Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ask the Internet: Do You Return Bad Produce?

“I don't return fruit. Fruit is a gamble. I know that going in.” – Seinfeld

Stepping away from all the Christmas joy for 47 seconds, I have a fruit and veggie question. Here it is, in fine Ask the Internet fashion:

Q: I buy bananas every week. Recently, I got a bad bunch. You couldn’t tell from the outside they were rotten, but once peeled, there was a line of black goo running down each piece of fruit. The whole bunch cost me less than $1.50, so it got chucked. Should I have returned it instead, or is that taking frugality a step too far? This isn’t the first time my local supermarket has sold less-than-spectacular produce, but I don’t want to be regarded as cheap.

A: Do you guys agree? Do you return bad produce? If so, what’s your limit? How do you feel about it?

FYI, if it was a meat, dairy, frozen, canned, or boxed product, I would probably have taken it back without hesitation. (See: If for nothing else than I don’t want other people to get poisoned.) But fruit and vegetables seem to be a special WYSIWYG case. Color me confused, but please – fire away in the comment section.

Want to ask the interweb a question? Post one in the comment section, or write to Cheaphealthygood@gmail.com. Then, tune in on Tuesdays for an answer/several answers from the good people of the World Wide Net.

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29 comments:

Amy said...

I am in a similar position. I purchased a bag of clementine's at Costco and, upon opening the bag, noticed that at least 75% of them were soft and mushy. Gross.

SO, I plan to return them. It was, after all, a $6 purchase. But I do have the uneasiness of being "that person who returns fruit." Oh well. Big deal.

The bigger problem: Costco is a good 20 minute drive from my house. Is it worth the $6?

Emily said...

Take it back to the store with the receipt (which shows your date of purchase).

The dollar amount of the purchase is not relevant - the store needs to be aware that one of its suppliers has an issue.

Kris said...

Amy, that is an excellent question. Do we wanna blow 30 minutes on a bunch of bad fruit?

Emily, does that help if the supplier is Dole or Chiquita? I assume they have smaller distributors, but I'm not sure.

Catherine said...

I agree with Emily. If the store sells a faulty product, they need to know.

I returned (or made DH return) a bag of baby carrots that were all slimy. They had probably gotten frozen somewhere in the shipping process, which should not have happened.

Kim said...

I once bought a rotten pomegranate. I cut it open the day after I bought it and it was covered in this awful mold. I never did complain, I sort of regret it, they are rather expensive for a single piece of fruit.

MikeV @ DadCooksDinner said...

For bananas, I don't think it's worth returning. The opportunity cost is too high - as Kris said, it's going to take a 30 minute round trip to save $1.50.

I don't know why, but somewhere between $5 and $10 is where I start to feel that it would be worth it.

Liz Tee said...

For me it's all about the hassle factor. I would love to return every single item that's bad, fruit, veg, or otherwise, just so the store knows, but I won't make a special trip to do it. Unfortunately, remembering to take it with me next time seems to be impossible.

Earlier this year I bought a bag of King Arthur whole wheat flour that turned out to be rancid. I kept it in my fridge so I could take it back. Six months later I gave up and finally threw it out.

Oh well.

Kris said...

Liz, that brings up another great question - what's the time limit for returning bad produce? Or ANY bad food? After a week or so, can the supermarket blame the badness on you?

Jenna said...

For me, if the time to head back to the store to deal with it is too big of a hassle... I'll just call and ask to talk to the manager. I'm clearly not going to get my $0.33 a pound back (current price on bananas) but at least they will have a heads up that something needs looked into. A fried of mine who worked as a store manager says there have to be a certain amount of recorded complaints and issues with a supplier before he could look into changing suppliers. Stores would rather know NOW there is a problem and deal with it - than have customers decide to go to a different store without the problem.

The Apple Hill Adventurer said...

I have returned fruit before. Like others have said, I feel the store needs to be aware that they have a bad product out on the shelves.

I also feel that if I am spending my hard earned money on something, I better be able to enjoy it. A market selling spoiled or rancid products is just unacceptable in my book.

Cori R. said...

I've only ever complained about bad produce once before when I received a moldy basket of figs from Pioneer Organics. I had been so excited to receive them and they were quite dear ($5 or more for a half pint) that I couldn't just throw them out without saying something. They replaced them at no charge.

I don't think I would return the bananas because the cost of my returning to the store in time and gas would outweigh the cost of simply replacing them on my next trip.

Actually, I'm more likely to call a company about a bad can than return it to a grocery. For some reason I just don't tend to return items to grocery stores though I'll return items just about anywhere else without a second thought.

Marcia said...

I generally do not do this, but I have been tempted. I am just too busy to really bother.

I get most of my fruits and veggies at the farmer's market or our CSA now. It's been a very long time since I've gotten a bad item. I think I had one bad apple in a bag from the farmer's market once. (and I caught it before it spoiled the whole bag). That's one out of probably 10 that I've purchased in the last four months.

Kathryn said...

I never have yet, but it would depend on how long I had them before I noticed they were no good and whether or not it was cost effective to return them.

When I have bought something costly and/or noticed it was bad right after I got home, I have contacted the store manager and explained the situation, emailed pics or links to pics I had taken of the spoiled item and have received a gift card with the amount I spent plus tax credited or the manager said to see them or customer service the next time I came in and received store credit without actually having to hold on to the moldy, disgusting item for a week to haul it back in.

AJP said...

I would at least call, for the reason Emily said. I did take back a bag of salad mix because it was rotten before its due date, but I didn't have to drive too far.

Ducks said...

I never return fruit. Fruit IS a gamble: it's far more common that it be flavorless and sad than that it would be bought spoiled, and it's a slippery slope. Once I start returning rotten fruit, can I return boring fruit? How about EVERY SINGLE TOMATO I've bought from a supermarket in the last, oh, 20 years?

On the other hand, bad or contaminated meat, etc. I do return (or at least bring back the label). This is because of the terrible testing system we have for product safety; if it isn't caught by consumers, it won't be caught & recalled until LONG after it's consumed. Better I inform the meat manager and allow him to do the FDA/USDA's job. Le sigh.

Jennifer said...

If it is a big chain grocery store, try calling the costumer service number. That is what I did when I purchased less than stellar yogurt and they were able to credit my rewards card the cost of the yogurt. Next time I went shopping the money was there. Worked out great and I didn't have the hassle of returning the product to the store.

MCM Voices said...

I usually take the position that the store management would like to know about the problem, so I call just as an fyi. Invariably they offer a refund.

Blythe said...

Depends also where you shop. I know that both Trader Joes and safeway you don't have to actually return the fruit, just bring the receipt the next time you're there and ask for your money back, as they have a no questions asked satisfaction policy. I've done this on occasion with no problem - they'll replace or refund the money.

Katie said...

I definitely return produce when it is bad. I returned a rotten jicama once and the people there felt terrible, and gave me two in return. I am so anti-throwing away food that I can't bear to do it.

ms.v. said...

I'm so bad. I never return anything to the grocery store. I knew a girl once that successfully returned pickles because they weren't crunchy. I am just not interested in any sort of hassle. I wish I were better about this sort of thing!

Dogfood Provider said...

I returned a bag of onions recently. It was the same thing, all was fine on the outside but they were moldy and mushy inside. I took them back because I thought the store should be aware of the problem -- maybe the whole shipment was delayed and they need to pull them all from the floor. Not to be a nudge. In fact, if they hadn't given me my money back, I wouldn't have been upset. So you can imagine how thrilled I was when they gave me DOUBLE my money back -- apparently they have a special guarantee with produce.

Kris said...

So, it seems to me like the consensus is: produce IS okay to return, but only if it's convenient and worth the trip financially. At least, you should call your supermarket to let them know the deal. They can do something about it with their distributors, and might be able to reimburse you.

I like that. Thank you to everyone who chimed in.

TeDWooD said...

These days the supermarkets think they can do anything and sway your thinking. I personally wouldn't take it back but if it kept reoccurring i would.
I have a blog on the health benefits of bananas here:
http://thesuccessfulmale.blogspot.com/2009/12/10-reasons-why-you-should-eat-banana.html

Anonymous said...

I never did return BAD produce, for the reasons already mentioned, but I did return badly MARKED produce. I had bought peaches marked at a very good price. When I got to the checkout, they rang up MUCH more expensive than the sign on the display. I bit the bullet and paid the price, but realized when I got home that they had two different labels, with two different numbers on them. I did remember some of the peaches being much better looking than others - of course most of the ones I picked had the same number, and were the nicest. I went back to the store, and found that some had come from a display of "tree ripened" fruit, and some were the number belonging to the cheap fruit.

They were seemingly grateful that I had found their error, but sadly, I have found "mixed" displays again it the same store!

Sarah Caron said...

I've never been big on returning food. And in some ways, I feel like produce at the grocery store is somewhat buyer-beware. You just never know how old it is or how long it's been sitting there.

Anonymous said...

I went to return bad ground turkey at trader joes ( because that was dinner and i had to go back anyway to get different food) and they acted like i did somthing wrong and said you know turkey smells different than chicken, really really angered me then they got even more mad that i didnt want to get another package of ground turkey....never buying meat products from them again

Anonymous said...

Clementines, because of their packaging, are always a gamble and they are about the only produce I would consider returning. Everything else is pretty much able to be sussed out. Do you heft the food, to feel its weightiness and solidity? Do you know what the produce is supposed to look like? Is it something out of season? It seems like common sense and maybe slowing down would avoid a lot of problems reported here.

Mike said...

What a great question. I only return fruit if I think it's the store or the distributors fault. Last time I bought three oranges and the first two were excellent and the last one had hardly any flavor. But that's the way it is with fruit. 95%+ of their produce is great and there is nothing they could have or should have done differently. No need to return it for less than 50 cents.

coorsliteplz said...

Question: If a customer brought the wrong kind of meat and then wanted to return it and get their money back, should the grocery store take it back.....