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Marie Callender's Snit

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Has this happened to you? I go to Marie Callender’s to buy the pie that’s on special sale. It’s the pie advertised on the big banner in front of the restaurant. However, when I get to the cash register, the person tells me they are sold out and then may add, “But you can buy any of our other pies for full price.” I admit I must like their pies very much because this isn’t the first, the second or even the third time that this situation has come up.

On one occasion I did speak to the manager that evening and explained that unless the restaurant offers a rain check or a discount on another selection to its customers, what Marie Callender’s is doing, in my opinion, is what’s called bait and switch, baiting the customer into the store only to sell them a more expensive item. You can imagine how well that went over.

So last night I went to the restaurant in Glendora, and it happened again. It’s so frustrating. This time, though, I’m going to see what consumer protection doors I can knock on. I feel silly for getting this upset about such a seemingly trifling matter. I can easily afford the extra two or three dollars it will cost to walk out with another selection, but I feel what Marie Callender’s is doing is unfair and customer unfriendly

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  1. Don't feel silly for getting upset! If you are never offered a rain check, or the manager of these restaurants refuses your request for one, I'd document it (including, if you can find one, a print copy of the ad). Unless the ad clearly states that quantities are limited, it's illegal according to California Civil Code Section 1770, (a) (10), which reads:

    1770. (a) The following unfair methods of competition and unfair or
    deceptive acts or practices undertaken by any person in a
    transaction intended to result or which results in the sale or lease
    of goods or services to any consumer are unlawful:
    (10) Advertising goods or services with intent not to supply
    reasonably expectable demand, unless the advertisement discloses a
    limitation of quantity.

    Sometimes, just making management aware that you know these specifics may be enough to get a pie at the sale price. Otherwise, I'd take your documentation and file a complaint online at the below URL or by phone at 800/952-5210.

    If more people took these actions, fewer stores would try to get away with it.

    Link: http://www.dca.ca.gov/complainthelp/c...

    5 Replies
    1. re: Jane in LA

      It also sounds like a good class action suit.

      1. re: Kev

        Yeah and put all the plaintiffs under a lie detector test at their deposition!

        1. re: Geek

          don't you mean a pie detector test?

          1. re: Kurt

            And if you fail it, you will be sentenced to 5 days of cherry picking!

    2. Never had that happen to me but I have heard the complaint before now. How about writing a good old-fashioned letter to the store explaining your negative experiences and cc-ing corporate MC before calling Johnny Cochran. Companies tend to respond to written consumer complaints.

      1 Reply
      1. I think you are right. I don't think it's bait and switch though, because they did have the pies on sale. They just ran out. The least they should've done was to take down the sign.

        7 Replies
        1. re: Peter
          Somebody in the industry

          This posting sparked my interest and I have read the replies to the original link. I have worked in this business for 15 years.

          I'm very concerned that so many folks get so bent out of shape about these things. Disgusting how quick everyone is to threaten to "sue" others. It is for this very reason good people like myself are hesitant to go into business because others are so quick to take somebody to court and create unnecessary drama and expense.

          Take into consideration that it is hard to predict how many pies these guys will have to make for the day. You do want fresh food right? They could easily overproduce and sell you something made 4 days ago, but they choose to make fresh product daily.

          I suggest you go to the grocery store and buy a frozen pie from Mrs Smiths for $2.50 and enjoy it.

          I do not work for Marie Callender's, but I do have to serve folks that are simply looking for something to be bitter about and are difficult to please.

          I might also ad if you do not like something, find the manager on duty and tactfully mention you are disappointed (sans all the drama and whining) and in most cases they will be very understanding and you may very possibly get some positive results. Give folks a chance to make things right, it's a simple thing.


          1. re: Somebody in the industry

            At my work I also get people who threatens to sue me on the drop of a hat. If only I have a dollar for everytime... So I do agree with your point that some folks are too quick to lawyer up.

            But in this case, it's a simple act to take down the sale sign once the sale item is gone. Or to go one step further to put up a sign saying sorry all the sale pies are gone. It's simple customer service. Also in this case the OP did talk to the manager and they did not make thing right for her. Offering her something else at full price is indeed akin to bait and switch.

            1. re: Somebody in the industry

              Conversely, good people like yourself could just obey California law, as Jane suggested.

              As the original poster mentioned, no raincheck was offered, just an offer of another pie at full price. That's illegal. Sometimes people who break the law get sued. Sometimes they even lose. Deal with it.

              1. re: Somebody in the industry

                You are *right on* with your post.
                But this site has a lot of whiners. They really don't care about how small problems can arise in the food industry.
                They just want -when they want.
                I like your idea about Mrs. Smith's :^)

                1. re: hambone

                  Sells out advertised items. Goes outside to take down advertising poster. Now how difficult is that? If that is considered a big hassle and customers are called whiners, no wonder the failure rate of restaurant is so high.

                  1. re: Peter

                    How do you know if it really happened.
                    Any witnesses for the lawsuit?
                    Let's hear the manager's side of the story.
                    Maybe a disgruntled employee or customer who always comes in looking for a free meal.
                    I would never own a restaurant, from what I have seen of the way customers treat foodservice owners.

                2. re: Somebody in the industry

                  I agree with you on the legal bit, but "customer service" is a lost art form. I find it disconcerting to have to be "pleasantly suprised" when I recieve good service or when an restaraunt employee acts like they care.

              2. You do have good reason to be upset, especially since the same thing has happened more than three times. Classic example of "bait and switch". The banner should definitely be rolled up when the featured pie is sold out. Your next step is to write a letter to the CEO stating specifically the problem, dates, locations and responses given you.

                1. I did not get the impression that Pie-faced was inclined to sue---he just doesn't like wasting time going to buy a pie that isn't there. Seems perfectly reasonable to me.

                  Offering something at a discounted price and not having sufficient quantity to meet demand while continuing to entice people into the business with the special offer and then offering something at a higher price is classic text book bait and switch. While there doesn't have to be a pie for every single person who comes in, there does have to be a reasonable quantity of the special price pie. In other words, they can't make 12 pies, sell out by noon and keep advertising the sale pie. Its not too much to expect that a store take down a banner once the sale item is gone or offer a raincheck or other pie at discount. Think about the car ads that specify that the sale price is limited to a specific VIN number car.

                  I suggest you inquire around as to whether this experience is limited to Marie Calender's in the SoCal area or whether this is a nationwide practice. If its a nationwide practice, then in addition to a complaint to the California regulators, you can complain to the Federal Trade Commission because what is going on may constitute a deceptive practice. There is a form on their website.

                  Link: http://www.ftc.gov

                  1. I have worked in foodservice for 13 years. It is EXTREMELY difficult to accurately gauge demand for a particular product with any degree of accuracy. Freshness (for you), LA Healthcode (the law), and Food Cost (the business) are ALL issues concerning customer supply and demand.

                    You said that you feel what Marie Callendar is doing is UNFAIR and CUSTOMER UNFRIENDLY. If you feel that way--> Show that company how you feel with your pocketbook. Share your thoughts with friends [at Chowhound] (and this post is really appropriate here. I personally feel that Food & Service are a PACKAGE deal.)

                    Unfortunately customer service (esp. in LA) has suffered because of the high percentage of guests that are looking for something for FREE and have unreasonable demands (They would like to be sat right now despite the hour long wait and...if they are not sat right away, Could I speak to your boss?) On average I would argue that MOST people who go into foodservice do so to--> Please Other People. These "special" guests make pleasing others difficult (not impossible) by lying and bullying at the least provocation.

                    At long last, please answer this question. You mentioned "last night" and "that evening" What time? Hopefully, no where near closing time.

                    In closing, I realize that the "sale" price places my next statement in doubt....Nevertheless; If you came to my restaurant and we had 86'd the Filet (sold out). I would offer you a NY Strip or a Ribeye. This offer would not be an attempt to "trick" you into a higher priced item. This offer would merely try to sate you with a menu item that would be in the same category.


                    8 Replies
                    1. re: Chefdavis

                      Well Said, Chefdavis.

                      1. re: Chefdavis

                        Or the manager could just OBEY THE LAW and offer a raincheck.

                        1. re: Gary Tsu

                          Yep one of the whiners -Looking for the Freebee.

                          1. re: Oh Please

                            Yep. One of the lazy managers, too lazy to honor an advertisement.

                            1. re: 2chez mike

                              Yep another manager who stood his ground and was not going to be bullied by a whining poster.

                              1. re: Cool Cat

                                Yep. That must be it.

                                1. re: 2chez mike

                                  You TWO are TOO funny! I want pie!

                      2. Pie-Faced said, "On one occasion I did speak to the manager that *evening* and explained..."

                        Pie-Faced also said, "So last *night* I went to the restaurant in Glendora..."

                        Do you always buy fresh pies at night? Perhaps there's a better chance of getting your pie if you went before the dinner rush? If you go to a department store sale and find that all the XL shirts have been sold out, do you demand that they take down all the sale banners?

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Joe B.

                          Rainchecks are required. It's the law. The law is something that must be obeyed all of the time, not just when it's convenient for the vendor.

                          Can you not understand the concept?

                          1. re: Gary Tsu

                            I understand just fine, thank you. Do you understand the concept of "first come, first served"?

                            Even if Marie Callender's did give Pie-Faced a raincheck, if he continues to show up at the end of the day to get his pie, guess what? They're gonna be out of the special pie.

                            Either the store manager needs to make more pies due to demand, or Pie-Faced needs to get to Marie Callender's earlier.

                            Oh, by the way, they will reserve a pie if you call ahead...

                            1. re: Joe B.

                              I really appreciate everyone's comments - both pro and con - and especially how people consider and weigh the wording of my original post. You are all careful listeners.

                              I need to clarify when I say "evening," that's anytime after 5:00 p.m. When I went to buy the pie this week, it was 7:00, and that's the surprising fact because the dinner hour had hardly begun.

                        2. You are absolutely right.

                          Of COURSE they're going to run out of the "special" as the day wears on. As others have said, that is perfectly understandable. In fact, even unavoidable. And if you do want to be certain that you get the "special" pie, you certainly should arrive earlier.

                          You should know, and I'm positive that you do, that it is impossible for them to gauge exactly how many pies will be sold, and to make only that exact amount.

                          So they are going to prepare what they believe is an adequate amount.

                          And it's quite likely that they will run out before close of business.

                          And when they do, they should take down the damn sign. Or offer a raincheck - one or the other.

                          You shouldn't advertise something you don't have.

                          1. j
                            Jon Leventhal

                            This thread is pretty amusing, but aren't we forgetting something:

                            Anyone who patronizes Marie Callanders is unworthy of being a chowhound.

                            Last Sunday, a friend brought over a peach pie and lemon meringue from MC.

                            I ate my Haagen Daz instead.



                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Jon Leventhal

                              Quite right! As I've stated previously, you can do far better than Marie's or Hof's...

                              Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                              1. re: Joe B.

                                I agree, Marie Callender's has always seemed overpriced and mediocre to me.

                                Mrs. Smith's Apple Pie is wonderful stuff, something you can't say often for food out of the frozen section of the supermarket.

                                I'd add Vons/Pavillion's Pumpkin Pie to the list of store-bought wonders, though that is a seasonal item and kind of pricey.

                                1. re: gj

                                  Costco's pies are great!!!

                            2. j
                              JUDITH BELANGER


                              1. I went to the Marie's in glendale yesterday.....filled out their online feedback form afterwards but it wouldn't send through...so I'm posting here instead.

                                "There were 15-20 people in line for the pie sale. We were annoying to the people who were there for brunch as our line snaked around past the desserts and we were in their way.

                                One lady in our pies-to-go line was a nuisance, insisting there was Boston Cream pie. The male at the cash register, followed her to the buffet where she pointed out boston cream cake. "no we don't have that to take out anymore" he said...then we all had to wait wait wait while she got on her cell phone to see what kind of a pie her honey wanted. She decided on lemon cream, which they don't have. They had to scrape the meringue off a lemon pie for her. Then she decides she wants another one just like it. Well, I guess she started a chain reaction....three more people in front of me decide they want lemon meringue-throw away the meringue- and add cream. I couldn't believe how many meringues we saw tossed out in five minutes. Then wait for them to add the cream. 25 people in line by now.

                                One employee in the back was taking pies out of a big box. I thought your pies were fresh but I guess they are shipped in. They were shrink-wrapped and she was opening the shrink wrap with her teeth...maybe you could invest in a knife for her? I don't like teeth marks on my pies thank you very much.

                                Anyway, I dont' see why you don't have some lemon pies there without any meringue on them so that you don't have to keep scraping it off and adding cream. Either that or, when it's busy, tell people they gotta take what you got and that's it...the rest of us shouldn't have to wait on line while you throw away meringues for a living. "
                                I missed Super Bowl kickoff and it was a doozy.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: jackattack

                                  Write that in a letter (and proofread for grammar and usage), and send it snail-mail to corporate headquarters. If you really want to be mean, copy the LA Public Health and ask for an investigation -- I'm pretty sure you're not allowed to open food with your teeth.

                                2. Thanks to everyone for an amusing thread to kill ten minutes before i hit the fitness center. a view from the east coast on this west coast issue:

                                  - It happened to the patron on many occassions and the suggestion to arrive earlier is a good one. that being said if the resto has a habit of running out by 5pmor 7pm they should add the words "come early as quantities are limited."
                                  - The manager definitely should have offered a raincheck. To the poster that said this is a freebie, i disagree as they are merely offering the same price on a different day. Of course resto and shops run out of specials, but its a pie that is probably made every day, just offer a raincheck for Jimminee sakes.
                                  - When people say, "You'll hear from my lawyer" 90% of the time the only lawyer they know is the one who closed on their home. (BTW - to the poster who says to call Cochran, if i'm the owner of the resto and Johnnie calls me, sure as shootin' his client is getting all the free pie i can get them.)
                                  - I think a letter to corporate that is well stated, without emotion is absolutely justified. At the end of the letter state that all you are looking for is the advertised special, nothing more. Either a letter that you can bring to the store or a call from them to the store would be appreciated.
                                  - Call ahead. For goodness sakes, if this happened to you more than once and you know you are going over to pick up a pie, pick up the phone and call them. If they are out of them they will tell you and you do not need to make a useless trip to get angry again
                                  - To the poster with the lemon pie story, i have one word for you - priceless.
                                  - "Class Action" - OMG are you kidding? IT'S A PIE!!
                                  - Bait and Switch - Given the actions of the resto and the manager I think they acted unprofessional and probably should be spoken to in a very severe manner by corporate. Given the one side we have heard it does sound like B&S but as someone else pointed out, i'd like to hear theother side. If it is 60% as amusing as this side, it would be worth it.

                                  Well off to aerobics. Thx

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: jfood

                                    We don't use lawyers to close on our homes here -- and the actual closing doesn't take place in a room, all the paperwork is signed separately. I've never met the people who are buying my house.

                                    Don't bring the letter to the store. Send it to Corporate. It will mysteriously disappear into the circular file if it's sent to the store.

                                    As for the class action -- apparently people don't know how a class action works, which is that you file a suit yourself, with your own lawyer whose retainer is paid with your own money, and you file a petition (which you pay for with your own money) to have a class declared. Not to mention that there's no tort here -- the OP didn't actually pay money and then not receive pie, so there's no damages sustained ("but I wasted time" wouldn't convince even a novice judge).

                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek


                                      I think you replied to me instead of OP, no biggie. So in CA you are charged incorrectly for a piece of pie and you want to sue, you hire a lawyer (1-800-I-THE-LAW) to recover the $1.29 and when you buy a house for >$1MM you do it yourself and sign in counter-part? Ouch!!

                                      I agree that if you send it to the store at best it is thrown out, but probably it is the joke of the water cooler. I think i posted to send to corp as well.

                                  2. Two words on this fascinating little "slice" of life story: [1] CORPORATE - if one is curious about the source of the overall decline in service in this country, and not just in the food service business, one need look little further than the corporation (and its imitators) that turns the human and humane experience of eating out into a pre-packaged, pre-scripted, and (largely) predictably unpleasant experience. MC is a large, relatively efficient chain of stores turning out a "dining commodity" as part of the vertically integrated "food" leviathan ConAgra (over $10B in sales last year) whose brands also include Chef Boyardee, Egg Beaters, Healthy Choice, Hebrew National, Hunt's, Orville Redenbacher's, Reddi-wip, ACT II, PAM, and Swiss Miss.

                                    While the humans you talk to and interact with in their outlets deserve not only your common courtesy and even an amount of sympathy and respect, the corporate culture they work in is what produces the experience cited here. With respect to the Chef and others above who see the OP as a potentially litigious, trouble-making whiner, they should not confuse either the operator's or the customer's experience in a private family- or partner-owned restaurant with the industrial pathologies that produce the travesty being described here. Defending the idiotic and possibly felonious practices of giant food operators by appealing to our natural Chowhound sympathies for the people that operate the REAL restaurants we patronize is neither accurate nor sensible; and [2] SIGN - TAKE THE BLOODY SIGN DOWN WHEN THE PIES ARE GONE. No one has to consult a dessert seer or pastry psychic to know exactly how many pies will be sold on any given day; just take down the sign when they are gone (or within a reasonable time thereafter). If you insist on keeping the sign up hours after the pies are gone, then you are engaging in, at the very least, false advertising.

                                    AND if you really want that pie, after the third try, DO try and get there a bit earlier.

                                    And please, would someone PLEASE get that person a utensil to open the "fresh" shrink-wrapped pies with....?!

                                    1. This should be response to Boythefoodtalksto,


                                      Although you make some good points the blame, if any, for the failures of this "slice" of life rests squarely on the staff at the store and not Monolith ConAgra (in fact if you go to the ConAgra website they do not mention MC pies at all in where to buy their product). Do you know whether they actually own the store or do they license the name. But for argument's sake let's assume they do.

                                      - I would tend to doubt whether there was a directive from corporate to keep the sale sign up even after you run out of pies.
                                      - I agree that the customer was not a whiner, but merely pointed out his opinion on bait and switch and did not mention legal action in the OP. I think others posted that sorta tongue in cheek.
                                      - "the industrial pathologies that produce the travesty being described here." I would not characterize not getting a pie on sale as a "travesty". And how can you describe a company that "answers to a higher standard" and makes beef-a-roni as industrial pathologists.
                                      - "felonious practices of giant food operators" - ConAgra probably has no idea their little outlet in California (if it is theirs) ran out of pies. This could be solved by a simple letter to them. Heck you can file on line on their web site.
                                      - Now, once you get to "[2} SIGN" you bat like Ted Williams - You hit the nail right on the head. The store manager was a dolt, badly trained (OK you get one against corporate for training here), and if he runs out of pie all the time either make more or as you say take down the sign.

                                      With respect to Ms Shrink Wrap Cujo, replace her please. And as I said above, go early if you want the pie or call and reserve it.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: jfood

                                        I would be inclined to completely agree with your points, but my point was certainly not that ConAg or any other such company would be mucking about with the daily details of an outlet such that it would be directly culpable for anything that happened in the story. Instead I would indict the culture of corporate ownership which drives virtually everything that goes on there. Without naming any particular thing we all know what the sum total of this culture is because it is precisely what makes chains the sorts of places they are. Having worked in hotel personnel and training for years I can tell you that the reason that much of this stuff happens is because essentially it is trained to happen; that is, the manager/worker and worker/customer relationship that is created by corporate-style training produces nonsensical and often anti-customer behavior as we can see not just in this tale of woe, but in experiences we have all had in any number of service situations. REAL restaurants (where training and behavior are unlikely to come out of a manual issued by a distant homogenizing headquarters) are characterized by REAL service (or at least they ought to be; as I mentioned, there are more than a few real establishments that inexplicably find things to admire, even to imitate in the behavior of the chains.) Real service is characterized by authentic and spontaneous interactions between the customer and service provider. I don't see much, if any. of that here. Cheers.