Why I Paid $17 For a Hostess Chocodile
One man’s quest to procure an elusive snack cake.
On November 16, 2012, Irving-based Hostess Brands announced that it had filed a motion in bankruptcy court to shut down its operations. Most Americans fretted over the fate of their precious Twinkies, Ho Hos, and Sno Balls, popular snack products that were widely obtainable and could still be purchased. Meanwhile, a smaller subsect of snack-treat aficionados were faced with the likelihood that their palates would never again experience the Chocodile.
Hostess Chocodiles are nothing more than chocolate-covered Twinkies—delicious, orgasm-inducing, vision-quest-achieving, chocolate-covered Twinkies. Their scarcity predated Hostess’ 2012 collapse by nearly two decades. In the mid-’90s, the distribution and sale of this elusive confection was mostly restricted to Hostess outlet locations and retailers on the West Coast. Prior to that, market demand on both coasts determined the Chocodiles’ wider, yet still limited, regional availability. And before that it was the 1970s, when the entire nation subsisted on a dietary regimen consisting of Manwich and cocaine. A bygone era when Chocodiles were plentiful.
Like Twinkies, Chocodiles are unique in that they have no competitor equivalent. Ding Dong enthusiasts can downgrade to Drake’s Ring Dings. Ho Hos junkies can slake their desire with Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls. You like Sno Balls? Well, just sprinkle some stupid coconut shavings on a cupcake and consider yourself an honorary Cake Boss.
The limited accessibility of Hostess Chocodiles in the late ’90s quickly led to the emergence of an online black market of unsanctioned Chocodile “resellers” setting up cyber-shops where they would apply absurd mark-ups and exorbitant shipping and handling fees.
I grew up in the great New York borough of Queens in the 1980s, where routine consumption of Hostess Chocodiles was possible. That is why, several years before the Hostess Ding Dong would go the way of the dodo, I began trying to procure Chocodiles online. A Google search produced links to a number of internet entrepreneurs operating websites that sold Chocodiles either individually or in box lots of 10. I started researching each supplier and cross-referencing my findings with websites that provided forums for consumer complaints. Most online Chocodile vendors, it turned out, were not to be trusted. I eventually located more reputable Chocodile peddlers on eBay and Amazon. At the time, the asking price for a box of individually wrapped Chocodiles was somewhere between $30 and $40, or $3 to $4 per Chocodile (before shipping). The days of the Chocodile presumably numbered, eBay merchants are now selling Chocodiles for $10 to $20 each.
With the fate of the various Hostess brands in limbo, the true character (or lack thereof) of online Chocodile pastry pirates such as Chocodiles123.com and FreshChocodiles.com is being revealed. But I thought I’d found one I could trust. After an obsessive amount of due diligence on my part, I placed a two-for-one order with ChocodilesNow.com, a website that had few negative customer reviews, on November 16. On November 20, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, the proprietor of ChocodilesNow.com sent an email blast to customers stating that it was “working in conjunction with the Chief Operating Officer of Hostess” to fulfill its orders, and customers who wished to cancel their outstanding orders would need to do so within 24 hours. This notification was sent with recipient field left blank and customer email addresses applied to the blind copy field, meaning that most of these notices would inevitably end up in spam folders.
My $35 payment to ChocodilesNow.com was deducted from my PayPal account on November 27, exactly one week after ChocodileNow.com’s email was rightfully relegated to my Gmail spam folder. I sent emails to the proprietor of ChocodilesNow.com every day for four consecutive business days, requesting that they confirm delivery of my cherished Chocodiles or refund my payment immediately.
As you might imagine, these pleas generated only deafening silence. Left with no other means of legal retribution, I initiated a dispute with ChocodilesNow.com via PayPal and, as of this writing, am still awaiting reply or refund.
I tried to put the whole ridiculous ordeal behind me, but the harder it is to obtain something, the more desperately we crave it. I was determined to get a Chocodile. I took to eBay, located a reputable seller, and ordered a single Chocodile. The seller supplied a USPS tracking number within 48 hours. I monitored the shipping progress so closely that I was able to greet the postman when he arrived at my door.
“Thank you so much,” I said, unleashing the sort of enthusiasm no parcel could ever warrant. I brought the package inside, carefully removed its contents, and cupped it gently in my hands as if it were a wounded baby bird. “I can’t believe it,” I said. “I can’t believe I am holding it in my hand.”
Characteristically unruffled by my childlike joy, my wife replied, “And I can’t believe you spent $17 on a stupid Twinkie.”
“It’s not a Twinkie,” I said. “It is a Chocodile!”
I set the Chocodile aside and promised myself that, despite the fact it was already a week past its freshness date, I would wait for a special occasion before I enjoyed my prize. Perhaps I would eat it on New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, or in a hospital delivery room during the birth of my son in early March. Alas, the actual consumption of the Chocodile was far less memorable. In fact, I have no memory of eating the thing at all.
Two nights later, after four too many glasses of Carlo Rossi Paisano, I apparently inhaled the Chocodile while standing in the doorway of my kitchen pantry. The following morning, I found the snack cake’s wrapper sitting atop the contents of the pantry’s trash bin and looking as though it had been ripped apart by a Manimal with seven thumbs on each hand.
I can only assume it was a magical moment.