Better Business Bureau Complaint against Mountain Products Smokehouse
My name is Sam Vitiello and the purpose of this page is to forewarn anyone who intends to do business with Mountain Products Smokehouse (Lagrangeville, NY) based on my extremely negative experience with owner Tom Gray. Feel free to contact me for more info. at email@example.com.
Please click on the image below to see the complaint I filed with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) on 12/26/2012, and then read the remainder of this page to get a full understanding of the situation.
After further investigation, I discovered information indicating that they were making the buckboard bacon without my knowledge and selling it under their own label. The comment below is from Sarah Gray, Tom’s daughter, and was on the facebook page of a farmers’ market in the Hudson Valley. Click on the image to enlarge it.
What makes this even more outrageous is that it occurred during a period of time when I was trying to reach Tom for information I needed regarding the testing/development of the buckboard bacon and he was not responding to my phone calls or emails. Note the date of August 4, 2012 in the bottom left corner of her comment and then see my email to Tom below and note the date of August 23, 2012 in the upper right corner. Click on the image to enlarge it.
Mountain Products Smokehouse was notified of the complaint and eventually sent a response letter to the Better Business Bureau. I then rejected their response because they made no provision to correct the problem and even worse, the letter was full of falsehoods and fabrications including the following:
1. “What we returned to Mr. Vitiello is all the remaining molasses in our possession. We had explained to him, that during a USDA inspection all of our storage facilities were to be emptied and cleaned. During that inspection things in storage were then discarded.” This explanation doesn’t make sense because the two buckets they returned to me were from the first shipment I sent them while the two buckets they never returned were from the second, later shipment. Therefore all four buckets of molasses should have been discarded during this supposed USDA inspection since all four of them would have been in storage at that point. Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that this event ever actually occurred. I obtained inspection records of Mountain Products Smokehouse from the USDA office in Washington, D.C. The records were from 02/01/2012 through 02/01/2013 which encompasses the period of time during which the molasses was at their facility (09/10/2012 through 12/14/2012). The table below lists all of the infractions that occurred during this time-frame and there is no record of a USDA inspector instructing them to empty and clean their storage facility. This seems rather odd since a major incident like this would certainly merit documentation by the USDA, considering the violations cited below are minor by comparison. Click on the image to enlarge it.
Also, if this event actually happened, it would be common courtesy to have notified me that the molasses had been discarded at that time. Yet, no one ever contacted me about this (no phone calls, emails, etc.). There was also no mention of this when they returned two boxes to my mother who then asked where the other two boxes were and Sarah Gray said that there were probably two buckets in each box, which would account for all four buckets. But this was not the case, and during the subsequent week I left two voice messages to let them know that I was coming to pick up the remaining molasses. No one ever returned my messages and I made a 240 mile round trip for nothing.
2. In his response letter to the BBB, Mr. Gray presented a phony bill with over $900.00 worth of charges that he claimed I owed him, apparently to justify his not returning the molasses. Click on image below. Included was a charge for 60 lbs of buckboard bacon that I had never requested and an equally ridiculous storage fee of $180.00 for the molasses which exceeded its actual cost ($144.00)! He also charged me a $375.00 fee for “time spent by owner”, yet during the entire three month period that I had tried to work with him, I had virtually no contact with him. I had made multiple requests for product testing that he never responded to and the tests were never conducted. In fact, he was extremely non-communicative in general. I could never reach him by phone and he returned only two of my 15 emails and none of my many voice-mails. The fact that he was so unresponsive was another major reason that I chose to pursue another meat processor to work with.
After I had rejected the response from Mountain Products Smokehouse, there was nothing further the BBB could do because it was beyond their purview. They generally deal with much less complex cases involving customer dissatisfaction with a product or service. If you would like to verify the information I’ve presented on this case (complaint #9350302), feel free to contact Barbara Kroin who was the BBB mediator at BKroin@newyork.bbb.org.
I was curious to see how Tom would explain the inconsistencies/contradictions I cited above, so I sent him an email inquiring about the charges on the bill. Surprisingly, he actually responded to it and offered the following explanations:
1. There was a 60 lb minimum requirement for the product samples I requested, hence the charge for 60 lbs of buckboard bacon.
2. Because the two molasses buckets from the more recent shipment (9/10/2012) had been discarded, he based the storage fee on that shipment (90 days/$180.00) instead of the earlier shipment that was returned to me (140 days/$280) and in so doing billed me for the lesser of the two amounts.
Here is my response regarding the 60 lb minimum requirement:
I see. But you said this in a previous email: “we did several runs of you buckboard bacon . One lot of 10 lbs and one lot of 60 lbs.” So from this it sounds like you can do small batches (10 lbs). This is confusing to me. Can you please clarify this? Also, I twice requested samples, see emails below. I have no record of you notifying me they were ready and also no record of you telling me what quantities you were making (note step 1 of first email, where I say to use 1 pork butt). Can you point to any emails, phone conversations, etc.? If I wasn’t notified they were ready, how was I supposed to come to pick them up and get you paid on time?
NOTE: I should have also mentioned that one of the items in his bill is “Buckboard, sausage…” and the quantity listed is 18 lbs which again contradicts his 60 lb minimum requirement.
Here is my response regarding the molasses:
So it was the Sept. 10 shipment that was discarded during a USDA inspection. But if that’s the case, why wasn’t the earlier shipment (July 23) discarded as well, since all four buckets would have been in storage at that point? Also, can you point to any emails, phone calls, etc. where you informed me that I was being charged storage @ $2.00/day? Certainly I would have come to pick up the molasses much sooner if I knew the “meter was running”.
Tom replied that his daughter notified me by phone to let me know the samples were ready but offered no explanations to any of my other questions and simply said, “the charges are what they are”. I then informed him that phone records would show that no such phone conversation with his daughter took place since he never placed a call to my number, nor did I contact him by phone during this time period.
There was no further response from Tom. I thought it was priceless when he made it sound like he was giving me a good deal by charging me the lower storage fee yet never acknowledging that the fee was still more than the value of the molasses itself! Also, consider this. If these charges are real, then when I arrived to pick up the molasses in mid-December I would have been about three months delinquent on a $902.10 bill. The four buckets of molasses are worth about $265.00. Yet I make two trips to retrieve the molasses when my debt to him far exceeds the cost of the molasses? Any rational person in this situation would not have the audacity to do that. Even more ridiculous, he actually returns two of the buckets. Wouldn’t it make more sense to withhold them until he received payment for the bill? Finally, during each visit there was no mention of this bill by Tom or any other Mountain Products employee. Considering the substantial amount of the bill, this is yet another glaring inconsistency.
If you’re not yet convinced of the dishonest nature of this business operator, I’ve prepared a document that I’d be happy to share with you which has substantial documentation (emails, receipts, photos, etc.) that invalidates Mr. Gray’s statements in his response letter and reveals his propensity to lie repeatedly. Again, the main purpose of this page is to provide information, based on my own personal experience, for anyone considering a business relationship with Mr. Gray and Mountain Products Smokehouse. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.