Tips for Consumers: Ordering Food from Catalogs & the Net

Tips for Consumers
Ordering Food from Catalogs & the Net

Their catalogs come decorated for the holidays and display beautiful steaks, seafood, cheeses, chocolates, fruit and other foods. Or they have dramatic web sites with glowing testimonials about unique quality and freshness. Consumers in the Hagerstown area are among the millions of Americans that annually buy foods from catalogs or over the Net. Most are pleased, but problems can occur. Here are some BBB tips:
* Not all of these companies are the same. While many feature high-quality foods, others sell average goods at inflated prices. Ask friends whom they order from. Check the Internet for customer experiences and Consumer Reports Magazine for recent product comparisons.
* Check to see if complaints have been filed against the company with the BBB in their area. You can get our reports on thousands of companies at or by calling us 24 hours a day at (410) 347-3992.
* Keep accurate records of your transaction; the company's name & address, phone number, date and time ordered. Try to always order by credit card. You can appeal if the company won't resolve a problem.
* Overnight delivery, dry ice, vacuum packing, corrugated double-strength boxes, oxygen-barrier films and poly shrink wraps can almost guarantee that the food arrives fresh. Find out what kind of packaging and cold source your firm uses.
* Will the box be labeled as perishable food on the outside? This often speeds delivery.
* Will the food be sent directly to your home or the office? Make sure someone is there to receive it.
* Fresh or cooked meat, poultry, fish and cheesecake should arrive frozen or still hard in the middle. If never frozen, it should be cold to the touch and then cooked or used immediately. With the exception of dry-cured country hams or hard, dry sausages like pepperoni and hard salami, most canned hams, meats and summer sausage need refrigeration. Read the label!
* No item should have mold unless a part of its nature (like blue mold in bleu cheese, for example.)
* Fresh lobster comes packed in seaweed in insulated boxes; it cushions during transport and protects from scorching during cooking. Lobsters should be lively before cooking. Make sure the tail is tightly coiled after cooking; don't eat cooked lobster with a limp tail.

To file a complaint visit: or write: BBB, 1414 Key Highway, #100, Baltimore MD 21230. Their office serves Baltimore and all of Greater Maryland.