Are your Lucky Charms less than magically delicious? Are your Cheerios less than cheery? Perhaps you broke off a tooth when there was something extra crunchy in your Cinnamon Toast Crunch or became totally ill from something totally disgusting in your bowl of Total. If so, I hope you didn’t “like” them on Facebook.
General Mills has taken “CYA” (Cover Your A**) to an entirely new level.
ANY DISPUTE OR CLAIM MADE BY YOU AGAINST GENERAL MILLS ARISING OUT OF OR RELATING TO THIS AGREEMENT OR YOUR PURCHASE OR USE OF ANY GENERAL MILLS SERVICE OR PRODUCT (INCLUDING GENERAL MILLS PRODUCTS PURCHASED AT ONLINE OR PHYSICAL STORES FOR PERSONAL OR HOUSEHOLD USE) REGARDLESS OF WHETHER SUCH DISPUTE OR CLAIM IS BASED IN CONTRACT, TORT, STATUTE, FRAUD, MISREPRESENTATION, OR ANY OTHER LEGAL THEORY (TOGETHER, A “DISPUTE”) WILL BE RESOLVED BY INFORMAL NEGOTIATIONS OR THROUGH BINDING ARBITRATION, AS DESCRIBED BELOW.
To expedite resolution and control the cost of a Dispute, you and General Mills agree to first attempt to resolve a Dispute informally for at least thirty (30) days before initiating any arbitration. Such informal negotiations will commence upon written notice from one party to the other. You must send your notice firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include in the subject line of the email “Request to Negotiate.”
If you and General Mills are unable to resolve a Dispute through informal negotiations, either you or General Mills may elect to have a Dispute resolved by binding arbitration by notifying the other party of such election. Either party also may choose to seek relief in a small claims court for a Dispute within the scope of its jurisdiction, instead of arbitration. To make this election, the small claims court action must be commenced before either party notifies the other of an election to arbitrate the Dispute, but after the conclusion of the informal negotiation period described above. If neither party has validly commenced a small claims court action for a Dispute, any election to arbitrate the Dispute by one party will immediately become final and binding on the other.
You and General Mills agree to waive the right to litigate any Dispute in court (except in small claims court in the limited circumstances described above) and before a jury and agree that this arbitration provision will be governed by the Federal Arbitration Act to the maximum extent permitted by law. (source)
General Mills is a huge purveyor of artificial food-like substances. The clause above covers not only Cheerios, but gastronomical delights from the likes of Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Green Giant, Yoplait, Nature Valley, Old El Paso, Progresso, Hamburger Helper, Toaster Strudel Gold Medal, Bisquick, Totino’s, Cheerios, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Lucky Charms, Kix, Trix, Cocoa Puffs, Total, Wheaties, Fiber One, and Chex, to name a few. You can find the complete list of newly untouchable brands right HERE.
So what does this mean?
If you get sick from eating any of these products, they are fully protected in the courts. If you find someone’s severed finger in your box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, you can’t sue them, even if you already ate half the box. If you find that your box of Lucky Charms is extra lucky and contains a dead bug, you aren’t so lucky because you can’t take them to court. If you eat their cereals every day for five years and get a dreaded disease directly traceable to them, they get to say, “Hey, you ‘liked’ us on Facebook . Sorry about your luck.”
This new policy applies if you have received any type of benefit from General Mills. The New York Times reports:
General Mills, the maker of cereals like Cheerios and Chex as well as brands like Bisquick and Betty Crocker, has quietly added language to its website to alert consumers that they give up their right to sue the company if they download coupons, “join” it in online communities like Facebook, enter a company-sponsored sweepstakes or contest or interact with it in a variety of other ways.
Instead, anyone who has received anything that could be construed as a benefit and who then has a dispute with the company over its products will have to use informal negotiation via email or go through arbitration to seek relief, according to the new terms posted on its site. (source)
Don’t be surprised when other Big Food companies quickly follow suit. Julia Duncan, an arbitration expert at the American Association for Justice, said,
“Although this is the first case I’ve seen of a food company moving in this direction, others will follow — why wouldn’t you? It’s essentially trying to protect the company from all accountability, even when it lies, or say, an employee deliberately adds broken glass to a product.” (source)
The moral to this story?
It’s okay for Big Food to kill you or make you sick, as long as they give you a “benefit” first.