FlexPro Meals, a Kansas City-based meal delivery service, listed three of its New Year's resolutions on Twitter. "Workout [sic] more, sleep more, pizza more," the company wrote, punctuating each sentence with an appropriate emoji.
But if the complaints from FlexPro customers and concerns from former employees are any indication, then 'pizza more' should probably be further down its 2020 To Do list. Several former FlexPro workers told KSHB that, despite the company's claims that its meals are "chef prepared" and made from scratch," some components have been purchased wholesale from a Hormel-owned brand or from a company that also sells to Costco.
KSHB reviewed some of FlexPro's own invoices, and determined that it had ordered frozen burritos and frozen tamales in bulk—and five former FlexPro kitchen staffers indicated that some frozen foods were repackaged and shipped out to customers. "They would be better off getting DoorDash from their favorite restaurant," one former worker said. "It's probably better made, probably even healthier for them."
In an email to the station, FlexPro CEO Nathan Corn said that 90% of the company's offerings were made in-house from scratch, but he acknowledged that it did occasionally use frozen vegetables, because they could stay fresher, longer during shipping.
But when asked about the burritos and tamales, Corn said that they were "absolutely not" sent to customers. "The only items we would purchase now like that are for our employees' FREE lunch that we provide everyday," he wrote. (VICE has reached out to FlexPro for comment but has not yet received a response.)
Corn didn't acknowledge another of the station's revelations: that four of the photos used to illustrate FlexPro's menu items had been taken from other websites without permission. The "Surf and Turf" picture on FlexPro's site, for example, was taken from a grilled shrimp recipe published on Delish.com.
Using a reverse-image search, VICE also discovered that 29 of the 30 photos that currently illustrate the menu options on FlexPro's website are either stock photos or were pulled from other websites. Some of the photos don't even depict the meals that FlexPro is selling: the listing for FlexPro's Tequila Lime Burrito with 'Homemade Mexican Meat Sauce' uses a stock image called "Large breakfast burrito with plenty of gravy and melting cheese." Its Cauli-POWER chicken and "pectoral beef" pizza is illustrated with a Shutterstock photo called "Turkish meat pizza. Turkish kebab pizza." And the listing for a Keto Breakfast Burger uses a burger-free Adobe stock photo of eggs Benedict with arugula and bacon.
On top of its reasonably shady reliance on stock photos, some disappointed FlexPro customers previously told KSHB that they had received meals that were moldy, inedible, or that made them ill. "I opened four or five other meals, and I found moldy cheese, moldy corn, more rancid protein products that were in some of the meals," one customer in Arizona said of his $149-per-week shipment. Meanwhile, an Ohio man opened his box and found two flies inside it. "That really made me sick to my stomach," he said.
Corn mostly blamed the company's problems on FedEx. "Whether it be our in-house quality control, or our delivery partners FedEx who damage or delay a package, some of our customers have truly had a poor experience with FlexPro Meals," he wrote at the time. "Though we have refunded 99% of those customers and paid out thousands in refunds for unfortunate events, we have taken prompt steps to minimize these issues and have had great success doing so."
In December, the station learned that FlexPro's food prep location had received 19 critical violations from the Kansas City Health Department, including for "live gnats and flies in the dish washing area," chicken reaching a temperature above 41 degrees, and milk that was two weeks past its expiration date in the cooler. (But FlexPro has also done well to take steps to fix those critical violations after they had been reported.)
As of this writing, FlexPro has 95 complaints on the Better Business Bureau's website, mostly referencing thawed meals that seemed unsafe to eat. There have also been complaints about the company's alleged poor customer service, and about the "complimentary $200 cancellation fee" that customers face if they cancel their meal plans early. FlexPro has a rating of 'Poor' on TrustPilot, and an overall one-star rating on Yelp. (They should honestly get one star for failing to understand what 'complimentary' means.)
FlexPro might want to work on a new set of resolutions. 'Pizza more' isn't going to cut it.
This article originally appeared on VICE US.