A Nasty Case of the Willy Wonkas

This letter was sent to me by novelist, Phil Williams, who also writes the entertaining Write Right Now blog.  It is addressed to Sainsburys and it concerns a rather dodgy bottle of chocolate milk…..


Dear Customer Relations,

I am writing to you with a harrowing tale involving the purchase of one of your 1 litre bottles of fresh Chocolate Milk.

This was a tale I meant to tell yesterday, in a simplistic form detailing my horror at having discovered the milk had gone foul after one day (in fact on the 6th February, a day before its alleged use-by date of the 7th). This might seem a trivial matter, but it was shocking to slurp on a mouthful of mangled chunks of white goo when I had hoped for nothing less than smooth chocolaty delight.

In fact, I drunk perhaps more than I should have, in the vain hope that maybe I was imagining this monstrosity, in spite of friends pleading me to stop. It was only on the forcibly opposed testimony of a housemate I turned to for a second opinion that I finally laid the milk to rest, beside my bin, ready to be discarded. As I say, this was the tale I meant to tell, and I thought it frightening enough, but today things took a turn for the worse, in what could be described as nothing less than a life-threatening disaster!

I went out for the morning to attend to my daily duties and returned tired and worn, ready to catch some sleep after a trying late night before. When I came in, I instantly noticed that, despite the bitter cold wind outside, my room was a sauna from the sunshine. I opened windows and settled down to my computer, then glanced aside and spotted that wretched rotten milk. In the heat, I discovered it had mutated into something wholly unpleasant.

Hindsight screams at me that I should have taken a photo, for I am not sure that I can accurately describe what I saw, but I shall try. The base of the milk bottle contained a cloudy yellow liquid, separated from the rest to form something that resembled murky urine. Above that was a thin layer of a strange foam substance, and above that, filling the majority of the bottle, was the solidified remains of the chocolate milk. It had formed into a rancid network of chocolate tunnels, layered through the sludgy mess like a cave built out of mud. It was a fascinating sight that I marveled at, thinking to keep it to show others later in the day. How bizarre, that it should take such a form.

Little did I know, I was dicing with death when I left that bottle sat there.

Shortly after, I heard a hissing noise to my side. I did not react at first, maybe because I was tired, maybe because I thought it was coming from outside, maybe I just didn’t consider it a threat. Regardless, when I did finally turn my head on that bottle of milk I was met with a daunting sight. The hissing noise grew louder as white foam was fizzing out of the sides of the cap. Good heavens, thought I, it’s building up pressure, it’s going to blow!

I had to relieve it. I had to act fast. First lifting the bottle and turning the cap slightly, I found the hiss to increase and the foam to act violently. This bottle was solid in my grip, on breaking point. I wanted to release it gently, to let out the gas, but I was thankfully patient enough to allow the few seconds it took me to run to the sink first. So I aimed the bottle in, and I started to ease the cap around, desperately hoping I might relieve the pressure before it relieved itself.

This was not to be.

Tipping the bottle up to aim it into the sink, in the first instant my hands were drenched with the acidic yellow liquid from the bottom as it seeped out over the chocolate caves. Disgusted but undeterred, I tried to turn the cap the slightest amount.

The hissing grew further, the foaming more vicious. Then, against all my might, the bottle cap exploded off the top. It happened so fast it is perhaps best to explain through means of the aftermath: The solid chocolate mass was sprayed across the whole sink, resembling a sticky brown vomit, which had also coated one of my hands. The cap was nowhere to be seen. In one loud bang, the bottle had ejected over half a litre of chocolate milk gunk, with such ferocity that the cap had been propelled to god-knows-where, and my own hand was victim to the ghastly residue, the bottle rolling mournfully amongst the mess, thrown from my grip by the force of the blast.

Needless to say, this took me some time to clean up, and left me shaken. I got out of this unscathed, fortunately, although with a lingering smell of rotten milk now filling the air. I cannot help but wonder what might have happened if I was not here when the bottle started hissing. We can only speculate as to the horror that could have befallen the area surrounding that potent bottle. Further, on my return to the scene of the crime, having finally disposed of the bottle, I discovered something equally troubling. Where the bottle had sat, there was a damp patch and some traces of the rotten milk. Yes, it had seeped out of the base of the bottle somehow. That strange yellow liquid had melted through the bottle. That vile stain is yet to come up.

All this one day after its use by date. All this because the bottle was left out for a few hours in a warm room. No man should have to face this misery. It is a day that will live on in my mind for many years to come as the day that a bottle of chocolate milk threatened to turn on me in the most violent way milk can.

Yours Sincerely,


Phil Williams

Sainsburys relied as follows:

Dear Mr Williams

Thank you for contacting us. I am sorry to hear that you were unhappy with the chocolate milk you bought from us recently. I can appreciate how upsetting it must have been for you when, as you have described in your letter, the bottle exploded.

As a food retailer, it is really important to us to make sure that everything we sell is enjoyable and above all, safe. We want our customers to be completely happy with everything they buy from us so we set very high standards. We check our suppliers are meeting those standards by visiting them regularly and quality checking their products. I am therefore sorry that we have let you down.

We take complaints like yours very seriously and our technologists would like to examine the chocolate milk packaging. If you still have the packaging it would be very helpful if you could return it to us. I have enclosed a prepaid envelope for your convenience. If you prefer, you can send the packaging to us by recorded delivery, to the above address. Please could you enclose a copy of this letter, this will help speed things along.

Thank you once again for taking the time to get in touch with us. We welcome any opportunity to make sure our products are of the highest quality. We will write to you as soon as the investigation is complete. We appreciate you giving us the chance to look into this for you.

Yours sincerely,

Stacey Holmes

Phil wasn’t finished there though….

Dear Mrs Holmes,

I am writing in response to your response to my tale of exploding milk woe.

I am happy to hear of your concern, which I would have hoped for considering the vicarious nature of the disaster. However, I regret to inform you that I no longer have the bottle in my possession. It was when waiting to be disposed of that the chocolate milk made its attack, after all, so when things took that ugly turn I thought it best that I remove the bottle entirely. Into a large bin it was thrown, and subsequently I’m afraid our noble garbage men have carted it away.

I’m not sure if I mentioned or not that my camera has not been working recently, but I did try to take a picture or two on my phone after the event. Unfortunately, my phone is rather shoddy in its abilities, and the results are less than clear or, I would imagine, at all useful. Picture, if you will, a blurred brown mess, and that’s about all it shows. Whilst I realise this demonstrates something of a lack of foresight on my behalf, and without accurate investigation into the packaging I would doubt there is much hope of solving this sordid mystery, I should stress that the offensive object did carry with it a murky mess and a stench quite unbearable, so I could not hold onto it. I expect it is of little consolation, but in the action of ejecting its contents the bottle did lose much of its innards, which is a shame because the sight of its pre-explosion solidification and separation was an interesting one to behold.

The only possibility I could think of now would be to recreate the circumstances in which this happened, to try and encourage a second bottle to explode. However, I would hope that what happened was a freak occurrence, and simply leaving already rotten milk in a warm room for a few hours would not cause it to explode in such a fashion every time. You may be happy to know that the smell has finally left my room now, and the stain is all but removed from the carpet.

Thank you for your concern and expedient response.

Yours Sincerely,

Phil Williams

Bless Sainsburys, they replied again:

Dear Mr Williams

Thank you for your further letter. Although I do sympathise with you over what has happened, I did enjoy reading your letters.

I can quite understand that you did not save the packaging, in fact you make it sound as if an exorcist should have been called. I am sorry that you had such an unpleasant experience.

Please accept the enclosed voucher as a goodwill gesture in view of the inconvenience we have caused you. I hope you will be able to buy something you particularly enjoy the next time you shop with us.

I would like to thank you again for taking the time to write to us. The comments we receive from our customers are very important, as it is through them that we are able to identify areas where we need to make improvements.

Yours Sincerely,

Sue Oyns

Enclosed: £30.00 Voucher


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