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Bill Kalmar

Six Sigma

Do You Check Expiration Dates?

It’s a good way to ensure a quality experience

Published: Thursday, October 29, 2015 - 15:50

My wife Mary has an obsession—she always checks the expiration and freshness dates on food products that we purchase. Mary also marks purchase dates on products such as ketchup, mustard, and salad dressings when she places these items in our refrigerator. I think she has an expiration date on me.

In any event, you’d be surprised, but maybe not, at the number of items in stores that have dates far past their expiration. Let me give you a couple of recent examples.

We were sitting down to lunch when I opened a bag of newly purchased potato chips (Jays Ruffle Chips, my favorite). Mary looked at the date and the chips had an expiration date of Sept. 19, 2015. What was so improbable was that I had just purchased the chips on Sept. 20 at a local supermarket! Now I don’t know if chips expire in freshness and taste, but a return to the store indicated that similar bags of chips had an expiration date of November or December, so my purchase was certainly out of sync. Naturally, I contacted the maker of the chips and the store and we received a coupon in the mail for a new bag from the manufacturer. We’re still waiting to hear from the store.

Then, just the other day, we purchased two Kraft cheese packages at another local store. Guess what, Mary forgot to check the expiration dates when we were there. Once home, she performed her usual date scan. One of the packages had an expiration date of Dec. 15, 2015. The other one had a date of June 9, 2015—wow! Now that is some old cheese. I realize that cheese is in actuality mold, but who wants to purchase cheese nearly four months past the expiration date?

I dutifully returned the cheese to the store and was given a refund. The clerk indicated that a lot of products get pushed to the back of the shelves, and as such the cheese was never rotated by the dairy department. My response was that most customers take the products from the back of the shelf because in reality those are the ones that are the freshest.

Just for the record, believe it or not, Oct. 9 was National Moldy Cheese Day! I don’t know how one celebrates that day but if you plan to have a party next year, count me out!

Each time we make a phone call to a company, invariably we hear a recording that states: “For quality purposes this call may be recorded”. Perhaps what we need in food stores is a sign that reads: “All perishable food products in this store have been examined to assure that all are fresh, and none have neared or passed the expiration date.” Now that’s a sign or warning I can live with, as we all know that few if any phone recordings are actually reviewed by anyone.

There have been numerous articles written about expiration dates and how long after the date can one still safely consume the product. Given that Mary and I are not fond of dining on old food, we will continue to examine dates. I know many of you do the same. In the meantime, I’m trying to locate my own expiration date! Hopefully Mary has determined that I have a long and prosperous shelf life.


About The Author

Bill Kalmar’s picture

Bill Kalmar

William J. Kalmar has extensive business experience, including service with a Fortune 500 bank and the Michigan Quality Council, of which he served as director from 1993 through 2003. He served on the Board of Overseers of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and has been a Baldrige examiner. He was also named quality professional of the year by the ASQ Detroit chapter. Now semiretired, Kalmar does freelance writing for several publications. He is a member of the USA Today Vacation Panel, a mystery shopper for several companies, and a frequent presenter and lecturer.


Good To Hear From You

Hello Bill,

It is good to see an artilce from you! It has been a while and I have missed your articles.

I wanted to comment that I, like you have always believed that those claims that your call may be monitored for quality purposes was hogwash! However, this past year I was transferred to manage a quality management system for a number of call centers in my corporation and was surprised to find that they actually do monitor those calls! Not every one of them of course, but there is a sampling of calls that are monitored on a regular basis and the phone representatives are scored on a number of different categories to ensure, you got it, quality!

Now, if only we could have those grocery store stockers get scored on rotating the items! My first job when I was a teenager was at a fast food chain that sold roast beef sandwiches (I'm not sure if I'm allowed to say the name of the company, but I'm a fellow Michigander so I'm sure you know who they are although I think they're a national brand). There was a daily task before I could go home called "rotating the beef". This was done to ensure that the we used the beef in the order in which is was received. Let me tell you, a cooler full of beef is not a fun task to rotate.

Anyway, great to see you back! I hope it wasn't me just missing the articles!

Diane Johnson