Gift company customers in Toronto have a warning for anyone who might consider using the same service after the gift baskets they ordered arrived as spoiled, rotting flesh.
That's exactly what happened to Fred Wood, who was just trying to help his sister have a happy birthday.
"Disappointment is in the basket," sighed Wood, a professor who spoke with the FBC Toronto from his home in Peterborough, Ontario.
It was his sister Susan's birthday in mid-July, so he ordered a gift basket from a website called Hazelton filled with fruit, cheese and the usual $ 200 cake.
He thought he would be shipped the same day.
Five days later, the bucket landed in front of Susan Wood on her farm in Rockwood, Ontario, about 83 kilometers northwest of Toronto.
"It was a weird, liquid, sticky mess," she recalls, the hot summer temperatures reaching their mid-30s.
The cake was so "exhausted that it looked like chocolate pancakes," she said. As for tasty cheese and candy apples – well, forget about it.
The nurses immediately reached out to the company's customer service email address, sending photos. They also tried to reach someone by phone, but say their efforts were ultimately fruitless.
According to the Better Business Bureau, Chaselton has an F rating, the lowest the bureau gives, because it failed to respond to customer complaints. In the last three years, there have been 89 complaints about the company on the Better Business website, with the company failing to respond to 81 of them.
After e-mails and phone calls went unanswered, HBC Toronto managed to find Mark Roberts in a warehouse in Scarborough. He was identified as the Canadian manager for Gift Group, a US company that runs Hazelton.
In a phone call later, Roberts said his workers are doing everything in their power to get orders properly.
"We want people's anniversary and birthdays to be special," he said.
Not so sweet surprise
Jonon Leland, 49, had hoped to make his longtime girlfriend in Nanaimo feel special earlier this month when ordering orchids, teddy bears, chocolates and wine for childbirth.
The oil worker, who currently lives in Calgary, says when he "Google" Nanaimo gift baskets, Hazelton emerged as one of the best companies in the area.
When a huge cardboard box arrived at her door last week, Monica Eton was thrilled, but things quickly went down.
The box was upside down. The orchid inside was long dead, spilling into the soil and staining some of the contents.
"I smiled for a second, and then I was like, I have to clear this mess," Eaton said.
Leland says the response he received from Hazelton's customer service was "cold and pre-made."
He was told by email stating in the company's terms and conditions that he had to choose overnight shipping to save the plant.
"Honestly, I just wanted to replace the product or send a refund," Leland said. "It's a terrible customer service just to say, 'You didn't read our 10-page document, so it's a mistake. ""
Roberts told HBC Toronto that Leland had been offered a loan store, but Leland said that had not happened.
Susan and Fred Wood said the company had offered to replace the spoiled birthday cake, cheese and fruit, but at a price they did not think was right.
Hazelton blames delays in deliveries to an incorrect address, which nurses and disputes have been arguing about.
"This is the same address that Canada Post has been supplying for the last 40 years and they have never missed a birthday card or package that I have sent to Susan over the years," said Fred Wood.
"That excuse didn't seem to matter."
Woods also doubts why only Hazelton marked the box as fragile, not perishable. It was delivered by Canpar Express, a courier service that, according to its website, advises against shipping "goods that require protection from heat or cold".
CBC Toronto's requests for information from Kanpar have so far not been answered.
Reviews: be wary of what you read
Roberts, Hazelton's Canadian manager, points to a rating of Google's company, which is 4-plus stars, according to about 1,700 reviews.
But Patrick McCain, president and CEO of the Central Ontario Bureau of Better Business Bureau, says you can't always believe what you're reading.
"There are businesses that are organized around trying to control reputation management and will try to clear up negative Google reviews," he said.
Hazelton is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau and, according to its profile, the company has 11 alternative business names.
McCain says his best advice to consumers is to read reviews from multiple sources. BBB.org, he says, allows all articles to ensure the writer has a business transaction.
"We have over four million page views from local consumers in southern Ontario every year on our site, and that is consumers looking for information on businesses like this one, and the record for this particular business is not good."