A Big Basket of Confusion

Lately I’ve been seeing this commercial on TV. It started appearing in December, and it persists now. It plays Jingle Bells and a British woman who is apparently plump tells you that you should discover the magic of a Chrisco Christmas hamper, and for as low as $3.75 a week, you can get a hamper full of products you trust.

I saw that commercial last year, and I saw it again this year, and that confused me to no end. Did the company who sells oil and other lard-related products own a bunch of other brand name companies? How did that happen? Creepy, but not impossible. And then, why would you pay weekly for one hamper? How many hampers do you get? Finally, I couldn’t figure out why the Jinglebell-singing commercial wouldn’t jinglebell rock its way off my TV after Christmas this year. It did last year. So I did some research, because I’m an overly curious, nosey geek and this is what I found.

The first thing I found was that I started barking up the wrong tree. When I googled “Crisco Christmas hamper” thinking they were referring to the company Crisco who makes shortening and oil and stuff, all I could find were forums, and several notes saying that the hamper people were called Chrisco (c h r i s c o) not Crisco (c r i s c o). When I found that out, I thought, someone needs to go and wake up Crisco’s sleeping lawyer and see if they can sue this company for having almost the exact same name. Or can they not be sued because of the h?

Then, I noticed that these forums didn’t have a lot of good things to say about the hamper folks. There were lots of complaints of false advertising, deliveries in which some food was either missing or spoiled, deliveries not happening at all, price-gouging, and generally unhappy customers spanning from here to Australia.

I eventually found my way to the ChriscoCanada site and started trying to figure out how this was supposed to work. Basically, this company has been doing this hamper thing since 1978. They started off in the UK, and now I guess they’re in Canada, Australia and New zealand, but they’ve only been in Canada since 2002 or 2003. . How it’s supposed to work is you can decide to either get a hamper full of goodies at Christmas or in June before the kids’ summer holidays I guess. There are a whole bunch of different hampers, and I got exhausted just reading about one of them. Anyway, you pay weekly all year round, and then the hamper is supposed to arrive and suddenly you’ll have all this spare money in your pocket because you won’t have to buy massive amounts of food at once.

Um, I hate to break it to the folks at Chrisco, but you won’t have the spare money because you’ve been slowly leaking it out all year! And, from what I saw, you will have paid nearly double for the same stuff that you can go and buy at the store. One hamper was going to cost approximately $20 a week for 50 weeks. Do the math. *opens calculator so I can see how much you’re getting taken for* that’s $1000! Who in the world needs $1000 worth of food at Christmas? I know it’s expensive, but good lord! Maybe if you have a big family, but even that’s a bit of a stretch. And look at the contents of that hamper. What an assload of garbage! There’s hardly anything good in there! So, on top of paying bloated prices, unless you think that’s worth a thousand bucks, you’ll have to buy, ya know, the good stuff.

I especially loved the FAQ section, and one particularly defensive response to why their stuff costs more.

Q5.How do Chrisco prices compare with Supermarkets?

The price you pay includes the cost of collecting your payments (charged to us by our bank), special packing, delivery, GST and is fixed for the year. We do charge a bit more than some supermarkets because of all the extra costs, but thousands of existing customers think that Chrisco is good value and tell us they wouldn’t be able to manage without our help. You save yourself the hassles of queuing in crowded stores, carrying shopping home and having to find the extra money at Christmas time. Chrisco can really help you save for a great Christmas and leave you with spare cash to spend on presents. Our summer deliveries offer the same excellent services, helping you save for a sensational summer.

Well, at least they tell you straight up, “dude, we’re soakin’ ya here.” But good god, how much are people willing to pay for that convenience? We are turning into slabs of stone, unthinking slabs of stone I tell ya!

Even worse is what I read on that Australian forum where the lady didn’t get her hamper for days and days and days. I read that they’re worse at delivering to rural folks than urban folks. Think about it. Who is going to, in theory, be more likely to appreciate not trucking into town to load up on groceries? Rural people! People who might be, I don’t know, snowed in and unable to get to town for one reason or another. People who might find groceries a bit more of a chore than the dude who only has to drive a few blocks. But then again, rural people do more work doing the daily tasks than lots of people in cities, hell, they have to take their garbage *to* the dump. So I guess that blows that theory. But purely from a logical standpoint, wouldn’t you want to do more to get your packages to the rural customers?

I think it’s funny that the thing that started me on this quest for knowledge was a commercial that was annoying me. Well, they succeeded in getting my attention. Now, I’ve learned more than I ever planned to know about Chrisco, and added to the negative publicity. Talk about an ad backfiring.

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