Why is this holiday different for retailers than all other holidays?
All other holidays have amusing, creative and, at times, bizarre products lining supermarket shelves: green popcorn for St. Patrick’s Day, turkey-
flavoured gumballs for Thanksgiving and even cinnamon or candy cane potato chips for Christmas.
But for Passover, the otherwise-majestic rows of Manischewitz chocolate seder plates and pizza Bissli are blighted by obnoxious signs.
Are you interested in “choco-puffers”? (That’s a kosher for Passover breakfast cereal, not a sugary-medical device.) If so, you’ll see a big “No refunds on Passover items” sign right above it. Hametz-less red velvet cupcake mix isn’t eligible for returns, nor is Magic Max’s Fruity Magic Loops (a cereal so magical it has the adjective twice on the front of the box).
How many such signs are there? At one supermarket in Toronto, there were 28 in just one aisle! I counted. Guess what colour the signs were? Yes, they’re blue and white.
On the one hand, I get why stores don’t want anyone bringing back matzah after the holidays. But they also don’t want giant, three-foot chocolate bunnies or egg-painting kits being returned after Easter. I am still not sure who wants Tofurky and gravy-flavoured soda before or during Thanksgiving, let alone after the holiday, but that product actually exists and I’ve never seen a sign saying you can’t return it after the holiday.
If you miss Italian food during Passover, there is no shortage of options, including frozen matzah pizza. (I’m not sure why you need a frozen matzah pizza, as all you need to make your own is one large matzah, a few spoons of tomato sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese, veggie toppings (optional) and a toaster oven in which to bake it for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, advances in gluten-free food-prep have brought a plethora of Passover options, including Gefen gnocchi and even frozen pizza bagels from Noam Gourmet. While the gluten-free market seems to be solid for 52 weeks, can you return these kosher items? Not a chance. And the sign explaining it isn’t red, white and green. It’s blue and white.
This year, Passover and Easter happen to fall on the same weekend. At my neighbourhood supermarket, this calendar alignment means that the Easter aisle is right next to the Passover one, but instead of macaroons and chocolate-covered matzah, the Easter section is topped by green and blue Rice Krispies, the usual assortment of sugary bunnies, eggs and even candy carrots (presumably something for the chocolate rabbits to eat). Are there any signs banning refunds on Easter goodies? Zero.
Are shop owners afraid of being deluged in Passover returns because of a conspiracy to speculate on matzah futures? That would fall into the category of extremely unlikely. I sense it is because they perceive Jewish customers as untrustworthy, and are actually worried about Passover returns. This is despite the fact that many Passover products, such as matzah ball soup and gefilte fish (very underrated) are enjoyed year-round.
They don’t seem to have these worries for non-Jewish customers celebrating Christian or secular holidays. I wonder why. There is a word for treating Jewish customers differently than the rest of the population. It starts with an A.
An easy solution would be to use more neutral signage, such as “No returns on select holiday items.” That could apply to green popcorn, Passover cereal and turkey gumball candy.
Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to the half-off sales after the holiday is over – and I’d take the chocolate seder plate over the discounted candy bunny any day.