Your Responses On Pet Food Recall Reimbursements:
Here are some excerpts from two of the emails we received. There are too many to post for one day, so we will continue to post excerpts from various emails throughout the week.
First, the good news from one reader:
I work for a Vet clinic. We only had one client on a food that was recalled and that was MD Dry. We submitted the receipts for the clients bloodwork, food etc. to Hills. Within just a couple of weeks we received a check for the full amount the client had spent on the bloodwork and food. We sent it on to the client and she was very pleased.
And here’s one not-so-great news:
Our lovely Himalayan, Kisses, died May 25. She, our wonderful vet and I fought the toxins in her system for two months — a battle we were unable to win. Although 14, she had been in amazing health, no diseases or chronic conditions. We’d started feeding her Iams Select Bites each evening in December 2006, in addition to the Iams dry food we continued to use in the mornings.
I just wanted help with my vet bills, and I stupidly thought Iams would live up to its reputation.
I thought this would be pretty simple, cut and dried, we could settle up and move on and hopefully Kisses would recover! Instead it took me three phone calls, an email and almost eight weeks just to get a claim rep on the phone with me.
Although the claim rep said on May 14 once she confirmed renal failure I would have a check, she did not call my vet, I learned on May 23 after my cat’s worst seizure.
We would have paid thousands to make Kisses well or even to create a decent quality of life where her pleasure was not so heavily outweighed by her suffering. Today, all I have are ashes and a lock of hair — and apparently a new claim rep. I’m not entirely certain what her role is, actually, since she won’t return any of my calls. Last week, claim rep #2’s voice suddenly appeared on the voicemail extension I’d previously used for claim rep #1. Kisses has been gone almost a month now with no word from either of them.
On a good day, I only cry twice.
Her full, unedited email is after the jump.
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Our lovely Himalayan, Kisses, died May 25. She, our wonderful vet and I fought the toxins in her system for two months — a battle we were unable to win. Although 14, she had been in amazing health, no diseases or chronic conditions. We’d started feeding her IAMS Select Bites each evening in December 2006, in addition to the IAMS dry food we continued to use in the mornings.
To sue or not to sue…it’s a personal decision. So far, I have not sued. So far, I have not asked for compensation for the weeks this freelance writer didn’t feel like writing or generating new business — an estimated loss of $1,000-$5,000 based on past earnings. So far, I have not asked for someone to compensate my husband for the vacation days he used to help me or manage his own grief. I just wanted help with my vet bills, and I stupidly thought IAMS would live up to its reputation.
So did my vet.
I still have a rotting, open packet of recalled food filed in a plastic bag. Thanks to the timing of the recall, trash pickup took all but two wrappers, the final packets from two variety pack boxes. The one beef packet remaining seemed ok though the numbers were smeared; the tuna packet was recalled; the other 3 flavors were already gone.
The extra water she’d been drinking made sense when the vet found an elevated BUN and spotted melamine crystals in her urine. He trained me to do some things at home where she was more comfortable which happened to reduce our cost, so our bills are just under $1,000. I thought this would be pretty simple, cut and dried, we could settle up and move on and hopefully Kisses would recover! Instead it took me three phone calls, an email and almost eight weeks just to get a claim rep on the phone with me. (The claim rep works for Risk Enterprise Management or REM, apparently hired to handle claims by Procter and Gamble, parent company for IAMS.)
Although the claim rep said on May 14 once she confirmed renal failure I would have a check, she did NOT call my vet, I learned on May 23 after my cat’s worst seizure. I called the claim rep immediately to say among other things ACT LIKE SHE (my cat) MATTERS. Finally, the claim rep called him that day, and spoke with him once more after Kisses was gone.
We would have paid thousands to make Kisses well or even to create a decent quality of life where her pleasure was not so heavily outweighed by her suffering. Today, all I have are ashes and a lock of hair — and apparently a NEW CLAIM REP. I’m not entirely certain what her role is, actually, since she won’t return any of my calls. Last week, claim rep #2’s voice suddenly appeared on the voicemail extension I’d previously used for claim rep #1. Kisses has been gone almost a month now with no word from either of them.
On a good day, I only cry twice. I’m working on projects again. And as I continue to leave unanswered voicemails, I consider what to do next if we are not reimbursed.
If I sue, I won’t care if I recover 7 cents and the rest goes to a team of attorneys. It will be about forcing a company to do what’s right. Whether they see her as a pet or as property, a product damaged her. If someone dies from eating tainted food, does it matter whether the victim is young or a grandmother? Injury is injury; bills are bills.
And promises are promises, whether a claim rep promises to pay someone when renal failure is confirmed, or whether an FAQ implies harmed customers can receive assistance (see Q9 about compensating pet owners).
IAMS seems to emphasize the “IAMS Promise,” too. IAMS: Your actions speak so loudly, your words are meaningless to me.
I know our pain is mirrored in so many other families, some who lost multiple pets and/or thousands of dollars. And it’s difficult for any pet owner out there wondering if selecting a commercial food is like playing Russian Roulette with Fifi or Fido. Although Kisses was hurt by “premium” pet food, buying even the cheapest pet food based on budget or preference
shouldn’t carry a death sentence.
Greed is dangerous, whether it’s capitalist or communist. Greed doesn’t care who it hurts or what happens. But I think one thing can control greed even better than regulation: INFORMATION. I researched daily for Kisses, looking for new and alternative methods of treatment. Along the way, I learned so much about food and nutrition thanks to sites like yours and books written in the 1980s and 1990s I wish I’d read so much earlier. I will continue to share these facts and ideas with everyone around me.
Words matter. Kisses mattered. Her life and her death made a difference, and I am forever changed.
The next lesson I need to learn is forgiveness, for me as the person who happened to select toxic food, as well as for IAMS. But forgiveness does not always include forgetfulness. Forgiveness and justice make excellent partners.
Pay me, IAMS. Pay me and the others who wait. Stop adding to our pain with your silence and feeding our anger with your delays. You may not have known what was in your food, but your behavior today is willful, deliberate, intentional, well-informed… Stand up and do the right thing.
Itchmo, whether you find the information above or below useful for publication or not, thanks for the opportunity to send it to you and air my grief a bit. The email I sent to IAMS April 27 follows below. I heard nothing until the claim rep contacted me in mid-May.
I would word it differently now of course…
MY EMAIL TO IAMS, sent Friday, April 27:
I applaud you for being the first one to step forward with a recall (as announced in recent hearings). I applaud you for the professionalism of your call center. HOWEVER…
After nearly five weeks of waiting for a “specialist” to contact me “in a few days” and fulfill the promise (verbalized by your call center March 24) of assistance with growing vet bills… I am disappointed. Either I have fallen through the cracks despite having the call center rep recite my phone number back to me, or as I have been told in two subsequent calls, it is taking longer than expected to reach pet owners.
Why, why does it take more than a month to contact me… this is not about the $; we will pay what it takes to keep her comfortable with or without assistance. She IS FAMILY.
But the cheerful nature of your Web site and its attempts to build your brand during this delay only increase my pain. Because as you’ve probably heard from hundreds or thousands already, we’re not just waiting. I’m taking my cat to and from the vet — at first, multiple times a day. I’m hearing the vet tell me about odd crystals in her urine, then matching them to the recall. I’m giving her a sub-cut IV at home, 3x a week. I’m watching her BUN and creatinine decline at first, then stop at toxicities still far too high. I’m hearing the vet say things like “potentially permanent damage.” My husband and I are cleaning vomit off the floor, the sofa, the chairs. I’m spending hours each day researching ARF and CRF, creatinine and BUN, vet sites and blogs. I’m not just waiting.
I’m disappointed. I’m also surprised. Because the expense of hiring additional specialists to follow-up in a timely manner could build more goodwill and repair your brand in a way no Web site, newspaper ad or commercials ever can. Regardless of how long my cat lives, she can never eat IAMS food again. She is on a special diet. But I am still a customer.
SHE is your customer. I trust that you know this, and will get to her eventually.