Hundreds of customers stood in a line for hours at a Downey market Wednesday in hopes of collecting refunds for money they spent on bad batches of masa that spoiled their traditional Christmas tamales.
It's the second time this week disappointed customers lined up at Amapola market locations following turmoil over what the company says was a batch of bad masa, the dough used for tamales. Many of the same people already waited for hours in the days before Christmas to purchase the all- important tamale ingredient from Amapola market.
On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, however, many of those customers discovered that something was wrong with the masa after the time-consuming cooking process.
Customers returned to the market, which also has locations in West Covina, Paramount and South Los Angeles, the day after Christmas demanding refunds. Some people got them, but the market eventually ran out of money. The markets were closed Tuesday, but resumed handing out refunds Wednesday morning.
At midday, more than 1,000 refunds had been issued at four Amapola stores across Southern California, company officials said. Customers lined up in Downey as early as 4 a.m.
Some customers said they've been coming to the market for years and always left satisfied.
"It wasn't a bad Christmas, just a little disappointment," Ruben Macedo said Wednesday. "But I guess they're going to do us right. Mistakes happen, and I'm pretty sure I'll come buy their masa next year."
Carlos Galvan Jr., the senior vice president and chief financial officer for the market, issued a statement saying his family and the company's employees were "saddened and sorry" about the problem.
"For over 55 years, Amapola Markets has prided itself on earning the loyalty of our customers with the best service, the best products and the highest quality, including our masa for tamales," he said. "And this holiday weekend, we sold masa that was below the quality that our customers and us at Amapola are accustomed to enjoying with their families. At no point have we encountered any evidence that has made us believe that there are any health risks with the consumption of our masa, in short, it just does not taste good as it should."
Galvan said the problem appeared to be limited to masa sold on Dec. 23 and Dec. 24, and the issue apparently stemmed from "defective corn" purchased from a national provider it has used for more than 15 years.
"To our loyal customers who purchased our masa, once again we are deeply sorry for your experience," he said. "As promised from the moment we discovered the incident, we have been taking corrective measures and will continue to provide you with a full refund for your purchase."
The market has a refund claim form posted on its website.