VA BBB is cautioning consumers to be discriminating when purchasing meat from door-to-door salespersons. USA Gourmet, located in Salem, VA has an ‘F’ rating with BBB. USA Gourmet has had 20 complaints in the past three years; six of these complaints have been filed since February, 2012.
Complainants generally allege the quality of the product is not as advertised and that the customer pays for more meat than they receive. A number of consumers stated the salesmen initially identified themselves as representing Omaha Steaks and that until the transaction was complete, did not realize they were purchasing from USA Gourmet. Consumers also state they have requested replacement meat or refunds of their purchase price but have not received either.
“The person at your door is usually an independent contractor,” explains Julie Wheeler, President & CEO of BBB Serving Western VA. “If there are problems with the product, you will probably need to talk to the company itself; make sure you have a working phone number for both the salesperson and the company's headquarters”. Often the consumer was not given any contact information for the USA Gourmet salesperson; when they called the company, their calls were generally not returned.
On July 17, 2012, the BBB contacted USA Gourmet asking for substantiation to claims found in their brochure. Claims included the following statements: “restaurant trimmed and quality”, “vacuum sealed locks in freshness” and “full replacement guarantee”. The request for substantiation was made after receiving numerous complaints concerning product quality. On August 16, 2012, BBB contacted USA Gourmet concerning their pattern of complaints as well. The company was asked for its cooperation in resolving the underlying cause of complaints including incidences of independent contractors using high-pressure and intimidation tactics to coerce consumers into making a purchase. To date, the company has not responded to either request.
Although many people would find it unappealing to buy beef and seafood from the back of a truck, the appearance of lower prices can be enticing enough that some folks will be willing to overlook the safety and quality issues. It’s not uncommon for a consumer to spend hundreds of dollars on inferior meat; it is extremely important that you do your research before you buy in order to protect your finances and your health.
When considering buying meat from a door-to-door salesperson, BBB recommends consumers:
- Do the research. Ask the sales representative for written material about the company. Check the company’s Reliability Report with your BBB BEFORE you make a purchase. Many communities have licensing and permit requirements for selling door-to-door; confirm with your city or county government that the seller is in line with the law.
- Don’t fall for empty promises. The seller might claim to offer a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee, but many complainants had no way to contact the seller if they were dissatisfied. Request the guarantee in writing.
- Never pay with cash. When paying by check or credit card you have a least some way to protect your money – such as cancelling the check or reporting it as fraud to your credit card company.
- Know your rights. If you decide to make a purchase, ask for a dated cancellation form and a dated receipt. You have three days to cancel certain purchases even after you sign a contract and pay. To cancel your order, you should notify the company in writing by midnight on the third business day following the purchase. Saturday is usually considered a business day.
If you need more information, contact the BBB at (540) 342-3455 or (800) 533-5501. You can also visit www.bbb.org. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/BBB_WesternVA.