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Who needs to clip coupons or pay whatever the grocery store is charging, when you can buy meat from the back of a truck for half the price?

It sounds like a shady proposition. But if you follow coupon blogs, you’ve no doubt seen plenty of posts and praise about Zaycon Fresh – and perhaps you even became a customer.

But the eight-year-old company surprised followers this week when it abruptly ceased operations, leaving in limbo its customers who had already paid for products they now will likely never receive.

“It is with deep regret that we inform you that as of June 25th, we are suspending business operations,” reads a stark notice on the company’s website. “Zaycon Fresh has put forth monumental efforts to endure recent challenges but conditions are such that this suspension is necessary. Updates will be forthcoming as we are able to provide them.”

Those with questions are asked to email questions@zayconfresh.com, though an inquiry to that email address has so far gone unanswered. Calls to the Zaycon Fresh phone number are not going through, and most of the company’s social media pages have been deactivated.

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There is no record of any recent bankruptcy filing, nor has the company filed a WARN notice with its home state of Washington about an impending closure or layoffs (though it’s not required to, since it has fewer than 100 employees at its home office).

Many customers, then, were in the dark about Zaycon’s financial state. But the company’s former CEO says he saw the writing on the wall years ago. And, ironically, a lawsuit that he himself filed against the company may have turned out to be the straw that broke Zaycon’s back.

Zaycon was incorporated back in 2010, by Spokane-based brothers Mike and JC Conrad and their cousin Adam Kremin. Embracing the concepts of buying in bulk, and eliminating the middle man by sourcing directly from farmers, they found they could sell fresh meat direct to consumers at wholesale prices – often as much as 50% less what grocery stores would charge (“We saved $950 for the year compared with Walmart,” the company quoted one satisfied customer as saying).

Zaycon further cut costs by not having any physical stores or delivering to your door – instead, they would sell meat in advance, online, then truck it all to designated pickup points on designated dates, all over the country.

Zaycon was expanding rapidly when Richard Braddock said he was solicited to invest in the company in 2014. Braddock, whose resume includes tenures as CEO of Priceline.com and president and chief operating officer of Citicorp, said he invested or loaned to the company more than $4 million, based on what he later claimed were misrepresentations about “the financial and operational strength of Zaycon”.

In a lawsuit that he subsequently filed, Braddock said that “by mid-2014, the company was floundering as it was short on capital and experienced leadership.” So Braddock went from being the company’s largest investor, to becoming its CEO, beginning in October of 2015. In his short tenure as CEO, he claimed to have “put Zaycon on firm footing”, so much so that the company was able to generate interest from potential buyers.

One buyer, a private equity firm, came forward with an offer. Braddock supported a sale, as “Zaycon was desperately in need of a capital infusion”. But “in order to maintain control of the company”, Braddock says, Zaycon’s managing members fired him.

And then the proposed sale fell through. “This left the company starved for necessary capital to expand and grow and on the verge of insolvency,” Braddock’s lawsuit reads. “It also left the company unable to pay the amounts owed to Braddock”.

So Braddock sued Zaycon in November of 2016. That lawsuit is ongoing, and Zaycon has had a difficult time defending itself. “Defendants did not anticipate Plaintiff would produce nearly four thousand pages of documents” as part of its case, the defendants’ attorneys complained in a court filing just last week. More importantly, though, Zaycon recently lost a separate legal challenge filed by its insurer, which successfully argued that it should not be on the hook to help the company cover its costs defending itself against Braddock’s lawsuit.

Zaycon’s current managing member did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did Braddock’s attorneys. But it’s not difficult to put two and two together – Zaycon’s already tenuous financial state, coupled with its mounting legal bills, supports the conclusion that Zaycon’s decision to pull the plug this week may have been inevitable.

Zaycon had long been popular among couponers, since one of the first things its founders did to generate word of mouth was to reach out to coupon and food bloggers. Zaycon later started an affiliate program (which was recently discontinued – not a good omen), in which bloggers could get paid for posting about the company, which explains why you may have heard or read about Zaycon even if you weren’t a customer.

So the company’s abrupt suspension of operations has disappointed and upset both customers and coupon bloggers – many of whom were customers themselves. “I just hate this because I really have loved this company in the past,” Passionate Penny Pincher posted. “I truly hate sharing news like this. It’s difficult when the company is one I had such close ties with over the years and referred hundreds of readers to,” The Coupon Project posted.

Others were more angry than disappointed.

“I trusted this company and shared this company with other families because what they offered worked really well for us. Now, though, I am stuck in a position much like many others where I paid hard-earned money for a product I will not ever see. It’s extremely disappointing and angering to say the least,” Lehigh Valley Find & Go Seek posted. “I am currently super angry, I put trust in this company for many years and for many years they did not let me down. So in turn I shared about them with all of you and then this happens. I am angry for all of you who are waiting on orders that now you will never get just like myself,” Midget Momma wrote.

Unless or until they hear back from Zaycon via email, customers with outstanding orders are advised to dispute the charges with their bank or credit card company. Barring that, all anyone can do is wait to see whether Zaycon somehow bounces back from its “suspension” of business operations and offers refunds. Though when it comes to being compensated – a certain former CEO is going to be the first in line.

11 Comments

  1. Pingback: Savory Butcher: Alternative to Zaycon - The Thrifty Couple

  2. Find the emailed receipt. It won’t show your method of payment but it will show purchase date, amount, and what you purchased.

  3. Mary H. Erickson says:

    I have ordered $400.00 in product and will probably not see anything. Back when you ordered early to get a better price and the order keep being “delayed” we should have seen the writing in the wall!

  4. Disputing the charges with your bank or credit card is all well and good, but if there is a time limit on such things (i.e., my bank limits disputes to the past 60 days), then you may still be out even more money as this stuff was ordered well in advance (and in many cases, postponed for several months). I may get a bank refund on the two cheaper cases of chicken I ordered in May and June, but probably will be out of luck for the $125+ case of shrimp I ordered in February.

  5. And this is how we do it in the USA. The former CEO will get his money, we will not.

  6. But when non-business consumers steal, they go to jail. smh

  7. I also have been a long time costumer, 3 cases of bacon supposed to be delivered in 2 weeks! Really? Shame on them. And to erase our accounts from their website. Unless we have a screenshot of that, this will be hard to prove what was and was not delivered. I will be calling my credit card tomorrow!

  8. I am so disappointed in Zaycon. I have been a customer of theirs since it started. It really angers me that they were taking our money right up to the end, knowing that they were not going to deliver the goods. I am out over $450.00!!! I doubt we will hear anything again.

  9. I reached out to the Spokane BBB and got this respond :

    Tobie C: Hi Tara, Zaycon has advised BBB they will not be responding to complaints. Here is a link to their profile. You may also want to reach out to the Oregon Attorney General.

    Tobie C: www. bbb. org/snakeriver/business-reviews/not-elsewhere-classified/zaycon-foods-llc-in-veradale-wa-1000003287

    Tobie C: Here is the Oregon Attorney General link: https://www.doj.state.or.us

    Tara : Lovely, thanks for the information and your time. Any other suggestions for trying to get a refund for the canceled order?

    Tobie C: No information as of yet. Keep an eye/ear out for updates and check online as well (twitter, facebook, etc.) Hopefully we all hear something soon.

    Tara : Kool… Thanks again for your time.

    • Why would you file with the Oregon AG? They operate out of Spokane, WA. Do you file with the state you live in? or where the fraud occurred?

  10. Patricia Worley says:

    Cannot afford to lose $132.63 and was really looking forward to my 20lb case of shrimp being delivered next month (it originally was to have been delivered last month) – hopefully a refund is forthcoming?

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