Southern California

Steamed Customers Receive Refunds Over Bad Batch of Holiday Tamales

Customers, some with buckets of ruined tamales, sought refunds after a holiday letdown

A bad batch of masa spoiled a Christmas tradition for some Southern California families. 

Disappointed customers lined up early Monday at Amapola in Downey for refunds on tamales that turned out to be inedible. The store's manager said the bad masa may have been a result of bad corn, but they are working with a provider to determine what exactly went wrong.

Some customers brought their ruined tamales to the store early Monday. Daniel Perez said his family was disappointed Sunday when they tried to cook the tamales, a time-consuming process that involves steaming the masa in a corn husk or banana leaf, but usually yields a delicious holiday favorite.

That wasn't the case for the Perez family and others.

"When the time is ready, (my mother) takes one out and she checks it. When she checked it, it was pure water," Perez said.

The store is a popular stop during the holidays, meaning some customers had already waited in line for hours before Christmas to buy the tamales. On Monday, they returned to the store -- some carrying buckets filled with the leftover husks and crumbled masa.

"It's just the time," said customer Tania Carbajal. "The time takes forever to cook the tamales. It's just not fair."

Amapola Vice President Juan Galvan said this was the first time this happened after five decades of serving the Downey community.

"We feel bad," Galvan said. "We feel our family's dinner was ruined, and you know, we know it’s a very important night.

"We're going to be working day and night to make sure they trust us and that this doesn't happen again."

The store was offering full refunds plus $25 for every 20 pounds of masa purchased. The markets had temporarily ran out of cash for refunds and will be closed Tuesday. The company will continue to give refunds when the markets reopen on Wednesday.

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