My first instinct is "Flag it (as a company not to buy from) And Move On," but I'm not sure...
July 25, 2012 4:14 PM   Subscribe

I chipped a tooth on a pea-sized frigging rock in a container of hummus from a major manufacturer. What does a normal non-litigious person do in this circumstance.
posted by 256 to Law & Government (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What do you want to accomplish? Do you want to get your tooth fixed and have the hummus company held accountable? Or do you just want to inform them that this happened?
posted by scody at 4:17 PM on July 25, 2012

Save the rock to show your friends, get a surface filling for the chip at your next dental check up.

That is what this person would do. I have chipped teeth before and the fillings were pretty cheap. I like to be able to let go and not have to assign responsibility to all of life's little unpleasant treats.
posted by cakebatter at 4:18 PM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

Depending on how bad the chip is, a normal non-litigious person might also spend the next week or so telling everybody they run into about how they chipped their tooth on a rock in a container of hummus, and do nothing beyond that whatsoever.
posted by box at 4:20 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Write to the manufacturer or call and provide the details of the product including the lot number and expiration date. That way they can determine if there are any related complaints and if they need to issue a recall or anything.

Even if you don't want to pursue compensation (I wouldn't bother either), they should know about the issue for future quality control.
posted by dayintoday at 4:20 PM on July 25, 2012 [21 favorites]

You save the rock and the container and you call the 1-800 number for the company. They will want both back.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:24 PM on July 25, 2012 [11 favorites]

Write them a letter and/or call their customer service number. They might offer to pay for the repair, or to cover yourco-pay.
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:25 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm very non-litigious, but they bear at least some of the financial responsibility here. I would send them a certified letter including photos of the rock, the packaging, your tooth and an estimate from your dentist. I would propose that they pay 50% of the cost or of your co-pay + deductible (if you have insurance), but I would probably accept something less than that if they make a counter-offer.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:37 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm a pretty non-litigious person myself, but I think it's important to note that law suits (or the threat of them) serve as a critical check on corporate behavior. Your motivation need not be self-interest, but for the greater public good. The whole cultural notion that law suits are for chiseling frauds and lowlifes (and their ambulance-chasing lawyers) is one that serves the interests of those corporations quite nicely. It's no accident that the right is constantly pushing "tort reform" and telling blown up anecdotes about "frivolous lawsuits."

Just something to consider.
posted by TonyRobots at 4:41 PM on July 25, 2012 [27 favorites]

I once called an ice-cream making company (regionally local, not a big national) to tell them I'd bitten down on a rather large piece of plastic that was buried in one of their ice cream cartons. I kept the ice cream and the piece of plastic. Two guys came and looked at the ice cream and plastic, asked if I'd been injured, asked me again, and gave me their contact info and a lot of coupons for free ice cream. If I'd chipped a tooth I might asked if they'd cover any related dental bills and they probably would have said yes.
posted by rtha at 4:46 PM on July 25, 2012

Our family got a bag of ice that had screws embedded in several ice cubes. We called the company, and they were very happy to get the news, so they could go recall bags from the same lot, just in case there was some manufacturing problem (obviously) that might result in someone getting injured. So I would definitely tell the company, with the lot number, even if you don't want any compensation.
posted by xingcat at 4:58 PM on July 25, 2012 [7 favorites]

You should at least call them and ask for a refund on the hummus.
posted by Lutoslawski at 5:00 PM on July 25, 2012

You don't need to be litigious to want a company to pay for dental work that they caused you to have to undergo.

Save everything (rock, hummus - might want to put the hummus in the freezer, this could take a while) - have the dentist who fixes it write up a report that includes how you got injured, and that the injury is solely a result of the rock encounter - and write the company and ask them to pay you back for the work, including the dentist's bill and report with the letter. You may need to call them to ask where to send the letter.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:46 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes on to reporting it on the public safety/quality control aspect, and I think it's reasonable to ask the company to reimburse you for repairs if for no other reason than to keep them accountable. Claiming additional psychological pain and suffering is what could push this past the point of reasonable and responsible.
posted by vers at 5:46 PM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

Non litigious person here, but I would contact them as others have mentioned and ask them to cover your dental bill. They certainly have insurance for such things, and it could be a relatively quick and painless procedure for them to send an adjuster by, who will probably just want to write you a check in exchange for you signing that you won't pursue anything further against them.

Personal experience: a relative scratched her throat on a bone fragment in some ground beef, and needed a barium X-ray to check the damage. The grocery chain the beef came from sent an adjuster who paid the medical bill and wrote a $1000 check for pain and suffering and liability release. This was many years ago.
posted by The Deej at 5:50 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Definitely write to them and complain - tell them all about your tooth and what it cost you to have it repaired. You don't have to sue - they may offer you something if you express your dismay to them.
posted by brownrd at 6:30 PM on July 25, 2012

Nthing the fact that it's perfectly fair to expect them to cover your dental bills. Especially if god forbid you don't have insurance.
posted by Sara C. at 7:04 PM on July 25, 2012

When somebody says, "I am not an angry person," this means that they rarely get angry, or that they only become angry when there is good reason to, not that they never get angry at all. Similarly, I am not a litigious person, but I once had to sue an ex-business partner, and I may have to sue someone else someday. If Bill Gates asked you out to lunch at a restaurant, and you chipped your tooth on the entree, I imagine it would be unreasonable and litigious to sue Bill Gates -- but the restaurant caused your problem and it is entirely reasonable, and IMO non-litigious, to ask (or to use the legal system to require) the restaurant to fix the problem it caused.
posted by Mr. Justice at 7:11 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yep. Save the rock and the container. (You probably don't have to keep the actual goop, just the container with the date code on it.) Call the company, tell them what happened and that you'd like them to reimburse you for the repair of your tooth. They will most likely do so.

It's not litigious to expect for them to do this. This is a prepared product that shouldn't have rocks in it. Unlike say a bag of rice, where you'd expect the occasional bug or small stone.

It's not litigious to want recompense for something. It only becomes litigious when you either make calling your lawyer the first step, or if you try to squeeze them for more than just recompense.
posted by gjc at 7:24 PM on July 25, 2012

I agree with Mr. Justice. Or think of it this way. If your friend chipped her tooth on a rock in your mashed potatoes, would you not be horrified and offer to help pay her dental costs? Would that not be all the more true if you were a mashed potato company and spent all your working hours improving your mashed potato equipment and developing quality assurance methods? So assume the company is as honorable as you are. Approach them in that spirit and allow them to make it right.

"I have long appreciated XYZ Hummus, and I know that XYZ prides itself on [quote from their corporate materials]. I was therefore quite surprised when I was eating XYZ hummus and bit into... I wanted to share this information to help as you continually improve your quality assurance procedures, to prevent others from being injured. I also share it in hopes that you would cover the costs I incurred as a result."
posted by salvia at 7:26 PM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

My father chipped a tooth on a piece of metal that fell into his fish sandwich in a McDonald's in the early 90s. I think he contacted the franchise first, who of course insisted that he turn the thing over for investigation (which of course he, being a lawyer, didn't do) and eventually the whole thing was handled out of court when corporate offered to pay for his filling. This sort of thing happens more often than you'd think.

First thing you do is take care of your health: schedule a dentist's appointment to get the filling. Then call the store where you bought the hummus, at least to let them know they have some defective merchandise (maybe they want to throw out the whole batch now, to protect themselves) and let them know that you had to have dental work done to fix it. Kindly suggest that this incident is at least in part their responsibility, given that they sold you some hummus with a lousy rock in it, that the customer-store social contract which implicitly states 'I will not sell food with rocks in it' has been violated. If you're talking to someone with any sense, they'll take the hint and offer to reimburse you for your dental work. If not, and they start playing the your-word-against-mine game, then you get your witnesses lined up and you call a lawyer.
posted by deathpanels at 7:41 PM on July 25, 2012

An Aunt had something similar happen. My uncle, a lawyer, sent a non-litigious letter on his letterhead and the company sent a check for about $600 pretty quick. The company has insurance for this exact sort of thing, you're not being a dick by asking for some compensation, you're a dick if you ask for $1 million.
posted by dripdripdrop at 7:59 PM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

Write the company's legal department a letter, and include a photocopy of the dental bill, and ask them to cover it.
posted by Kololo at 9:57 PM on July 25, 2012

When I was about 10 years old, I chipped my tooth on a rock that was in a package of Cracker Barrel cheese. My parents helped me compose a letter to the company which I mailed with the rock and the bar code. I was so certain that this was going to be my ticket to getting rich beyond my wildest dreams, that I would receive one of those giant novelty cheques in a special ceremony held by the kindly old owner of Cracker Barrel. Hell, maybe they'd just give me one of their restaurants.

I received a letter back from them explaining that their lab had concluded the rock was a piece of quartzite of unknown origin, and with the letter was a cheque! I don't remember the exact amount, but it was for some arbitrary sum of under two dollars, like $1.62.

They also sent ten coupons for free cheese, which my mom took from me and presumably used. I hope this information helps you somehow.
posted by item at 3:43 AM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

Once in college I was putting some Rolling Rock (don't judge) into my fridge, and one of the bottles exploded in my hand as i was setting it on the shelf. Called the 800-number on the box, and they sent me a check that covered the whole 12-pack.
posted by colin_l at 4:57 AM on July 26, 2012

We once got a container of hummus that inexplicably smelled like gasoline. We called the company, which was very, very happy to hear about the problem. They also sent us a ton of coupons for free hummus.
posted by sarcasticah at 4:20 PM on July 26, 2012

Yeah, I have no intention to try and claim a fortune in emotional damages and I really couldn't be bothered to sue. But I don't have dental insurance and I did think that maybe they owed me a trip to the dentist and a new container of hummus.

Keeping all this advice in mind, I have called the number on the side of the container and am expecting a callback on Monday.
posted by 256 at 1:39 PM on July 27, 2012

Be sure to keep pictures of everything. I once had a bottled water that smelled strongly of gasoline. The company asked me to send it back and I stupidly didn't keep a bit back for my own sample. They wrote me back with their test results - the water was perfectly normal and I had nothing to worry about. Even though I immediately spit it out because it was so nasty. Moral: trust, but verify.
posted by Addlepated at 8:03 PM on July 27, 2012

256: "Yeah, I have no intention to try and claim a fortune in emotional damages and I really couldn't be bothered to sue. But I don't have dental insurance and I did think that maybe they owed me a trip to the dentist and a new container of hummus. "

You have no insurance. They do. File a claim and let them pay to fix your tooth. (Don't accept the first, low-ball offer they're likely to make.) And definitely don't file any kind of release before you've seen a dentist and had the damage assessed.

This is what companies pay insurance premiums for. Breaking a tooth is not considered a normal risk of eating hummus. Please don't feel that you're being unreasonable by expecting to be made whole again.
posted by Lexica at 6:33 PM on July 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Final update from the OP:
This feels almost trivial to update, but it turns out that OHIP (Canadian Universal Health Care) was in fact able to cover the tooth repair despite my original concerns. They sent me some coupons for free hummous, but, as you might imagine, I have found a different brand.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:27 PM on October 21, 2013

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