the best reality show not on the food network
(read these in order for maximum impact…)
Breadness Blog, episode 3 ~ “The Case of the Missing Migali…”
After episode 2’s harrowing tale of Estella, the spiral dough mixer, I left you with the introduction to this story: The Case of the Missing Migali.
Like many products on the market, there’s a definite divide in form, function and cost for use in a residential or commercial capacity. You’ve probably heard of several brands of refrigerators and freezers for home use, brands such as Amana, Frigidaire, Sub-Zero, etc. In the world of commercial refrigeration, there are just as many brands, most of which I was not familiar: Turbo Air, Traulsen, True Refrigeration, Delfield, and Magali (to name but a few). With so many choices, how could I choose the best one for the money?
Usually, one way to tell which brand is best is by price. If a refrigerator costs $6689, it’s probably better than a similar-sized unit that sells for under $2700. Then there’s the warranty, in this case, on the compressor (the part that creates the cold) and the rest of the unit. A better unit should have a longer warranty than a cheaper one. There’s also reliability. One would think that a pricier unit would be more reliable (though you probably know that in the automotive trade, reliability and price do not necessarily align). And there’s popularity: how many restaurants/bakeries have this brand in their kitchens?
That’s all well and good, but I had a tight budget and had to narrow the field based on price, performance, and most important, free shipping! (Do you realize how much it costs to ship a 650+ pound [with protective packaging] refrigerator across the country?)
I started at the bottom of the food chain (under $3000) and pretty much stayed there. That ruled out all the top brands. And after a lot of comparing of different brands across several restaurant supply websites, I found the best of what I needed in the brand, Migali.
Migali is an American company based in Pennsylvania and has been in business since 1955. Their brochure talked the good talk, and this unit was capable (with the purchase of extra shelves) of holding a whopping 126 bread proofing baskets, in just 2 of the 3 sections! The third section could hold all the containers of sourdough starter I would need to scale up my 4-loaves-at-a-time home kitchen recipe to 96 loaves or more! And I liked the brand enough that I also decided on their 2-door matching freezer for flour and butter storage.
The refrigerator, extra shelves and freezer added up to less than the cost of a refrigerator alone from one of the premium brands. And, the place I ordered from offered free shipping for both!
But this was not without drama… The website showed the refrigerator in stock but the freezer wouldn’t ship until mid-May. That was actually okay as I wouldn’t need the freezer until last, but I would need the refrigerator as soon as possible. The website also stated that I needed to order these before the end of March as the prices were going up. It was already March 27th. I wasn’t quite ready to receive these units as there was work to be done in the new space, so I ordered the units and told the sales associate to wait for me to notify him when to ship.
By April 2nd I was ready to “release the hounds” and notified my contact to go ahead and ship the Migali refrigerator and shelves. I didn’t hear back from him and was a bit concerned. Then on April 6th I received an e-mail with the following Subject: Order Update: New Ship Date for Order #…
I scrolled down and to my horror, the new ship date was May 10th, just like the freezer! OMG. What happened? I called my sales guy and he contacted Migali. After several minutes on hold, he informed me that Migali shipped my unit to someone else! What? The unit I paid for was purloined?
At this point, I needed to act fast. First, I went to the Migali website. Sure enough, the unit I ordered showed as being out of stock. Then I found another company whose website showed the Migali refrigerator in stock and ready to ship. But I was savvy enough to call them directly and ask for a physical stock check (many distribution companies show items in stock on their websites, then they have the manufacturer ship directly to the customer). Alas, this company did not have the item and they apologized for the website error.
Next I started looking for another brand that I could swap for my first choice. But nothing came close without costing nearly double the price.
At this point there was only one thing left to do: write the CEO of the company I ordered from (not Migali) and see what could be done. This may have been just another refrigerator sale for that company, but it was the only refrigerator for our upcoming bakery and its arrival would determine when we could start testing our sourdough processes scaled up to 10X and more!
The CEO’s direct contact info was not easily available but I found a couple clues on line and guessed what the e-mail address might be. I noticed my letter didn’t bounce so maybe it actually arrived in someone’s inbox. But after a few days of no response, I was starting to wonder how any of this could be happening. First, the drama with the mixer. Now the refrigerator. And no word from my sales associate.
That night, I got an e-mail from this company informing me that my credit card was being charged for some items I hadn’t even ordered. The items themselves were not expensive and I had added them to my shopping cart for possible purchase but hadn’t pulled the trigger yet. Yet here I was being charged and the shipping and tax alone came to over $128! I was beside myself (and I don’t get beside myself, hardly ever…). I started sending e-mail replies to everyone at the company (including the CEO’s address that I didn’t know if it was valid or not) stating I hadn’t authorized this purchase and I was not going to honor this charge and so on. I was fit to be tied (and I don’t get fit to be tied, hardly ever…).
The next morning I called the company and got someone on the line who told me that that e-mail was sent by mistake, that they had actually shipped those items to me free of charge as a gesture of goodwill for what I had gone through with the Migali. She also told me that the CEO had pulled some strings and that I would be receiving the Migali products sooner than later.
Was this actually happening? The CEO actually received my e-mails? How come no one notified me of any of this? How come I had to go through this hell to get to heaven? I didn’t know what to say, other than, “thanks” and “next time, a little communication would go a long way towards making this a better customer experience.”
A couple hours later I received an e-mail informing me that the Migali refrigerator AND freezer were both arriving at our store by common carrier truck THE NEXT DAY! What?!? Was this really happening?
(Isn’t this the best “reality show” you’ve never seen on TV?)
Drawing from my experience with Estella (the mixer) and common carrier trucking, I was preparing to receive the “Gift of the Magali.” I called on delivery day to find out when the truck would arrive and was told I’d be notified an hour prior. So I drove to our new location (2 miles from our house) and when I arrived, THE TRUCK WAS ALREADY THERE AND UNLOADING! (What happened to the call?) Good thing my painter was there else no one would have been there to receive this gift! More drama…
Like the drivers in episode 2, this guy wanted me to sign the papers so he could leave. But I know the drill now, so he walked away to commune with his cell phone while I tore all of the packing material off of the freezer and the refrigerator. I inspected all of the surfaces closely and took photos.
The freezer looked to be in good shape, until I checked the back…
There was a pretty gnarly dent there so that was documented. Next, the refrigerator…
This, too, looked in good shape, but upon close inspection, there were a few dings on the front left door, so I documented that as well.
When I was done with the inspection, I signed the papers noting the damage found, and notified the company in an e-mail with photos. I wanted the company to check with Migali to see if the freezer dent could affect the operation and/or the life of the unit. They got back to me a couple days later with a report that the location of the dent posed no threat to the unit’s operation, and Migali offered me $325 for the damages noted.
Though a bit dinged and dented, I kept both units and was not about to send them back! The next step was having my buddy Randy Barach and his friend (and now mine) Umoja “Moj” Butler help me get these beasts inside the building. As if there couldn’t be any more drama in this story, sorry to say, there was indeed.
After separating the units from their wooden pallets which protected the attached wheels, we attempted to ease them through the doorway, which was wide enough, but about a half inch too short to pass. I checked the wheels and they appeared to be permanently attached, so attempts were made to saw the top of the doorway higher to increase the clearance, knowing that the wood could always be replaced. But after doing this in two layers, we were still short of the mark.
What were we going to do? We’d come this far, only to realize that Maxwell Smart was right: “Missed it by that much!”
At this point I revisited the wheels again, and as there was no other option, dashed home to grab some wrenches. Upon returning to the scene of the crime, I tried all the wrenches that might fit the bolt above the wheel, but the wrenches were all too small. There was one wrench left that came with an oven I purchased for our patio a couple years ago. Its purpose: to level the feet on the oven so it would be level and steady. Well, thank Breadness for little miracles… this wrench actually fit the head of the bolt! But would the bolt be able to be unscrewed? If not, all was lost.
With determination and teamwork, the bolt finally came loose and with Randy and Moj tipping the refrigerator just enough, I could remove the first of five wheels. One by one, the other wheels were removed (wish we would have known this before shaving the doorway…). and the unit was now about two inches closer to the ground.
Mr. Barach had a set of moving sliders which, along with all of our muscle, were vital to moving the unit through the door! Once inside, the wheels were put back on. One thing’s for sure: no one is going to steal this refrigerator!
Though the freezer had the same height problem, it was only two doors wide and so could be turned on its side and slid through the front door easily, then tipped back up again. Note that if you do this with any refrigeration product, you shouldn’t turn the unit on for at least 24 hours. That’s because the refrigerant needs to settle back into its place where there’ll be no internal bubbles.
Forgive me for not getting any photos of the above; I was kinda busy! But here’s the A-Team: Randy, myself and Moj, with the Migali freezer and refrigerator lined up behind us.
I returned the next day for the moment of truth: Do these things actually work? I’m happy to report that after plugging them in and setting the temperatures, in less than an hour, they were “in the zone!” The refrigerator reached 40 degrees…
And the freezer settled in for a cold winter’s nap at minus 9!
Wow. What an episode, huh? Certainly it’s gotta be smooth sailing from here, right?
Well… stay tuned for our next episode: “The Oven: So Close, Yet So Far…”
Randall Michael Tobin