Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Catherine Iino

Returning bad produce to the store

Recommended Posts

Today I bought some locally grown romaine lettuce at a nearby IGA. It looked a little ratty, unlike the prepackaged threesomes of romaine that have become ubiquitous. I was fine with tossing the outer leaves, or trimming them way down. Turned out, though, that every single leaf, straight down to the core, was dotted with brown spots. Really, the whole heads were unusable, although, out of desperation, I managed to trim enough of the stalks to add some crunch to our tacos.

Here's the thing: if I bought some manufactured product that turned out to be defective, I would return it to the store. An appliance with a button that didn't work would go back. If I opened a jar of jam and found it moldy, I'd bring it back. With produce, though, I almost never do. A pineapple that's rotten at the center, winter squash or tomatoes that are utterly flavorless, pears that never ripen--I chalk them up to experience.

Is it just that the cost is too low to bother? Well, I once returned a tube of almond paste to the store because it was absolutely, impenetrably rock hard. Is it because the standards are subjective? I'm not talking about just disliking the taste of something I hadn't tried before. Is it because the window of opportunity to return it is smaller? I can let the appliance sit in its box on the counter for a week or two, and the problem will still be the same, while the produce will have developed other issues. Do New Yorkers who have a grocer down the block that they walk past every day return bad produce? I wonder.

It feels to me as if somehow, with produce, the risk is on the buyer. We are supposed to be responsible for selecting the good peach. Maybe it's our hunter/gatherer genes. Anyway, it seems there's an interesting set of conventions here. Or am I missing something obvious?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmm...I think if it didn't look particularly good on the outside when you looked at it in the store, then you can't really fault the store for the fact that you still chose to buy it.

In the UK, I was often shocked by some of the terrible looking fruit and veg that Tescos tried to sell. However, I often saw people buying it! I suppose some people just don't care. Also, sometimes older stuff is sold off cheap so that's probably a factor for some people.

I always selected the best looking stuff, and if I saw a tray of nasty looking items I would alert a member of staff and ask if they had anything in better condition out back.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I feel uncomfortable about returning bad food items, period. I've had nice-lookng fish that turned out to be writhing with parasites inside, bulbs of fennel that looked gorgeous but were rotten within, some mangosteens whose interiors had moved beyond rotten, to actual dust (first-time purchase, they looked sound, but I had no idea of how firm they were supposed to feel), a long list, but didn't return one.

I think it may have to do with the feeling that food in bad condition should be disposed of immediately, and returning to the shop at the moment you discover something is wrong often isn't practical. The blouse with wonky seam you can return the next day, or the day after, and it seems normal, but it feels odd to have someting sitting about deteriorating for a day or so, until you can return it (I think I also dread the question, 'Why didn't you return it immediately?', even if my perfectly good 'You're 11 kilometres from where I live, and I had dinner to make' is perfectly reasonable').


Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I guess, yeah, it's a cost vs effort thing. To be honest, a product would have to be reasonably expensive before I'd bother going back. If I didn't notice it in the store--and if I had, I wouldn't have purchased the product--then returning it involves walking or driving back to the shop. Only to talk to a fifteen-year-old kid, stand around while the manager is dragged out from the office and get, what, maybe $2 back? Maybe a replacement? An apology? Perhaps a very small voucher or something of that nature? As much as it'd be nice if the IGA or Coles or green grocers or whoever didn't sell shitty 'fresh' produce, actually getting into a confrontation over it just isn't worth the time or effort from my perspective. I mean, most retailers drop the ball once or twice every now and then, I guess--you might remember that one disgusting lettuce, but you probably don't remember the dozens or hundreds of acceptable ones you purchased there-but if they drop the ball too often it's easier to just vote with your wallet. Shop somewhere else. I'm unhappy, mostly, with the quality and range of produce at my local supermarket, so I just shop at the grocer next door. If I get out of work late, when the grocer has closed, I'll go to another supermarket on the way home.

The fifteen-year-old kid and perhaps even the store manager, if it's a chain or franchise, probably don't have that much influence over the quality of the lettuces. They might bother to lodge a complaint ... which is just an electronic ticket floating through a system somewhere. A large company probably won't overhaul its stock-handling procedures because someone at some minor store thought the latest batch of lettuces or avocados or whatever to come through contained more than its fair share of duds.

EDIT

And there's that. Say I buy a fillet of fish that looks just fine in store. Chances are, the next time I'll see it--after it's been wrapped by the fishmonger--is when I go to cook it. Say I then notice it's full of worms or zombie plague or whatever. By that stage the fishmonger is likely closed. And what am I going to do? Leave it sitting around on the bench? Return it to the fridge? Or just decide to forget about shopping there in the future and go buy a pizza? It's annoying and it shouldn't happen and, gee, I wish some stores would take just a bit more care with their produce--I mean, as well as being a give-customers-what-they-pay-for issue it's also a make-sure-your-products-won't-poison-your-customers issue--but some just don't give a shit. So maybe they should go out of business.


Edited by ChrisTaylor (log)

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would return it to the store and explain the problem to the produce manager. If you shop there regularly, then you should know who this person is. I've had to explain to produce managers about: spinach that was full of insects when I put it in the sink to wash, pineapple that looked and tested fine at the store and was spoiled when I cut it open, five pounds of potatoes that turned to mush in three days, onions that were spoiled inside, mealy apples, peaches and pears, and nuts in the shell that were full of worms.

They have never given me any trouble about replacing the items and also, giving me first pick of new stuff that's in the back in the future. I always thank them personally and also call the store manager to give the produce manager an "atta boy". Praise works everytime.

Edit: Obviously, you cannot return it to the store. I meant you should return to the store.


Edited by annabelle (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

+1

I guess, yeah, it's a cost vs effort thing. To be honest, a product would have to be reasonably expensive before I'd bother going back. If I didn't notice it in the store--and if I had, I wouldn't have purchased the product--then returning it involves walking or driving back to the shop. Only to talk to a fifteen-year-old kid, stand around while the manager is dragged out from the office and get, what, maybe $2 back? Maybe a replacement? An apology? Perhaps a very small voucher or something of that nature? As much as it'd be nice if the IGA or Coles or green grocers or whoever didn't sell shitty 'fresh' produce, actually getting into a confrontation over it just isn't worth the time or effort from my perspective. I mean, most retailers drop the ball once or twice every now and then, I guess--you might remember that one disgusting lettuce, but you probably don't remember the dozens or hundreds of acceptable ones you purchased there-but if they drop the ball too often it's easier to just vote with your wallet. Shop somewhere else. I'm unhappy, mostly, with the quality and range of produce at my local supermarket, so I just shop at the grocer next door. If I get out of work late, when the grocer has closed, I'll go to another supermarket on the way home.

The fifteen-year-old kid and perhaps even the store manager, if it's a chain or franchise, probably don't have that much influence over the quality of the lettuces. They might bother to lodge a complaint ... which is just an electronic ticket floating through a system somewhere. A large company probably won't overhaul its stock-handling procedures because someone at some minor store thought the latest batch of lettuces or avocados or whatever to come through contained more than its fair share of duds.

EDIT

And there's that. Say I buy a fillet of fish that looks just fine in store. Chances are, the next time I'll see it--after it's been wrapped by the fishmonger--is when I go to cook it. Say I then notice it's full of worms or zombie plague or whatever. By that stage the fishmonger is likely closed. And what am I going to do? Leave it sitting around on the bench? Return it to the fridge? Or just decide to forget about shopping there in the future and go buy a pizza? It's annoying and it shouldn't happen and, gee, I wish some stores would take just a bit more care with their produce--I mean, as well as being a give-customers-what-they-pay-for issue it's also a make-sure-your-products-won't-poison-your-customers issue--but some just don't give a shit. So maybe they should go out of business.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would return it to the store and explain the problem to the produce manager. If you shop there regularly, then you should know who this person is. I've had to explain to produce managers about: spinach that was full of insects when I put it in the sink to wash, pineapple that looked and tested fine at the store and was spoiled when I cut it open, five pounds of potatoes that turned to mush in three days, onions that were spoiled inside, mealy apples, peaches and pears, and nuts in the shell that were full of worms.

They have never given me any trouble about replacing the items and also, giving me first pick of new stuff that's in the back in the future. I always thank them personally and also call the store manager to give the produce manager an "atta boy". Praise works everytime.

Edit: Obviously, you cannot return it to the store. I meant you should return to the store.

Agree with Annabelle. I've "returned" with receipt only, bad meat, dairy, fruit/veg, frozen foods. Never a problem. have had refund with replacement product no charge and just a refund, depending on the store and product.


Formerly "Quiltguy"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I say return it.

Would you return meat if you got home and found the side lying on styrofoam was spoiled? I would. I recently bought a large container of organic baby spinach from Costco. By looking at it you could not tell there was anything wrong with it other than the leaves looked a bit peaked. The spinach had a sour taste. I did not bring it back because Costco is so far from my house but I would have if the warehouse was closer. But I am sure I would have had no problem returning it.

Another incident was with Fresh Express packaged spinach. I was having a salad and it too tasted bad. After eating half the salad I saw what I thought was a brown leaf. It was not a brown leaf at all. It was a dead moth :wacko: I called Fresh Express customer service. They refunded my money and sent me lots of coupons for free bags, which I promptly gave away without hesitation.


Edited by flourgirl (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have had that sort of thing happen at Sam's Club, flourgirl. Baby greens that looked fine, but were half fresh and half rusted. At another store, I bought a number of one pound chocolate bars for baking. I got them home and they were oxidized and rancid. I took them back and got replacement packages of chocolate that were fresh and a profuse apology from the manager.

I've found that as long as you are reasonable and not accusatory, there is no problem returning items. I've gotten refunds on milk that tasted "off" as well, when my local Walmart was remodeling and I think (pure speculation on my part) the milk was left out of the dairy cases for too long. After all, it's a mistake. They aren't trying to stick it to their customers or they wouldn't be in business for long.

Grocery stores only have a 2-3% profit margin. I'd think they'd do their best not to lose any of it.


Edited by annabelle (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have had that sort of thing happen at Sam's Club, flourgirl. Baby greens that looked fine, but were half fresh and half rusted. At another store, I bought a number of one pound chocolate bars for baking. I got them home and they were oxidized and rancid. I took them back and got replacement packages of chocolate that were fresh and a profuse apology from the manager.

I've found that as long as you are reasonable and not accusatory, there is no problem returning items. I've gotten refunds on milk that tasted "off" as well, when my local Walmart was remodeling and I think (pure speculation on my part) the milk was left out of the dairy cases for too long. After all, it's a mistake. They aren't trying to stick it to their customers or they wouldn't be in business for long.

Grocery stores only have a 2-3% profit margin. I'd think they'd do their best not to lose any of it.

I've taken stuff back or just the receipt if it's too yucky to keep around. Never had a problem. Particularly if you're a regular the store does not want to a) lose your custom nor b) get the reputation for selling rotten food.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's a rare occasion that I put up and shut up with shoddy produce. I don't hesitate to phone and complain, but I'm always reasonable and polite about it. A lot of store-managers will thank you for letting them know there is a problem. Never had a problem getting a refund.

Once I bought a de-boned rolled piece of beef which I was planning to stuff and roast over the Christmas holidays. When I got to it, and unrolled it, it was nothing but fat. I was hopping mad - I kept the 'evidence', and when the store opened again, I returned it. That was probably the one time I was really tetchy. The first assistant claimed there was nothing he could do, because I had disposed of the wrapping. I confess I threw a Calabrian temper tantrum, which worked, because the manager came running. They mollified me with a prime rib roast, and some fine steaks. :biggrin:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've never returned produce. I have taken meat and poultry back less than a handfull of times. I have voted with my wallet when I've experienced "DOA" produce multiple times. I hate confromtation.


Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook

;

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...