Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Mail Order Firms Provide Outlet for Unique Gifts

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Mail Order Firms Provide Outlet for Unique Gifts

Article excerpt

NEW YORK - A few years ago the only way to buy many homemade foods was to travel to some remote American farmhouse or suburban co ttage hundreds of miles away. Even city dwellers, who can buy almost anything else in their shops, cannot find these regional favorites. Thanks to an impressive array of delivery systems, however, such high-quality foods are now as near at hand as the telephone or the mailbox.

Pleasant Valley Dairy cheeses from Ferndale, Wash., for example, are sold only at the back door of the farmhouse, 90 miles north of Seattle, and by mail. Summerfield Farm veal, which is raised in Boyce, Va., is not available in retail shops but can be ordered by telephone or letter.

The only way to buy the Custard Company's coffeecake and brownies, besides using mail order, is to visit the Farm Women's Market in Bethesda, Md., on Saturday morning. Without mail order, it would take a trip to Seattle to get Mother Sperry's fine plum puddings and a pilgrimage to Petoskey, Mich., to find the old-fashioned, spicy liver sausage that American Spoon Foods sells.

Since these unusual products make perfect gifts, especially for the hard-to-please, they are almost tailormade for Christmas.

Items for gift-giving this holiday season were ordered from more than 30 of the many purveyors of mail-order foods. Ten were eliminated because the food did not arrive at the time promised, did notarrive at all or, when it came, did not meet the quality standards established for inclusion on the list that follows.

Size does not appear to bear directly on the quality of a mail order house, its product or its service. Often, however, the smallest companies are the most caring and easiest to deal with when placing the order or when registering a complaint: They are anxious to please.

When things do go awry, consumers can take recourse through a Federal Trade Commission regulation - if, that is, the order was placed and paid for by mail or if the order was placed by telephone and paid for by mail. (Legislation passed this year in New York State extends legal protection to consumers who place telephone orders to companies doing business in the state.)

For mail-order companies based in the United States, the law requires either delivery of merchandise within 30 days of the order's receipt or an explanation of the delays. …

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