box were never adequately sheathed to prevent corrosion. At the time we had our problem, there were no storms, heavy rains or winds to cause the excessive static we were experiencing. The Verizon lineman jury-rigged the wires stating in sum and substance, “This is just a Band-Aid. It’s going to happen again if there’s no proper sheathing. Everything is corroding.” Our neighbors next-door experienced no service as well as a friend who lives two miles away who had no Verizon phone or internet service for a week!

Important Note:

Consequently, after being a loyal customer with Verizon years (since their 1998 merger with Bell Atlantic in New York City), which provided our phone and Internet service for many years prior, we have dropped Verizon and are going with Cablevision.

Optimum (Cablevision) phone and Internet service is $79.95 per month. The $46.95 installation fee (which includes keeping our old phone number) is absorbed by the $60 credit in our first month’s bill. No monthly taxes, surcharges or fees like Verizon charges. Compared to Verizon’s $88+ per month bill, that’s a no-brainer. Also, we can go to the Cablevision offices (right down our street) and speak to a real person if need be! What a novelty! More importantly, Optimum’s customer service far exceeds Verizon’s as verified by many of our friends, neighbors and acquaintances.

Our initial letter was to the Verizon Consumer Complaint Department. No response. Next, we wrote to Robert Mudge, President of Consumer Markets. Responses received from clerks who were of no assistance. We then wrote to Verizon’s CEO Lowell C. McAdam. Neither Mr. Mudge nor Mr. McAdam responded directly, as requested, pawning over the matter to the clerks in the Escalation Department. I stated to Ms. Brookins of the Escalation Department that these corporate heads insulate themselves, and she agreed, but stood firmly that she could not do anything for us. Verizon was not willing to negotiate a settlement in any way shape or form.

Below are the three letters:

June 14, 2013

Verizon Consumer Complaint 140 West Street New York, NY 10007 Re Account number 631-269-3192 235 27 4

Dear Decision Maker:
All of the following could have been prevented if the phone wires were protected with sheathing like they should have been in the box on the telephone pole outside our home. As a result of this inefficiency and subsequent fiasco, Donna and I have lost money, time and been caused undo stress. I am a novelist and outdoors writer. My latest book has just been released; consequently, I have a small window for sales, which have been lost.

Our initial call to Verizon, communicating with a computer, told us to check our home equipment: phone, computer, inside wiring. We reported back after purchasing and installing a new phone ($70). Our neighbors had similar problems, informing us that the problem was external, which, indeed, it was.

The following is a timeline of events re my telephone and Internet service:

Monday, June 10, a.m.: Called Verizon and spoke with Ms. Anderson regarding terrific static on the line. She said a technician could not come to fix the problem until Thursday. I begged her to have a technician come sooner than later as I was losing monies re my work. I explained to her as well that we could not use the Internet to communicate with customers. I explained that we could not make or receive calls due to the tremendous interference on the line and that the Internet was down. Ms. Anderson said that all she could do was to have calls from 631-369-3192 transferred to our cell phone 631-512-7276. Ms. Anderson did not transfer our calls.

Monday, June 10, 5:18 pm: Called Verizon and spoke with LaRhonda (#969) re getting a technician here earlier, explaining my plight. She said that she would try. This did not happen . Also informed LaRhonda re Internet. No help there except to say that the phone problem was the cause, which was, indeed, the case.

Tuesday, June 11, 2:20 pm: Called Verizon and spoke with Kelly (#969) re calls not being forwarded to my cell phone as promised by Ms. Anderson on Monday. Kelly said she saw the notation on her computer, but that “This was not done.” Kelly took care of it. Result is that we missed calls as the phone was ringing, but calls were not going through to my cell. I mentioned again the problem re Internet failed connections. Kelly transferred me to Gemilu (and Indian woman). After being disconnected, Gemilu called back and checked the problem. She said that Internet is being affected by the phone problem and that she could do nothing.

Thursday, June 13, 7:40 am: Called Verizon and spoke with Candy (#32&) to determine when a technician was coming. After prodding, Candy set up a time between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and said that we needed to be home.

Thursday, June 13, 8 a.m.: Called Verizon to verify time that technician was coming due to loss of confidence in what the agents were telling us. Called twice and got a Spanish-speaking person on the line after waiting a long time for someone to answer. And no, I did not press the number for a Spanish-speaking person.

Thursday, June 13, 8:15 a.m.: Called Verizon again. Got a Thomas (#351167) and told him that I want to confirm our appointment with the technician. After keeping me on hold, Thomas said that the technician will be here before 6 p.m.; he had no other information.

Thursday, June 13, 9:40 a.m.: Technician, Philip, comes to ascertain the problem. He informs us that the phone wires in the box on the telephone pole were not covered with proper sheathing, which caused corrosion. Additionally, an external wire coming into the house broke. Philip repaired the problem temporarily and said that the sheathing must be installed to cover and protect the wiring, to which he informed his boss. When will they do this? He did not know. He left at 1:20 p.m.

Thursday, June 13, 1:30 p.m.: We tested our phone to see if the transfer from home phone to cell phone was eliminated. It was not, so we had to call Verizon again. After waiting five minutes, Mrs. Mason said that she transferred our calls back to the home phone. I asked her to call me back to check if all was done; she said that she could not.


For our loss of time, business, monies, unnecessary new phone and unprecedented aggravation, I am deducting $300 from our phone bills. If this is unacceptable, we will seek a new provider for our phone and Internet service. Additionally, this debacle will be broadcasted on our local television show, Special Interests with Bob & Donna.

If this nominal monetary amount is agreed to and the powers that be can somehow promise to streamline their present inefficient service, we’ll continue to use Verizon’s phone and Internet services. If Verizon’s customer service department were only half as efficient as your technician, Philip, you’d find yourself in far greater shape than presently experienced. We gave Philip a gratuity and thanked him profusely.

Your call . . . no pun intended.

Respectfully submitted, Robert Banfelder

Award-Winning Novelist, Outdoors Writer & Creator of Unique Course/Guides; Senior Editor, Broadwater Books; Cablevision TV Show Host, Special Interests with Bob & Donna; www.robertbanfelder.com

Donna Derasmo
Co-host, Special Interests with Bob & Donna

July 3, 2013

Robert Mudge President, Consumer & Mass Business Markets Verizon 140 West Street New York, NY 10007 Re: Account number 631-369-3192 235 27 4

Dear Mr. Mudge:

As we have not received any response from Verizon Consumer Complaint, we are forwarding this second written correspondence. Please read and respond so that we can make the necessary arrangements, if need be, to acquire another phone and internet service company.


Robert Banfelder

Donna Derasmo

Enclosure: Letter dated June 14, 2013 to Verizon Consumer Complaint

July 24, 2013

Lowell C. McAdam CEO, Verizon 140 West Street New York, NY 10007 Re: Account number 631-369-3192 235 27 4

Dear Mr. McAdam:

This is my third letter to Verizon. As CEO of Verizon, I expect you to respond in writing to this letter regarding the enclosed information; i.e., my initial letter to Consumer Complaint, my cover letter to Robert Mudge who was copied with my initial letter along with the following update of this entire fiasco.

Update to events listed in June 14th letter:

July 9, 2013: Received a call from Ms. Young stating that the matter was referred to consumer relations.

July 9, 2013: Received an unintelligible call from Verizon. Immediately called back Ms. Young to find out who called. She said that she would leave a message for the person to call back. That person never called us back.

July 11, 2013: Received message to call Ms. Bernice Williams at 728-422-9652. Called and her answering machine said that she was out of the office until Monday, July 15th, and to call Mrs. Evelyn, Ms. Grimaldi or Ms. Miranda. Called Mrs. Evelyn and left a message. Received no call back from her. I then called the next person in line, Ms. Grimaldi. Her mailbox was full, so I could not leave a message. I then called Ms. Miranda, third in line. Ms. Miranda said that we would get a credit of an unknown amount.

Mr. McAdam, the unsatisfactory amount of $11.58 was credited to my account for four days of non-service via phone and internet, which caused us considerable financial damage. Additionally, no one has yet covered the phone lines with sheathing so that interrupted service does not occur again due to corrosion.

Please read the enclosed and personally let me know if you agree with my proposal or not so that we may make arrangements for reliable phone and internet service.

Respectfully submitted,
Robert Banfelder

Donna Derasmo

Enclosure: Letter dated June 14, 2013 to Verizon Consumer Complaint & Letter dated July 3, 2013 to Robert Mudge

Charles Harris, publisher of Natural History Magazine in Affiliation with the American Museum of Natural History ~

Con Artists

A co-member and colleague of the Long Island Outdoors Communicators’ Network, Richard Siberry, reached out to the organization for help regarding monies due him for a cover photograph which was published in Natural History Magazine. The publisher, after losing the judgment in court, has yet to pay the monies to the photographer. I stepped up to the plate and continue to fight the unscrupulous practices of Charles Harris, publisher of Natural History Magazine.

Natural History Magazine has subsequently moved its address to a postal package service store in North Carolina, leaving their New York office. Numerous contacts with the publisher, Mr. Harris, have proven unsuccessful. Government agencies, inclusive of legislators and district attorneys, say that they are powerless to intervene.

I have received correspondence from professional writers and photographers from around the globe that have also been duped by Mr. Charles Harris.

The fight continues to right this egregious wrong.

Read further details:Unique Course/Guides

College Inn's ~ Del Monte Foods' Wrongful Actions & Negligence

While preparing pasta e fagoli soup (pasta and beans) on January 2007, I had poured a carton of College Inn Chicken Broth over the beans I had soaked overnight. The chicken broth came out green. I immediately contacted College Inn (who refused to do anything), the Department of Health, Del Monte (who owns College Inn), as well as other authorities, only to run into dead ends. Donna and I had spent many hours then many days trying to accomplish what Del Monte/College Inn should have done initially; that is, protect the public by way of contacting the managers of all the stores in our area that carried College Inn Chicken Broth, hoping to have them immediately remove the product from their shelves until testing could be completed in order to ascertain if the tainted product was in any way harmful. The days Donna and I had spent doing and correcting what Del Monte Foods/College Inn should have done was, needless to say, inexcusable and reflected both poor judgment and negligence on their behalf. The research, investigation, phone calls and letter writing we took upon ourselves to try and nip this horrendous situation in the bud had certainly been frustrating. I was quite disappointed in that Ms. Maria Ruta, of the president’s office, failed to touch base with the our neighbors who experienced the same problem, or to get back to me with updated information regarding the disposition of their tainted product.

Here are two of several letters to the powers that be that explains this debacle:

January 24, 2007

Richard G. Wolford, President and CEO
Del Monte Foods
The Landmark @ One Market
P.O. Box 193575
San Francisco, CA 94119-3575

Dear Mr. Wolford:

Herewith is a timeline of events regarding tainted—lime green in color—College Inn Chicken Broth purchased in the month of December, 2006.

1. January 3, 2007 - At 11 a.m., I called College Inn in Pittsburgh, PA, at 1-800-552-7684 (ref # 4231523), and spoke with Susan Smith regarding the College Inn Chicken Broth that poured green from its foil-lined container, contaminating the entire contents of the pasta fagioli soup that I was preparing. The hours I spent soaking and boiling certain beans for that fare does not remotely compare to the hours and days my assistant and I spent in trying to right a grievous wrong concerning Del Monte Foods. Not unlike that seething pot, I’m presently boiling mad, for—as a former investigative reporter—I’ve recently learned of certain prevarications concerning your company. Ms. Smith initially stated that she never heard of anything like what I explained to her as ever happening before, and that she would compensate me fifteen dollars for their tainted product along with ingredients that were ruined in the cooking process. I did not request remuneration; she simply offered it. I told her that my concern was that the public could be at risk, elaborating on the fact that we just had an outbreak of E. coli at a Taco Bell in our Riverhead area, in which people became very sick and even hospitalized, resulting in the food establishment being temporarily closed. Additionally, I suggested that Ms. Smith make arrangements to have the questionable College Inn product picked up and tested. She told me that they could not do that. I tried to reason with her by pointing out that she had just said that the tainted chicken broth product was an anomaly—that she had never heard of such a situation. Therefore, I pressed that she should look seriously into this abnormal matter. She inanely went on to say that their products were thoroughly safe, both packaging and its contents, by way of their sterilization process. I calmly assured her that I would then have to research and notify the necessary agency(s). She flat out told me that she doubted whether they could do anything for me. I was nonplused.

2. January 3, 2007 - At 11:20 a.m., I called the Suffolk County Health Department at (631) 852-5999 and spoke with Sandy; she would not give me her surname or an ID number. After telling her the story, Sandy said that her department does not handle these matters and referred me to the New York Department of Agriculture.

3. January 3, 2007 - At 11:35 a.m., I called the New York State Department of Agriculture at 1-718-722-2876, and spoke to Sarah Bradigan, who then referred me to Paul Higgins of the same department. He told me that his agency does not handle out-of-state food complaints. He referred me to the Interstate FDA.

4. January 3, 2007 - At 12 p.m., I called the Interstate FDA at 1-718-340-7000 ext. 5588 and left a message.

5. January 3, 2007 - At 12:43 p.m., Susan Smith of College Inn called and said that she and her supervisor, Ms. Linda Smothers, reconsidered my request and stated that RQA (Retrieval Quality Assurance) will contact me to arrange for a time to come to my home and pick up the tainted chicken broth for testing. Once the test is complete, she said, I’ll receive a written report of the results.

6. January 3, 2007 - At 2:50 p.m., Sarah Younger of the Interstate FDA returned my call. I explained the situation in great detail, wanting this matter logged for the record. Ms. Younger tried to place the responsibility back into the lap of the New York State Department of Agriculture, stating that her agency could do nothing and that I should contact the American Council of Independent Laboratories, www.ACIL.ORG. However, having had time to investigate the government regulations further, while awaiting this phone call, I related the facts—once again—to Ms. Younger, explaining that I resided in Riverhead, New York, that College Inn was headquartered in Pennsylvania, and, therefore, the issue did, indeed, rest with her agency. She put me on hold, checked, and then assured me the matter would be recorded and that there would be follow-up.

7. January 3, 2007 - At 5:15 p.m., Christina Perez from Retrieval Quality Assurance (1-800-338-4567 ext. 109) called me. She said that Del Monte Foods—owners of the College Inn label—was notified. I was then asked if I had the packaging ready for pickup as instructed. “Instructed by whom?” I asked. “By someone from College Inn,” she answered. Ms. Perez could not remember who exactly she dealt with at College Inn, but she had the contact names of Linda Smothers, Shawn Carrie, and Annette Cieslinski. “One of them was supposed to have called you,” she said. They had not. I froze the broth as instructed by Ms. Perez of Retrieval Quality Assurance, and was assured that someone would pick it up the next day.

8. January 4, 2007 - At 1:20 p.m., Jim Boak, an independent contractor for RQA, called to arrange for pick-up of the chicken broth. He said maybe he could pick it up on Sunday, January 7, if he were feeling better from an intestinal virus, and tie it in with picking up his child in the area. Too many maybes and excuses from his man prompted me to call College Inn.

9. January 4, 2007 - At 1:30 p.m., I called Linda Smothers and got Susan Smith on the phone, informing her that Mr. Boak’s excuses would cause for unnecessary delays in attending to this potentially serious problem. She then connected me to her supervisor, Linda Smothers.

10. January 4, 2007 - At 1:35 p.m., I spoke with Linda Smothers, supervisor for Del Monte/College Inn. She stated that somebody should come tomorrow, January 5, to pick up the tainted soup. I told her that I want to be kept informed, and, once again, posited the poor handling of this entire matter.

11. January 4, 2007 - At 2:50 p.m., Jim Boak called and said that he thought “we had an understanding. I’ll be there tomorrow, but if I’m sick . . . .”

12. January 4, 2007 - At 2:55 p.m., Linda Smothers called to inform me that Jim will be there tomorrow. “Yeah, if he’s not sick,” I said. I told her that we’re at the same point we were yesterday; that is, square one, and that Mr. Boak conveniently left himself a three-day window. But that was the best Linda Smothers could do for me.

13. January 4, 2007 - At 3:00 p.m., I spoke with Maria Ruta, 1-415-247-3000, ext. 73100, executive secretary to the president, Richard Wolford, of Del Monte Foods, and told her the entire debacle concerning College Inn and their tainted product of chicken broth. I also promised her that I would continue to record and send Mr. Wolford a report of this ongoing unsatisfactory situation. She listened and seemed quite concerned.

14. January 4, 2007 - At 5:35 p.m., Linda Smothers called to tell me that Jim Boak is now out of the picture and that Carol Czerwinski will be coming out tonight to pick up the frozen broth for RQA.

15. January 4, 2007 - At 8:20 p.m., Carol Czerwinski from RQA arrived for transfer of the frozen broth to be tested. I signed a chain of custody form for RQA. Upon inquiry, I learned that Ms. Czerwinski had not been instructed to remove or randomly test the product in question at any of the supermarkets where we buy this College Inn product. Nor was she told to apprise any manager or assistant manager at these stores of the potential problem.

16. January 7, 2007 - At approximately 1:00 p.m., Donna Derasmo, my personal assistant, spoke with Sunday manager Brian (who flatly refused to give his surname) at Best Yet supermarket in Riverhead, and informed him of the situation. He said he had not been informed by any party regarding the matter. At this date and time, no manager or assistant manager at Waldbaum’s or King Kullen in Riverhead, New York had been notified of any problem concerning College Inn’s tainted chicken broth, Donna was informed.

17. January 17, 2007 - I received a follow-up letter from Linda Smothers regarding the testing of the tainted sample, saying that it would be three to four weeks before we would hear anything.

18. January 19, 2007 - I received a call from a neighborhood resident that he had experienced the same problem with College Inn Chicken Broth, only in can form, which the couple purchased from B.J.’s Wholesale, also in Riverhead, New York. Gene had contacted the 1-800 number on the can and was told by a female representative in Customer Service (Toni) that he would be receiving fifteen dollars for a now contaminated ham shank upon which he poured the tainted product. The Customer Service department told our neighbor that they knew of no such problem. He was instructed to send back the opened can lid in addition to several unopened cans from the same batch number—to be returned to the company in a postage paid box.

19. January 19, 2007 - At 12:47 p.m., after receiving permission from our neighbors to use their names and relate the event to headquarters in California, I again spoke with Ms. Maria Ruta and told her of our neighbors' experience with College Inn Chicken Broth, suggesting that she call him and/or his wife for complete details. Ms. Ruta said she would call them, but did not. Instead, she apparently relayed the information to Linda Smothers at College Inn in Pittsburgh, PA, for Ms. Smothers called our neighbors.

20. January 20, 2007 - Donna Derasmo located and spoke with the regular manager at Best Yet supermarket in Riverhead, Alan Oakes, and informed him of the tainted chicken broth problem. He took a carton-container from the shelf and poured it out. It looked fine. He said he knew of no such problem re College Inn. The container that he opened before Ms. Derasmo posted a use-by date of Nov. 17, 2007. My problem carton-container from Best Yet had a use-by date of July 17, 2007. The can-container our neighbors poured from had a use-by date of September 2, 2007.

Note: My assistant and I have spent many hours and many days trying to accomplish what Del Monte/College Inn should have done; that is, protect the public by way of contacting the managers of all the stores mentioned above and having the product immediately removed from its shelves until testing is completed in order to ascertain if the tainted product is in any way harmful. The thirty some hours we have spent in doing and correcting what Del Monte Foods/College Inn should have done and should be doing is, needless to say, inexcusable and reflects poor judgment on their behalf. The research, investigation, phone calls and letter writing we took upon ourselves to try and nip this horrendous condition in the bud has certainly been frustrating. Too, I am quite disappointed in that Ms. Maria Ruta, of the president’s office, failed to touch base with our neighbors, or get back to me with updated information regarding the disposition of their tainted product; namely, what they planned to do about the situation now that it was a potential problem in other packaging and in other area stores. Therefore, it is with this letter that I memorialize the timeline of events before taking it to the next level and a higher authority.

Mr. Wolford; I’ll await your immediate response.


Robert Banfelder
Donna Derasmo

cc: Denise Civiletti, The News-Review
Phil Cardinale, Esq., Riverhead Town Supervisor
Maria Ruta, Executive Secretary to the president - Del Monte Foods
Linda Smothers, College Inn/Del Monte Foods Consumer Affairs Supervisor


April 14, 2007

Jeff M. Berry
Vice-President and Treasurer
Del Monte Foods
One Market @ The Landmark
P.O. Box 193575
San Francisco, CA 94119-3575

Dear Mr. Berry:

It would be impossible to fully understand the points posited in this piece without all the necessary correspondence detailing the facts that transpired between Del Monte/ College Inn and the author of this letter. Therefore, shown below this document, is a chronological listing of correspondence relating to the parties Robert Banfelder and/or Donna Derasmo, and the principles of Del Monte/College Inn, re toxic chemicals found in College Inn Chicken Broth—claim # 004231523A. Any or all document(s) you deem necessary will be furnished to you immediately. On April the 13th, 2007, Special Agent Thomas S. Nasiatka of the United States Food and Drug Administration—Office of Criminal Investigations, officially closed the case. I hereby, once again, request a copy of that report.

Also, it is with this correspondence dated April 14th, 2007, that I go on record as stating that it is inconceivable to accept the findings in which a one-and-half inch (1½) cut was found in the top narrow border of the container before the product was brought into our home; nor was it turned over to RQA representative Carolyn Czerwinski in any such condition. I state this unequivocally because I examined the container immediately after pouring its contents (lime or mint green in color) over pasta fagioli beans. Too, I again scrutinized the carton of tainted broth while speaking with College Inn, as they asked, in order to determine if the carton was visibly tampered with—then once again after hanging up with Linda Smothers. If there were any such cut, there would have been a discernible indication, period. It is ludicrous to conclude otherwise. That product came into our home tainted, untampered with to the naked eye, and was turned over via Chain of Custody to Ms. Czerwinski in that very condition (except for the fact that it was frozen as instructed).

The correspondence reference below clearly shows that College Inn did not initially act in the best interest of the public. As a matter of sheer fact, they refused to act whatsoever until prompted to do so by other agencies, which I called immediately after speaking with College Inn, so documented by my conversation with Susan Smith, and again later after College Inn allowed Jim Boak (independent retrieval representative from Connecticut) to delay the process regarding the pick up of the product for testing; that is, until I called Del Monte and had the executive secretary to the president, Maria Ruta, intervene. That is when they sent Ms. Czerwinski out to our home for pick up of the product.

Lastly, in my attempts through written correspondence and phone calls to discuss the matter with Del Monte’s president, Mr. Richard Wolford, and his executive secretary, Ms. Ruta, after learning of our neighbors' similar experience with suspicious chicken broth found in cans, both the man and his secretary chose to deal with the matter through a term known as “operating through benign neglect,” by passing the buck back to the people at Del Monte/College Inn; e.g., Linda Smothers, Mary E. Fink, and yourself. Ms. Ruta did not do what she told me she would do, and that is to personally call our neighbors. Ms. Ruta did not return my call from that point in time. Mr. Wolford never responded in writing or by phone. Donna and I find this very disturbing . . . even suspicious. In light of these facts, in our heart of hearts, Donna and I feel—as does our lawyer, lawyer friends and acquaintances, as well as other savvy professionals—that Del Monte/College Inn has something to hide. I suggested to Agent Nasiatka that he touch base with Carolyn Czerwinski in order to ascertain if she noticed any discernible one-and-a-half inch cut on the packaging when we sat down at our dining room table and handed over the product via the Chain of Custody process. It was made clear to me that Ms. Czerwinski would not, as trained, reveal such tampering at the time. However, in retrospect, I’m sure that issue could and should be addressed by an agent of the FDA in order to confirm our point. We want all parties to think about the E-coli incident in the Riverhead area re Taco Bell, the peanut butter recall, and the pet food poisoning. As concerned citizens, we take matters like these very seriously. With regard to the tainted College Inn broth, we learned that we could have been become ill. How ill has not been explained, which is one of the reasons why I want that report. In it, I want to know the concentration of the toxic solvents found within. No one in this household tampered with your product as was suggested. No one has a key except our son, and there’s only the two of us living here. No strangers come into our home that are left unattended; therefore, no one had the opportunity to play a game, engage in some sort of a sick joke, or hurt us as also suggested.

January 4, 2007 - Chain of Command from Robert Banfelder to Carolyn Czerwinski, RQA

January 11, 2007 - Letter from Linda Smothers, Consumer Affairs Supervisor, Del Monte Foods to Robert Banfelder

January 24, 2007 - Letter to Richard G. Wolford, President, Del Monte Foods from Robert Banfelder

January 24, 2007 - Copy of January 24, 2007 letter to Richard G. Wolford to Phil Cardinale, Riverhead Town Supervisor

January 26, 2007 - Letter from Phil Cardinal, Riverhead Town Supervisor to Robert Banfelder

January 30, 2007 - Letter from Mary E. Fink, Consumer Claims Manager, Del Monte Foods to Robert Banfelder

February 1, 2007 - Letter to Mary E. Fink, Consumer Claims Manager, Del Monte Foods from Robert Banfelder

February 20, 2007 - E-mail from Tim Gannon, Staff Writer, The News-Review regarding statement on behalf of Del Monte Foods to Robert Banfelder

February 20, 2007 - E-mail from Robert Banfelder to Tim Gannon acknowledging receipt of statement on behalf of Del Monte Foods

February 27, 2007 - Letter from Linda Smothers, consumer Affairs Supervisor, Del Monte Foods to Robert Banfelder

February 28, 2007 - Letter to Richard G. Wolford, President, Del Monte Foods from Robert Banfelder

February 28, 2007 - E-mail to The News-Review from Robert Banfelder re Del Monte Rebuttal. Unpublished at this time but will be shortly.

E-mail to Thomas S. Nasiatka, FDA from Robert Banfelder re lab report

March 15, 2007 - Letter from Jeff M. Berry, Vice President and Treasurer, Del Monte Foods

Mr. Berry, we would appreciate your immediate reply, inclusive of the report—either released through Del Monte/College Inn and/or the FDA now that the case is officially closed.


Robert Banfelder
Donna Derasmo

Cc: Richard Wolford, President, Del Monte Foods
Thomas S. Nasiatka, FDA