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My Dilemma: To Return Inedible Turkey or Not

  • m

To say that I am disappointed is an understatement. In my family, I'm considered the turkey expert. Whenever I suggest a standing rib roast or rack of lamb, the family and friends only want turkey.

On Friday, I bought a Whole Foods brand free-range turkey which I prepared today. I normally buy the excellent Eberly birds from Whole Foods but I thought I'd give their house brand a try.

When I started carving today, I knew something was wrong. The meat at all joints was so tough that I had to yank it with all my might. It was no better eating with a fork and knife.

I am so upset to have my whole dinner ruined by this inedible turkey (not to mention the considerable effort and investment of madeira, morels, and two quarts of homemade stock for the gravy).

So, my question is: Am I out of line to ask for a refund for this miserable bird? It's not uncommon to come home with less-than-wonderful meat, but I've never had something quite this bad.

And, if I do return this, do I bring the turkey meat to show them? I am not the confrontational type, just feel like this was unfair. Can anyone offer some advice?

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  1. Save the bird, and if you have receipts for the other ingredients that you also shelled out for this meal, bring those as well.

    I have no qualms about returning ANYTHING I buy that is not up to snuff. If some of these ingredients are available at WF, then they should replace those as well. What you want is to replicate this meal another time, and you need all the ingredients for your New Year's or whatever dinner.

    One time I had made a baby spinach salad for a client and the spinach didn't last past the date on the bag. When my client informed me that it was inedible in two days, I pulled the bag and looked at the date. I went back to TJ's and told them that the feta, mushrooms, onion that was also in the salad had to be replaced. They did so, no problem.

    If they do not accommodate you, then they don't care about your business. They will usually always be. Just remember to smile!

    1. I would encourage you to bring the situation to their attention if you don't think you did anything wrong in the preparation. Give the manager of the store a call and explain. You could offer to bring in the bird if he/she thinks it's necessary.

      I used to have a store and I would much rather have my customers tell me if something was off so that I could have a chance to make it right rather than lose a customer due to something of which I was unaware. Better that you should let them know rather than not tell them and let it eat at you. You wouldn't go back and they wouldn't have a chance to correct the problem.

      In dealing with customers, I could usually tell when someone was being reasonable (or unreasonable) -- and I appreciated knowing if something was amiss.

      Good luck!

      1. I would call your Whole Foods, ask for the manager and explain, exactly as you did in your post, how disappointed you were in this turkey. I can't imagine that they wouldn't insist on refunding your money. Offer to bring it in. I bet they tell you not too. : )

        1. You can try and return it to the Whole Foods Market and see what they say. Their "customer service" policy on the website doesn't exactly spell out what they're going to do.

          http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/conta...

          If it were Trader Joe's or Costco you'd get your money back no problem.

          1. Considering what they charge, they better guarantee the quality of their products! Of course you're not out of line. Call ahead and simply ask what they'd like you to bring to get a refund on bad meat. Go into details when you get there. Don't act as if you're asking them a favor; act as if you have every reason to expect them to make good based on past excellent customer service from them. And keep a smile on your face: it's (probably) not the fault of the individual you're talking to.

            My condolences on your ruined holiday dinner.

            1. On a different note- coming from a legal perspective I always counsel my clients who are majorally p-o'd that you have to consider the time investment and personal anger investment and then decide if you want to get aggressive. There is a part of me that wants to tell you to chalk it up to experience and let it go because the "re-living" of the horror is not worth it- start a new year & never buy from them again. On the other hand if it will bother you till you drop, I agree with giving them a piece of your mind,

              4 Replies
              1. re: torty

                I agree with the considering whether it's worth the stress ("pick your battles") but at the very least, after the OP calms down she should call the store. Even if she doesn't get her money back she should let the store know the quality is unacceptable. Grocery store margins -- even Whole Paycheque's -- are razor-thin, and while a happy customer tells three people, an unhappy customer tells thirty... that's not good for the bottom line.

                Call, without being too angry, and explain the problem. Chances are they'll make it up to you. If they don't, you have plenty of recourse -- tell your friends, and then smear them all over Chowhound!

                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                  Whole Foods is not a "grocery store" with a small profit margin. It is a mega corporation with enormous profits.
                  That being said, they have the same responsibility to stand behind their products, which are often very expensive.

                  I do not buy there. I prefer to shop at a top quality local Butcher Shop that knows their customers, delivers, and stands behind their products.

                2. re: torty

                  i agree you should go take the turkey back, i do NOT agree with giving them a piece of your mind or going in there angry. its probably not the fault of the person you're talking to, and anyways..how does one test if a turkey is tough without actually eating it? you want the butcher to take off a drumstick to test and sell the rest of the bird? Definately be polite and friendly. working in the customer service industry myself i can tell you, nobody WANTS to help and accommodate a nasty person. you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

                  1. re: RiJaAr

                    This is important -- the person you're going to complain to is not the person who allowed the substandard turkey to be sold in the first place. I'm sure you're not going to go in wielding the Sword of Iron Angriness though!

                3. Not directly related, I'll offer a side note that free-range birds of any sort will generally have firmer meat and a lot of tough ligaments and tendons around the joints.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    You are right, free ramge is always chewier. But if it is just inedible then complain

                  2. It doesn't have to be done from an irritated perspective. I know with my clients, if something isn't up to par, I need to know about it. It's not always the way I cooked it. Sometimes it's the product I purchased. I always let them know. They are always grateful to refund my money or replace it. This usually doesn't cost me any money, but it costs me my time.

                    Tough steak, tough turkeys, too salty corned beef. You have to let them know.

                    1. I'd call first thing on Tues morning and ask for the meat dept manager, then bring the bird (and the recipts and even the packaging if you have it) in. Whole Foods tends to be very customer-oriented and will probably either give you a refund or a stroe credit. Further, if they have any of those birds left from the same grower/packer/shipper, your complaint will alert the meat dept manager who might be able to prevent other customers from the same disappointment -- if indeed an entire shipment was unsatisfactory.

                      1. At the risk of starting up the Brine vs. No Brine Battle all over again.
                        I have never cooked a free-range domestic turkey. I have however cooked wild turkey and wild goose. I brine both of those but don't brine the domestic ones (which as I say have never been free-range.)
                        The reason I brine the wild ones is that they are just tougher because they have been running/flying around and have substantially more muscle development and, I have learned from experience, they will have to be cooked longer than the domestic equivalents. The brining allows that without drying out the meat.
                        Even with brining and longer cooking, there is sometimes the type of attachment of meat to bone at the joints that the OP describes. Carving ain't always pretty.
                        Some have suggested on these boards that heritage turkeys are different as well.
                        Perhaps the methods normally used for cooking plain old turkeys have to be adjusted for large free-range and heritage fowl.
                        I suggest this only as a possibility, of course, since I have no experience with domestic free range turkeys.

                        1. I bought 7 free range, unenhanced turkeys this Thanksgiving. Two were for us for two different preparations, the other 5 were for clients, various preparations.

                          I got all rave reviews for all. None were tough, dry or lacking flavor. Possibly it was the supplier, possibly it was my instructions, or possibly the prep I did on the bird beforehand. A couple were brined, most were not.

                          So, all I can say is.....if you consider yourself a good cook, and others know you are, and you know what you are doing in the kitchen and something you made doesn't turn out well, adopt what Paula Dean says. "Don't be shy, now". Take it back and speak up. Just because it's Whole Foods doesn't mean they are impervious to occasional inferior products they sell. It happens to everyone now and again.

                          1. It can't hurt to call and talk to the manager. Most stores are fairly accomodating, and the better stores even more so . . . they'd rather have your business. There used to be some rule of thumb about how many people one unsatisfied customer could reach, but in the world of the internet, as you can see, that number has increased exponentially, and they know that.

                            1. I had problems cooking the free range bird I bought at fairway this year to my satisfaction - think we are all at a disadvantage cooking these things only once or twice a year, and perhaps with a different supplier/raising method each time. It takes a while to develop the right kind of expectations and preparation approaches for different kinds of birds. There is a reason to stick with a single source of supply and work with it and get to understand it. My thanksgiving bird was drier and tougher than I like nothwithstanding brining and as you mention, stringier around the joints. Honestly, its hard to blame the purveyor in these circumstances - I think I am going to go to a lower, moister and slower cooking method next year from my high temp approach for these birds.

                              1. Glad to say that the customer service department at Whole Foods was amazingly understanding. They told me to come in and pick up a store credit with no questions asked, and to discard the turkey in question. I've already been happy with the customer service at Whole Foods, but my loyalty to them has now been strengthened!

                                I think Jen Kalb has some very good points:

                                A) Stick to known supply with these special purchases. I've always had great luck with D'Artagnan and Eberly turkeys.

                                B) I also have a feeling that a more traditional low and slow roasting approach may work best for these free-range turkeys.

                                Thanks to everyone for their helpful advice and happy holidays!!!!!

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Mendy

                                  Good for you, Mendy. You might have saved a Chowhound a bad turkey in the future. The only way they know if there are problems in the supply chain is if there is a pattern of complaints.

                                  1. re: Mendy

                                    I second the recommendation for d'Artagnan turkeys. The turkey we had for Thanksgiving was delicious.