You know what? I like drinking coffee; and if I can earn a pension plan of 2,000€ per month for the rest of my life by doing so, then all the better. That was why this week, when getting some help with the groceries, I added “instant coffee” to the list. “Make sure it’s Nestlé” I stressed in a melodious tone. I already had an empty bottle and with a second I could retrieve the second secret number (two were required) and, what do you know, send it off via the Internet. There would be a drawing, and just maybe, I would be the lucky customer.
The minute I had the ground coffee cupped in my hands, greed overcame me and I forwent any abdominal pains my recent hernia operation was giving me and searched and prepared my imminent golden handshake, courtesy of the Nestlé Company. The special number I was to type into the system was printed on the interior of the label, meaning the only way I could get a better look at it was by peeling it off the glass. This I did with an immense deal of care, because the good people at the packaging department had selected some of the world’s finest glue to keep the paper from coming off.
The first glass behaved itself all right, but the second one (brand new and filled to the brim with dark brown granular coffee) proved early on that, were I to continue tugging, the series number would end up being entirely illegible. So, patted it back, dumped the coffee into an airtight container (or mostly airtight), and, through the warped view of the thick glass, I pretty much managed to read what it said.
So, I hobbled back to my laptop, tapped away at the proper keys and, sure enough, up came a web page beckoning me to sign up for the contest. I couldn’t if I wasn’t registered, so I had to meet the prerequisites, which included, naturally, handing over all my personal details for their database. If that was what it took to be able to go to the bank and ask for a loan because “my friends over in Switzerland are taking care of me every month”, well I was all for it. These bits of information, the page accepted kindly.
Once a member of the Nestlé customer team, I raced back to the page, winning numbers in hand, and tried to get them into the system as quickly as possible. Suddenly, I couldn’t. The page didn’t respond. I did this several times that day with the same results. And I continued unsuccessfully for a few more days until it dawned on me that maybe something was up. I could have sworn that we could participate up to the end of June, but a closer look at label showed otherwise: It was the end of May. June 30th was when I had to pay my taxes by.
So, the company had accepted my personal data and then said “See ya!”
I will be kind and admit that it was June 1, and just maybe someone at the corporation was slow to close the page, but still…
Never quite satisfied with not knowing enough, I went to the company’s home page to find out a little more about just what it does…which is a lot. As they put it, “Nestlé is most famous for its chocolate, but it is far more than that. It is the world’s largest food and beverage company…” Boy, I’d say that does define “far more”.
The rest of the site diverted me to no end and was worthy of pages of amusing observations, but I wouldn’t know where to begin. But I will give you a few tidbits.
It is a fairly plain easy-to-read website, almost surprisingly dull. The homepage highlights an interview with an executive title “José López on palm oil”, which, if only for the name itself, enticed me to click on it and see what the elegantly dressed man had to say on the subject. Not that I fancy listening to executives in suits discuss vegetable-based lubricants, it’s just that I really couldn’t see myself striking up a conversation with him on a plane. It lasted only four minutes, but after two my eyes were already beginning to close. His office was nice, though, and we had a wonderful view of the Alps, as you would expect.
And the breaking news item from two weeks ago has to do with Nestlé Health Science division acquiring an important U.S. gastrointestinal diagnostics company. Hmm. What in God’s name would possess them to do that? A food company? Had all the makings of a great investigative thriller.
But basically, as you would expect to find in these pages, much of the message was about just what a bunch of nice people they are, and how much they care about everyone and everything. You, me, their employees, the suppliers, the producers of the primary foods they use, the air, sea and water. They made Green Peace look like a bunch of filthy Sunday beach polluters. And that, I must admit, always raises some suspicions. I’m not saying that the company isn’t sincere in its efforts to adapt to modern demands, because I don’t know; I’m just naturally wary of all the publicity.
You can also find your handful of crafty writing. My favorite stated that the company “was dedicated to Creating Shared Value in good times and perhaps, more importantly, in challenging times.” No. The direct opposite of “good” is “bad”. A six-year-old could tell you that. But let’s stick to “challenging” because it sounds better.
A company the size of Nestlé, with some 280,000 employees, and which produces enough food to feed numerous countries, is bound to run into controversy, the most famous being the baby formula issue in the 1970s (go google it and learn more) and the child-labor cacao scandal of the past decade. José Lopez’s talk about palm oil derives itself from a Facebook platform which highly criticized the company’s deforestation practices. Nestlé eventually (eventually) responded in a way the satisfied the NGOs concerned with the problem. But this post is getting a bit too long, so I won’t go on. Also, if I keep it up, I may never win the 2,000€ a month prize the next time they make the promotion. After all, the people at Nestlé have my email address and all. And yes, I’ll be a sap and admit I still like their instant coffee.