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Fresh Returned Food Thrown Out?

  • d

My wife had a very nasty experience over the weekend at Costco. We overpurchased food items two days earlier for a party, so went to return some items - containers of Hummus, Tapenade, salsa, etc.

The woman who accepted the items essentially sneered at my wife, saying, "You realize we have to throw all this out, don't you?"
No, we didn't realize that. Why dispose of perfectly sealed goods - is it because if they were purchased cold we might have left them out to spoil? Is this a common practice? We felt bad and I suppose we could have donated the food to a shelter, but isn't it sad that a shelter would take our word and a company won't?

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  1. Well if *you* bought food from Costco that had been returned by somebody, would *you* want to take that stranger's word that it had been properly cared for while they had it? I think Costco is right; it's their reputation (and more) on the line if someone gets sick from something they sell.

    1. Frankly, I am shocked that they took the stuff back.AS far as I know, food is not a returnable item, unless there is something wrong with it. There is no way they can put it back.Even if they "believe" you. If I overpurchased items for a party it would never even occur to me to try to return these things. Your mistake, your loss. They were not nasty but were very nice to take this stuff back.

      1 Reply
      1. re: emilief

        I'm very surprised that Costco took the food back also. Your overestimate is now their loss. That's wrong. That expense is now passed on to the customers, and possibly to employees (in the form of low wages). Who knows.

        Someone I know recently purchased a new mattress from a highly reputable mattress company. After sleeping on it for two weeks, she decided to exchange it for another mattress because it wasn't firm enough. (You have 21 days in which to do this from the date of purchase, and there is a $99 re-stocking fee). Supposedly, that "expensive" mattress isn't put back into the warehouse to be resold, it is destroyed because someone slept on it [for 2 weeks]. It is, for all intents and purposes, a used mattress that looks brand spanking new. Back to the Costco story. We really don't know what happens to returned items. What a company claims to do with returned merchandise, and what *really* happens with returned merchandise, might come as a shock to most of us . Some of us might be sleeping on used mattresses and some of us are sold returned foods. We don't know.

      2. How do they know you didn't leave it out to fester all weekend?

        They pitch it. So does the grocery store. If it was a box of toilet paper that's still all wrapped, that's one thing, but returned food nearly always goes in the trash.

        1. Did you tell them you simply wanted to return it because you overbought? If so, you should consider yourself lucky they took it back. There was certainly no obligation on their end. Next time make the donation to the shelter.

          1. Yes, I've had the same thing happen, and they're right. They can't afford to take your word when the health of the next customer - who might be me - could be imperiled.

            BJ's Warehouse has the same policy, but they're tougher. They ask you if there is anything wrong with the food item you're trying to return, and if you say, "No, I never even opened it," they tell you that it cannot be returned.

            It's made a much more cautious and thoughtful shopper of me, I must admit. I agree with their policy.

            1. Ditto what others have said. Costco has good enough customer services to take a loss over a customer's mistake. They'd assume a huge liability if they turned around to sell the products based on someone's claim that the products were treated safely (or even further, not tampered with).

              1. Not all shelters would take the risk of your word. If you were a business with liability insurance, they might feel more secure in taking your word. But as individuals, some shelters and food pantries would not accept perishables (however sealed they are) from individuals.

                1. I know someone that returned cooked lobsters back to Costco. Reason: the lobsters tasted funny. Costco accepted them back and refunded fully.

                  Rules really do differ between shelters. I know of a few that will take perishables, produce and bread items. There are those that will take leftover foods from catered events. There are some that will only take canned goods. I always like to keep a list of what can be donated to local shelters and churches, especially during the holidays when food is such a hot gift item.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: rumgum

                    Sorry Deej, I completely disagree with you. The folks here are right.

                    If there was something wrong with the product, it's completely different than simply purchasing too much.

                    1. re: rumgum

                      I think that is different. I have returned shrimp to the Fish Store because it smelled funny. They told me they would replace it that one time, but if I needed to return again, I should pop it into my freezer and bring it back when I can. Most stores are appreciative to be informed if something is not good. But bringing back food that you bought, but didn't use? I am surprised they gave you a refund.

                      1. re: Fleur

                        I was actually just continuuing on about Costco's overly generous return policy. Maybe my example was little off. I think a lot of us have been guilty of buying too much. We can certainly donate our excess instead of returning the items knowing the stores have the additional responsibility of throwing it in the trash. I would never expect any market to put a perishable item (sealed or not) back on the shelves for re-sale.

                        The only surprise really from the original post is that the lady sneered when informing the customer.

                    2. Maybe the lady could have said it a nicer way, but it did have to be thrown out. We bought crab from Sam's Club that was just awful once. We called ahead to ask what to do and were told to bring some of the uneaten crab back. We did and got double our money back! We've had large king crab from them several times, just got a bad batch once and I'll buy it again.

                      1. They should throw it out, as others have said. Having said that, if it's their policy to take it back for any reason, they shouldn't "sneer" at you.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: emily

                          While they shouldn't have sneered, I can't say I wouldn't have been less than friendly. It's Costco on the weekend, during the holidays and you have some customer coming in to return items because of their own error and everyone should be "happy, happy, joy, joy". The customer isn't always right.

                        2. You returned food simply because you purchased more than you need? Wow, that's just a couple of steps above buying a book, reading it, then return it (and yes, I know people who do that. Not to mention party dresses, etc.).

                          The big stores will take them back, but no, they would not resell them.

                          And a shelter may or may not take your donation either. Just because it's a shelter don't mean they can subject their clients to food poisoning risks.

                          1. You should have never returned food to them just because you didn't use it for the party - suck it up and use it yourself or give to friends, whatever - but don't expect to be reimbursed for your over buying. I think Costco needs to change their policy and refuse to refund any money in situations like this!

                            Spoiled food is fine to return. In this situation, absolutely not!

                            1. Costco makes many of its sales based on its extremely generous return policy. I would probably not return stuff like that simply because I bought too much, but their policy doesn't exclude that, and that's part of their success. I can't imagine thinking they were going to resell it, however.

                              1. No one has mentioned regulations ... I'm pretty sure that there are local regulations regarding the sale of perishable consumables. And I suspect it goes something like what you hear in airports; "Has this item been out of your control ..." Frankly, I'm glad Costco is watching out for their consumers. Who knows if some punk wants to play a prank or some deranged customer buys sealed food, then injects something using a hypodermic needle, with the opening so miniscule no one notices?

                                1. Costco's generous return policies baffle even their own employees. A friend who works the customer service desk at our local Costco accepts returns on things that, if it were up to her, she'd tell members they couldn't return. Tossing returned food items may be required by local ordinance, but even if it isn't, it's a good idea.

                                  1. It amazes me that someone would even consider returning food and expect it to be re-stocked for sale. And it underscores the sad industrialization of the things some people eat. Chalk it up to being so far removed from the realities of preservation and sanitation that food can be thought of the same way as an ugly sweater.

                                    1. Once food leaves the store, it cannot be returned. The store cannot guarantee how it was stored, or whether the container was tampered with. You wouldn't want to buy food that someone else had taken home,and brought back.

                                      1. I was buying almonds in bulk at the grocery and they came out of the bin in a huge avalanche of almonds. Easily twice as much as I had intended to buy. I used the scoop to divide the bag, and took both bags up to the cash register. I explained to the cashier what had happened, and that the almonds had gone from the bin to the bag and nowhere else. The cashier gave me both bags for the price of one, saying that once they'd left the bin, let alone the store, they couldn't be resold.

                                        1. One case of food poisoning from a policy of taking back food for a company like Costco could bankrupt it. No company in their right mind would take it back. The thought would never even occur to me to try to do that in this day and age. You should have given it to friends, or possibly directly to some homeless.