by Eric D. Snider
Published in The Californian on September 14, 1993
I was bored one day a couple weeks ago, so I started calling some of those 1-800 numbers they have on the labels of food products that you can call if you have questions or comments. I didn't really have any questions or comments, but I did have to write a column.
First, I called 1-800-468-1714, which I got from the wrapper of a Skor candy bar, and I asked what "Skor" means. The woman who answered the phone ("Daphne") didn't know. "I think it's Norwegian," she said. "Let me check." So she put me on hold for a while, and when she came back, she said, in a voice that was much happier than I think it ought to have been, "It doesn't mean anything!"
She added, "It's Swedish, and in Swedish, it's 'Diam'." I asked how they know what language it is if it doesn't mean anything, and how they translate it, but she didn't know. Daphne really wasn't much help, so I didn't ask her my other question, which was what the secret ingredient is in Skor candy bars that makes them taste so nasty.
Next, I called 1-800-252-7022, which is the consumer number for Nine Lives cat food. Well, actually, I guess it's the consumer's owner number, since cats can't really use the telephone (although most cats could probably do a better job of it than my 10-year-old sister does). I asked "Ken" how they know what the cat food tastes like. I mean, on the can, they always put stuff like "Cats love it!", but how do they know?
Ken then told me all about this testing facility where they have FIVE HUNDRED CATS, which already sounds like a living nightmare. "It's a very nice facility," he said, as if he suspected I was from the ASPCA, checking up on them. He made it sound like a very scientific place, where men in white lab coats feed the cats different kinds of cat food to see which kind they eat the most of, but I think that maybe it's just the house of some old lady who has a lot of cats, and I'll bet the old lady knows each of the cats' names, too.
I asked Ken if they ever have people eat the cat food, and he said, with what sounded like a straight face, "No, never." I find it very amusing that he took me seriously.
The most interesting phone call was when I called the Grape Nuts people, at 1-800-431-POST. I talked to Carl, and I asked him where the name "Grape Nuts" came from. Well, Uncle Carl then proceeded to gather the kids around the campfire and tell us quite an exciting tale. It seems that when C.W. Post invented Grape Nuts in 1897, he discovered that in the baking process, dextrose was formed. In those days, dextrose was often called "grape sugar," for reasons that Carl did not go into. That, in addition to the cereal's "nutty flavor," led to the name "Grape Nuts." Fascinating, huh? Well, you should have heard Carl tell it! He is a very precise, unimpressible man who pronounces all of his "t's" and "d's" quite clearly. I particularly enjoyed the way he said the word "nutty." I'm thinking about calling him again some day and asking the same question, just so I can hear him say "nutty" again.
(Eric D. Snider is a college student living at home in Lake Elsinore for a while. If you have any questions or comments, please call 1-800-LEAVE-ME-ALONE.)
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