May 11th, 2002


Remember, Rep = Reptile

"Your girl Sylvia said I should come in about 11 AM, but I’m running late," said the generically perky sales rep. I’d never met this rep. I have a weekly 11 AM appointment with a different cheese company so I doubt anyone told her to come in at that time. I also don’t have any girls, and no one I work with is named Sylvia, but I like the name Sylvia so I let it pass.

"I’ve got an exciting new product blahbedly blah blah blah . . ." I’ve stopped listening. We negotiate a very specific time and date. She doesn’t show up.

She calls the next day and says, "So I know I said I’d be in today but I’m running late . . ."

"No, actually you were supposed to be here yesterday. I waited around for a half hour." A customer overhears me and laughs. Actually the "waiting around" part is a lie but I want to see if she’ll go into defensive grovel-sales mode. Unfortunately, she’s the bubbly-oblivious type of sales rep not the ingratiating thank-you thank-you type so she moves right along. We renegotiate a time.

Surprisingly, she shows up. She’s got some guy in tow that is either her boss or the marketing person for the cheese company. She never introduces him beyond a first name. She’s from a fancy-ass specialty distributor but not one I deal with on a regular basis.* Again she surprises me. Instead of some pricey, moldy French thing, she pulls what looks like an orange ham out of her bag. I start listening to her spiel. After the third or fourth mention of "filled milk cheese" I stop her.

"What is filled milk cheese? I’ve never heard of that," I ask.
"We simply replace the butterfat with vegetable oil," she smiles.**

My co-worker looks up from the cheese she’s wrapping and looks down quickly trying not to laugh. Sales rep goes on talking about how it has no cholesterol or lactose and only a third of fat and blah blah. I try not to be hard line about diety cheeses. I don’t buy many and I’ve segregated them into a hard to see, hard to reach part of the cooler. But who am I to tell granny that I won’t carry one or two fat-free cheeses so she can eat something cheese-like after her heart attack.

But these people were really starting to piss me off. And their product line is called "Earth’s Answer" for chrissakes. Uh, what was the question?

So I start interrogating them. "Does the milk come from cows injected with bovine growth hormone?"
"Oh no"
"And you have paperwork that says that?"
"No, but we’ve checked it out."
"That’s not an answer. What kind of oil do you fill the cheese with?"
"Vegetable oil."
"What kind of vegetable oil?"
"Soybean oil."
"So I assume since you’re trying to sell this at a natural foods store, these are non-gmo soybeans?"***
"Oh yes. No GMOs. . . . Uh wait, what are GMOs?"

After an explanation by me and my co-worker, they make their leaving noises. Bubbly rep, trying to regain composure says, "Well let me leave these samples. Maybe your girls will like them."

"I don’t have any girls." I say loudly. Too late. They aren’t listening and they’re quickly gathering their stuff as they head out the door.

After they leave I notice the names on the products. I thought the samples were Mozzarella, Cheddar and Swiss. Nope. "Mozz", "Ched", and "Swis".

And UGH, did they taste terrible.

*The distributor is based in LA and I if I hadn’t forsworn LA-bashing I would be blaming all this on that fact. She how much I’ve grown?

**I later find out that’s the cheese company’s slogan.

*** GMO = genetically modified organisms. While regular folks might not know that abbreviation, people trying to sell to natural food stores should. This year at least 60% of the non-organic US soybean crop is genetically altered through lab-made changes in the plants DNA