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Sep 19, 2005 05:47 PM

Etiquette of returning substandard produce to the store?

  • d

Just finished a $3 tiny tub of cut-up papaya from Whole Foods - well, finished in the sense that I had to toss about every other piece because it was underripe and/or improperly cut (with a lot of the bitter rind or interior strings).

I could have bought a whole papaya for $3, but sometimes I'm willing to pay extra for the convenience. So I'm mad and I feel ripped off. But what's the deal with returning substandard fruit? Is it buyer-beware? Should I just not buy it again? If I muster up the courage to request a refund, do I need to present the icky pieces as evidence? Does anyone else return fruit? What are the etiquette issues here?

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  1. Don't be shy.

    Just return it and bring the icky pieces.

    4 Replies
    1. re: MidtownCoog

      Amen. Especially at Whole Foods. In California, at least, their policy is that you can return anything you don't like. Even if you've opened it. Even if it's a bottle of wine that didn't suit you (although that gets to be a gray zone, IMO).

      I found myself in your situation once, and was told by the clerk to never hesitate. He said that monitoring the returns is how WF figures out what customers like and don't like, so they're happy to take returns of anything and everything for any reason at all. Obviously, this explained to me a huge part of why the prices at WF are so high.

      So since you're paying those high prices, take advantage of the first class customer service!

      1. re: nooodles

        No Whole Foods Near me, but a relative told me that at work (not Whole Foods), their nickname for it is "Whole Paycheck".

        1. re: nooodles

          I had a roommate years ago who worked at Whole Foods and explained their policy on returns: basically,the found that 98% (give or take) of people legitimatly return/complain about items, so - rather than piss off 98% of their honest coustomers in order to thwart the 2% of dishonest customers - they have a policy of accepting any and all returns. I think they require a reciept for items over a certain $$ amount, other than that, you're all set - just let them know the issue.

        2. re: MidtownCoog
          Laughing Goddess

          Midtown Coog is quite right. Whole Foods (or Whole Paycheck, the common moniker) is known for good customer service ( as is Trader Joe's) -- both stores want you to be happy, and would rather you return things than be angry and not come back.

          Really. They're very nice about it.

        3. I've been told to say that produce is grown, not manufactured, although the price usually includes the cost of replacing it anyway.

          1 Reply
          1. re: coll

            I'd agree with you, except that the people who are cutting the fruit (or monitoring the machines, as the case may be) ought to be able to pick out obviously inferior fruit. It's not like a whole papaya, where you can pick it up, say, "this papaya is not yet ripe, it is as hard as a rock," and reject it.

            It is incumbent upon those who are going to sell food to have at least some QC on it.

          2. You already received good advice for if you still have the icky pieces of papaya.

            If you no longer have them, I would still go to the customer service counter and tell them that the papaya you bought was less than perfect and what can they do about it.

            This has worked for me in the past (although I was told that the next time I should keep the faulty product - it was ham and the store is only opened during the weekends, so they told me to freeze it and bring it back the next week if this should happen again).

            By giving me one pack of ham back, they restored my trust in their product and I am buying ham there again. See? Good customer service pays off.

            1. You don't need the product if you have the receipt, at least at my local WF as well as my local grocers (stop and shop and shaws) At least 5 years I ago I bought a large whole chicken and when I opened it the smell was so bad. I immediately threw it out. The more I thought about the more pissed I became so I called the store. They (stop and shop) told me to just bring my receipt in as they didn't expect to pack up rancid meat and bring it back to the store.

              Last year I bought a piece of swordfish at WF's that was wormy. I called them and they said the same thing- just bring the receipt to customer service, that they didn't expect to pack up the fish and bring it back.

              One note to scammers: they did tell me that they track all returns on bad products not only to improve service but to track fraudulent returns. If your name pops up too many times they will proabably refuse the return much like they now do at Walmart, Limited Inc, Filenes Basement and I am sure many more retailers.

              1 Reply
              1. re: foodiex2

                It's really easy for them to take your call, go over to the produce section, and see if there are other mealy papayas. Or over to the fish section to smell the swordfish. Plus, other customers probably called with the same complaint.

                After too many times when your experience doesn't line up with that of the store and of other customers, they'll catch on to you.

              2. I agree that you don't necessarily need the bad product... Surprisingly, I got the same terrific service at my local Gristedes (UWS). I normally do not buy produce there but was having had amazing cut up watermelon from there this summer, I took a chance on a crudite platter (not for a hosting event, just us being lazy one day). When we opened the package, it smelled funny. Not wanting to stink up the house all night, we tossed it. No problem, they just gave me a credit with an apology and a smile.