IMG_7544I’m an easy-going person…unless you mess with three things in my life:

  1. My kids
  2. My husband
  3. My access to sugar

So, perhaps the following can be explained by a panic caused by number three. Let me explain…

I look forward to Christmas with enthusiasm much like Buddy, the Elf. We also have similar tastes in food, but I digress.

Sugar cookies are my favorite, but holiday sugar cookies are my ULTIMATE favorite. I love two different brands of Christmas cookies. Archway and Voortman. I look for them the day after Thanksgiving and buy several of each brand. The Archway cookies are sweet, buttery, and soft. They’re really little, so it doesn’t feel like you’re going to hell if you eat half a bag. (It makes sense in my head, don’t judge.) And Voortman’s are traditional, crunchy, sugar-sprinkled, giant cookies.

THEY’RE BOTH AWESOME in their own way. And both must be consumed to reach the highest level of Sugar-Nirvana.

But, this year I could not find either brand. Anywhere. ANYWHERE!

When I came up empty after a long exhaustive search, I did what any 21st century consumer would do…

I wrote two emails (One to Voortmans Bakery and the other to Archway Cookies).

Here is the Voortman email:

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Just in case you can’t read that it says:

Hello,

I buy the Holiday Assorted Festive Cookies every year. In fact, I look forward to the day when I see them on the shelf. I actually break into a little dance–completely disregarding the strange looks of fellow shoppers. I buy a dozen packages at a time so I can stock pile them and enjoy the best cookies in the world well into the New Year. This year, for reasons I do not understand, I cannot find them anywhere. ANYWHERE! If I don’t find some Assorted Festive Cookies, I’m thinking of cancelling all holiday celebrations! That would be a horrible thing to do, but I’m desperate. I have gone to five different stores (seven if you count the online stores) and they are either out of stock or don’t sell the Assorted Festive Cookies. C’mon! Not cool. Perhaps there Is an Assorted Festive Cookie shortage this year???? It’s not like the Voortman didn’t know the holiday season was coming up—like December appeared without any warning at all. However, it certainly seems (from all the LACK of product on shelves) that the season took  your company by surprise. Perhaps there wasn’t enough time to make cookies for EVERYONE–not enough cookies for people like ME who are perfectly willing to do a little happy-happy-joy-joy dance in the cookie aisle (while being judged by other cookie buyers who just don’t get the magic of Assorted Festive deliciousness)! But, alas…here it is mid-December and my cookie jar remains empty! Take a moment and seriously contemplate the sadness of an empty cookie jar. That is my reality right now. So…PLEASE, please, just tell me where I can obtain these delicious holiday cookies. Is there a black market for this sort of thing? *wink wink* Just wondering…and perhaps, considering… However, if you can tell me where I can legitimately purchase these little pieces of sugared heaven, I’d certainly appreciate it.  Thank you for your time.   Kristine

To my great surprise, they answered my email the next day:

Hello Kristine,  Thank you for contacting us at Voortman Bakery! Please let me know where you are located, either your zip code or postal code so I can have a district manager contact you directly with information on where you can find these cookies you dance for!

If you send me your entire mailing address, I will send you a coupon when they come out in the New Year for a free package of any of our cookies! Thank you and I look forward to hearing back from you.
Shari
Consumer Relations Administrator

Well, she wanted to hear back from me, so…

Hello Shari, I honestly didn’t expect a response, so it was a pleasant surprise to see your email.  Thank you for taking the time to answer my inquiry.   My address is: 1000 Court, Anywhere, VA 22222. Feel free to send a truck full of highly-anticipated, much sought-after (and ever elusive) Assorted Festive Cookies to the above address. Just kidding. Although…it might create some great publicity (a human interest story) told by local Washington, DC-area news; therefore, boosting Voortman’s visibility by highlighting the company’s generosity during this season of giving. Hmm…now that I’m thinking about this…such an event would be marketing genius and would have some serious online-viral potential. This is especially true since I live on an Army base and there are hundreds of young soldiers in dorms who won’t be able to go home to their families for the holidays—and who, I suspect, would love such rare and fine treats like Assorted Festive Cookies which I would gladly donate to them.  LOL   But seriously, thanks again for responding. I really would love to hear where I can find the cookies. If the district manager wants to call me to expedite the process, my number is XXX-XXX-XXXX.  Warm Regards, Kristine

She responded:

Hello Kristine!  I loved your email, and I have added you to our list for coupons in the New Year!  I have contacted a Regional Manager (who may have someone else contact you) to help you locate those cookies you are looking for.  I have two boys who both are in the Army, and I appreciate everyone’s help who works in this field!    Shari

And true to her word, a regional manager contacted me!

Kristine, Thanks for contacting us about our Christmas Cookies.  We have them close at a Target north of the base on Route 1.  You can also request to have them sold at the commissary.  Just ask for the grocery manager at the Commissary.  If you have any other questions, please free to call me on my cell tomorrow. Thank you, Darrell, Regional Manager-Southeast  Voortman Cookies  757-XXX-XXXX

He didn’t have to tell me twice!

Although the Target in question is in a very heavily congested area of town, I drove with a smile on my face. The extra-horrible traffic due to the Christmas rush combined with normal rush hour madness, didn’t even faze me. I was going to get my cookies!

I dutifully looked for the Voortman cookie display while filling my cart with things I didn’t even know I needed until I saw them. Forty-five minutes later, I still had not found my cookies. I circled the store again, and thus, found even MORE things I didn’t know I needed. Damn you, Target!

My optimism began to fade, but then I found the Voortman display…

And all my hopes were dashed. 

With a heavy heart, I did what any 21st century consumer would do.

I texted Darrell, the Regional Manager.

I know it’s weird. But, he gave me his number. And I was desperate. I had counted on those cookies for dessert that night. Okay, to be honest, I knew on my way home I’d have one…or two…most likely three, but I definitely would also have them for dessert.

Here is the exchange between me and Darrell.

IMG_7622THIS IS WHAT i WAS LOOKIGN FORIMG_7624i THOUGHT THESE WERE THEMIMG_7631YOU ARE MY HERO

OHHHH, JOY!! I was going to get the real cookies, not those horrible healthy holiday “treats.” Right after I purchased those minis—I mean, right there in the Target parking lot, I bit into one of those so-called treats. I was perfectly willing to give them a chance. Really, I was.

They were bad.

They had a funky, sort-of-garlic-y/chemical taste. My son said it tasted like an onion farted Windex. I think that’s clear enough. No need to expand.

But none of that mattered.  I was going to get the real McCoys at the commissary!

The next morning, I went straight to the commissary and bought ten packages. I wanted to make the joy last through the holidays!

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I brought them home–resisting the urge to devour them on the way. No, I wanted to wait for the perfect moment to unwrap my personal taste of heaven. I was going to pop open a Diet Coke, put on my favorite Christmas music, and snuggle under my fuzzy, holiday blanket while eating delicious once-a-year confections.  I’d planned a perfect combination of Christmas-y indulgence.

And then…I bit into one. They, just like their little minion counterparts called ‘treats’ were free from high-fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, and artificial flavors!

What happened next is best described in my review on Amazon:

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In case you can’t read it:

<One Star>

I bought ten packages because I look forward to the Assorted Festive cookies every year. But the second I bit into one, I knew something was wrong. Then I looked at the package. YOU CHANGED THE RECIPE?? Wait a second, let this compute in my brain for a minute…you changed a recipe that people loved??? Did the board meeting go something like this: “We need to do something about those delicious best-selling holiday cookies! Too many people love them and look forward to them every year! Anyone have a suggestion on how to stop this travesty? You! You there, drinking your kale, beet smoothie!! Any ideas?” Oh, Voortman bakery..why????? Nine of the packages will go back to the store. If I wanted health food, I wouldn’t be buying SUGAR cookies! Can you please, please, please, make two varieties? One for joyous people with a sense of taste and the other for those who crave a healthy-soulless cookie? I’m so disappointed. But, your customer service people are great! They really are. Now change the cookies back!

I am not the only one who had this visceral, angry experience. There were FIFTY people who commented on their Facebook page with almost the exact same sentiments.  Below is my review of their miniature Assorted Festive “TREATS.”  

I’m 99% sure the people who gave this product five stars thought they were reviewing the actual old-style Voortman Festive Holiday cookies. And that would be what I would give those cookies…five stars. They were the BEST!  But THESE ARE NOT THEM. This bears repeating. These are not the same! These “holiday treats” (notice they don’t dare call them cookies!) don’t have any of the good stuff–they are free from high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, and artificial flavors and, therefore, they are also free of flavor.  In other words, they have tried to fool us into being health-conscious with little weird shaped cracker-like concoctions. ICK!  It’s Christmas and it is as though Voortman said, “Bah humbug! No sugar-plums for you!” If we can only get the Voortman Holiday Festive cookies (the real ones) during the holiday season, why why why would they package these as “miniature holiday cookies?” I bought two bags of these “treats.”  Immediately, I knew I’d been had. This is the precise time of year where we can indulge in the bad stuff. Take these dog treats away, Voortman bakers! We are onto you! I will henceforth ALWAYS check the packaging for any “healthful change” in the ingredients. I want some REAL Assorted Festive Holiday Cookies not these health-nut-pandering, bland, tasteless, counterfeit mock-ups. Cookie aficionados, and sugar-addicts, you have been warned. READ THE LABELS! I have been fooled. Learn from my mistake. Save yourself disappointment. I will, however, give Voortman’s customer service five-stars. I think Voortman made a mistake changing the recipe, but the people who helped me find the cookies were awesome. 

Bottom Line:  I still don’t have my cookies.

Update:  Something AWESOME happened.  I didn’t receive an email from Archway Cookies until after the Voortman debacle.  Just when I’d given up my search, this pops up in my email.

Dear Kristine:

Thank you for contacting us about Archway – limited edition holiday cookies. We did make them, they are out in stores now. However, unfortunately our product locator only updates every 30-60 days, so we are unable to locate a specific store that has them in stock.

Some of the holiday cookies can be ordered direct from us by calling  1-877-309-6361 or 800-233-7125 ext 28592. You will have to order a case, but I believe you can mix and match the flavors. You may look at Walmart.com or Target.com to order. We appreciate your interest in our products.
Erika
Specialist
Consumer Affairs

 

Well, as it turns out that the stores she mentioned were out of stock and so was Amazon.

So, I did what any 20th century consumer would do in such a situation. I called the 1-877 number!

Tammy, the customer rep, said, “Yes, you can order them directly from us, and yes, you can get them before Christmas…but unfortunately you must buy them by the case.”

I FAILED TO SEE THE PROBLEM!

I ordered a case. But, not before I asked if they’d changed the recipe. She assured me they had not. And she said they freeze beautifully.

SIGN ME UP ALREADY!

Two days later, UPS dropped off two big boxes to my house. I was confused. I had only ordered one case. Had there been a (fortunate) mistake?

Inside the second package, I found this letter:

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Just in case you can’t read it:

Dear Kristine, I received your note about not being able to find your  beloved Bells and Stars. I sincerely apologize that you have been unable to find them. The market where you live either had a limited quantity of Bells and Stars or the stores ran out earlier than previous years. We will work on getting this righ tint he future. In the meantime, please find enclosed a few packages of Bells and Stars. Hopefully this will enable you to do your happy-happy-joy-joy dance and will tie you over until next year. Sincerely, Corey

Inside that second box was another case of  Stars and Bells Cookies! (Gratis!)

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa, and he works at Archway!

Archway now has a loyal customer for life! (Just so long as they don’t make them healthy!)

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