(My Clovis News Journal column for April 4, 2014. Here's the background.)
Like just about everyone else around here, I was dismayed to see 58 truckloads- 950,000 jars- of perfectly good Sunland peanut butter, packaged for Costco Wholesale, go into the Clovis landfill. That is a tremendous waste.
Facilitating the sale of the bankrupt Sunland Inc. was one of the justifications given. I'm not aware of all the skulduggery required to "expedite" a bankruptcy sale of this magnitude, but if the "law" makes things like this necessary, the "law" is clearly wrong. How can laws trump common sense and still have any meaning?
There were other excuses given as well. It seems the jars had leaked some peanut oil. Was this the reason the peanut butter was rejected? If so, it seems awfully petty, especially considering the alternatives the company had.
Maybe this oil damaged the labels, and would not have appeared professional. Maybe the Costco decision makers thought the oil meant inadequately sealed jars. Perhaps Costco was worried about liability and didn't trust all the tests which indicated the peanut butter was perfectly safe. Can't a product be donated "as is", with those who accept it doing so at their own risk? I would have eaten it. Well, not all 25 tons.
Costco wouldn't even allow the peanut butter to be repackaged to remove their name from it and then donated.
I really don't know much about Costco, having never been in one. Now I will never again hear the name "Costco" without thinking of this waste.
The peanut butter was Costco's property, to be used- or not- as they wished. However, the company's choice has forever tainted the way I will view them, and if I am ever in a position to do business with Costco, I will remember the peanut butter, and I will most likely not spend my money there.
Sometimes doing something you have every right to do is not the wisest path you can take, for reasons you may not even see at the time.
Costco wasn't obligated to share their property- that would be socialism. However, they missed an opportunity for a windfall of good will and positive publicity, trading it instead for a black eye on their reputation.
If one person in the company was responsible for the decision, then that one person has single-handedly damaged the company's good name and may need to be looking for a new job soon. If the "law" gave him no choice, which seems unlikely since the peanut butter had been cleared for sale, then the law is where the blame lies. Either way, each and every one of us can pay attention to this situation and remember.