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Wholefoods does it again

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I have given Wholefoods a second chance after buying a stale moldy peach pie. I was serving the pie to dinner guests but upon closer examination, we saw molds on the pie. It was a good thing I had ice cream to serve. When I returned it the next day, the manager was rude. She just dumped the pie in the garbage can and gave me a credit coupon grudgingly. Shouldn't she have kept that pie to find out what was wrong?

I did not learn my lesson, of course. Last Friday, I bought 3 pieces of skate to cook that night. I spent a lot of time prepping and cooking that skate. When I served it and took a bite, the skate tasted of ammonia. We broke every piece to smell it, and indeed every piece smelled and tasted of ammonia.

That's it -- no more Wholefoods for me. When one pays astronomical prices for supposedly fresh food, one expects a lot. I have been telling this story to as many people as I can. Surprisingly, I have been hearing similar stories.

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  1. Where are you (and this WF) located?

    2 Replies
      1. re: lyn1

        whole foods fish department is like any other supermarkets fish department, it sells last weeks fish. living in manhasset you have no excuse not to buy your fish from marine fisheries in great neck, which, as i have posted here before, is by far and away the best fish market in nassau county.

    1. Did you take a close look at the skate before you purchased it? I ask the fish guy at WF for a plastic glove, and I take a close look before buying (ensuring firm flesh, smelling for any off smells, and the like). The folks at my WF (the Former Wellspring Grocery on Wade Ave. in Raleigh NC) are really accomodating about that; they actually appreciate that I care enough to look myself. They've also offered alternatives when they're out of something I'm looking for, and describe what I was planning to prepare.

      I'm sorry you've had such negative WF experiences. Maybe I'm just lucky where I am...I think my WF still maintains a lot of it's personality of Wellspring, where they were very user-friendly.

      5 Replies
      1. re: OrganicGal

        do they still have javanese tofu? oh how i miss it!

        1. re: OrganicGal

          <I think my WF still maintains a lot of it's personality of Wellspring, where they were very user-friendly.>

          I'm surprised to hear you say that, OrganicGal. I miss Wellspring terribly and have stopped using WF in the Triangle just because the staff no longer seems willing to go the extra inch, let alone the extra mile. That, and the fact that the prices have skyrocketed.

          At home we generally refer to WF as "that Texas chain" usually with a muttered aside about how anything a Texan touches manages to get screwed up (that's a political comment, not a personal attack on any individual poster).

          1. re: rockycat

            I never buy anything fresh from WH - the produce and dairy are overpriced, and I don't eat meat anyways. Their strong point is really the grocery products and prepared foods.

            The only exception is the bakery, which is pretty good and on par with other NYC bakeries re: price.

            1. re: rockycat

              Completely agreed that WF has caused prices to skyrocket! As far as service, maybe I have more luck because I work in the organic industry, and am not above asking folks in the produce section, when something is advertised as "local" Oh, is this from Farm XX? or Farm YY? I'm really surprised he has this product available this soon because it was still in the green house when I inspected them....
              I also do a lot of "oh, c'mon, you know I only ask because I care...ppppllllleeeze can I smell the sockeye????" accompanied by a big smile, and then asking lots of questions that are tantamount to ego stroking. You know...gee, I've always wanted to try, but don't know what to do with...look awed by their knowledge. You'd be surprised how much more service you get when you do that, and they'll never know you're laughing inside the whole time and will do your own thing when you get home!

            2. re: OrganicGal

              I'm surprised at the Raleigh WF also. I stay away from the one in Durham - too crowded, too expensive, and nothing like the Former Wellspring Grocery used to be. Too bad.

            3. Are you hearing similar stories regarding this same Whole Foods? I regularly shop at 3 of them (2 in Providence, RI and one just over the MA line) and everything is always crazy-fresh. I've never had this problem.

              1 Reply
              1. re: JaneRI

                JaneRI, where is the Whole Foods just over the Mass line? I shop at the two in Providence and also the one by the Framingham Trader Joe'... if there is another close by I'd love to know about it.

              2. "Shouldn't she have kept that pie to find out what was wrong?"

                I'm not sure I understand this......there was no cause for her to be rude......but kept the pie to find out what was wrong? How does one figure out what is wrong w/something stale & moldly, beyond assuming it's old?

                1. That's really unfortunate that you have had such a negative experience at Whole Foods. I absolutely LOVE their fish department! Everything that I have ever gotten there has been super fresh and of the best quality. My diet consists mostly of fish, so if it were bad, I would know! On that note though, I will admit that WF does not have the best bakery department! While I have never gotten anything moldy, I do find most of their baked goods to just be average. They always taste dry and like they have been sitting around for a couple of days. I usually love apple pie, but the one at WF just doesn't cut it!
                  Maybe its just the WF that you go to thats really bad, because I live in northern NJ and have never had that problem at any of the locations!

                  1. I've had basically nothing but positive expereinces with WholeFoods. Now that I'm in the SF Bay Area, I haven't been to a WholeFoods only because there isn't one anywhere near me. I wil say that I've had experiences at different stores (not Whole Foods stores) where I've purchased products that ended up being old, stale, moldy, or had something else wrong with them. Now, no reason you need to go back to Whole Foods again and that you got a couple of things that were problematic is bad.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: ccbweb

                      There's a world of difference between Whole Foods in the Bay Area and where I am now. Maybe it's the lack of competition elsewhere but the ones near me carry very few products that I want, the produce isn't nearly as good, nor the meat or seafood. But, there's a new one that just opened up that's supposed to be awesome. I wonder if it'll be more like the Bay Area ones. Although, the one in Berkeley (a few years ago) wasn't as good as the others, as I recall. Once I discovered Berkely Bowl, though, I never went back.

                    2. Evevery time I shop at Whole Foods, I feel ripped off. Especially when less expensive grocery stores are making more of an effort to offer fresh and organic options. I find that Trader Joe's has food of equal quality at half the price, and I can flesh out my shopping at a good local grocery and/or farmer's market. I don't mind shopping twice in a week if I save a significant amount.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: mojoeater

                        I will say I have a problem w/Whole Foods ever since I discovered they have NOT banned high fructose corn syrup from the chain. They have a lengthy list of banned additives/ingredients (including transfats) but allow high fructose corn syrup? I can't help but think they must be in the pocket of the corn industry.

                        1. re: mojoeater

                          In Charlottesville, it was always tough. There are a couple of good "natural" foods stores, but until very recently neither had any significant produce selection and, in many cases, they charged significantly more than Whole Foods (as amazing a statement as that is). I agree that for products that TJs has that are similar to Whole Foods, TJs was superior in terms of both quality and price (though sometimes the quality was the same, since the products were the same). But, Whole Foods had the best selection in that town especially in terms of produce when the City Market wasn't operational (or if I woke up late).

                          That's the thing that Whole Foods really offers in my mind, one stop shopping where you can actually find a decent selection of organic products if you want them and also get recycled paper products, pretty good yogurt and soy margarine etc. etc.

                          1. re: ccbweb

                            I generally love Whole Foods for their variety of choices when I go there during the week on my lunch hour. Last week however, my boyfriend surprised me with some petite red roses from their floral department and by morning they were droopy and sad looking. Since they cost him $15 dollars and he purchasedthem not even 12 hours earlier, I insisted we take them back. The ladies in floral were so rude! I had my receipt and I told them that I promptly cut the stems under running water and placed them in a vase of water. Then one of them kept suggesting that I had placed them by a heater - um no, it was really warm that night and we had the ceiling fan on...does that kill flowers?! They did replace the flowers, but it's the fact that I was made out to be a liar or a crook that irks me. Cystomer service anyone?!

                            1. re: ccbweb

                              C-Ville Market has always had great produce, mostly locally-grown. They renovated some time in the last 3 years. And they're cheap, too.

                          2. Hm, if you are not hurting for choices and thus don't care much if Whole Foods is bad, then I guess that's fine. If you'd really rather have a better choice, though, things aren't going to change unless you tell someone about what is wrong with the store. In this case, that would be Whole Foods corporate. It could be you have some poor management at that store if the similar stories are coming from your local friends and neighbors.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: CrazyOne

                              i am near the Whole Foods in Jericho, NY. Overpriced somethings good, many mediocre. Guy in the fish department told me the stuffed salmon with spinach and feta came in on Tuesday( I was shopping on Friday). Told him thanks for telling me and no thanks for the fish. Most cake is mediocre. Prepared foods are also mediocre. but I just keep wasting my money> Great bootled chocolate milk

                            2. If you have other options, by all means take them. But I wouldn't necessisarily write the place off forever.

                              I got a mouldy dessert at Dean and Deluca on Broadway. It happens.

                              Skate is known to go off very, very quickly. As much as I like it, I'm always a little leary for that reason.

                              Perhaps you've just been unlucky.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: danna

                                WF here in L.A.....same thing. Their meat and fish have become so expensive that the turnover in product has slowed substantially...you must ask the guy behind the counter to look at and smell the seafood before purchasing. They should not mind. Look at red meat for discoloration and any build up of any kind of slimey/sticky substance. (It is the first signs of deterioration of the product....basically the blood in the meat starting to spoil). Their product has gone wat down here as they have grown as a chai. Use local independent fish mongers and produce markets where possible...canned goods and other such thing can be purchased monthly/bi-monthly as you find them in local specialty stores. Look for independent Italian/Chinese/Middle Eastern markets for such stuff. Who want to support the chains that strive to be conglomerates???

                              2. I have never liked Whole Foods.

                                My impression is that it is way overpriced for what you get there. The meat department is expensive, and I can get better meat at my local butcher shop over what I can purchase at Whole Foods. The produce department is impressive, but once again overpriced, give me my local farmers markets, and roadside farmers produce stands in the summer, and Caputos produce the rest of the year, and I can get the same, or better quality at less cost.. I would prefer my money to stay local with the local farmers & butcher shop than have it go to a faceless corporation.

                                I dont eat, or shop for organics or some of the items folks probably go to Whole Foods for, so those items do not play into my review.

                                All of the above are based on my observations, and handfull of visits to Whole Foods locations in the Chicago area. They are my humble opinions.

                                1. I would inspect all fish and chicken before purchasing them at wholefoods. use your nose.

                                  1. The WF in our area of NJ is a fairly new location, sited in an upscale-ish part of town. They have few neighboring competitors for organics, private brands or the kind of health care naturals you find at health food stores. After their grand opening, advertised specials and weekly lost leaders, prices have remained high overall. After shopping their a dozen times for very specific purchases (Fage yogurt, cheese parties) I've come to realize its all about the presentation. WF is more enjoyable to shop in because its prettier than a grocery store. But, if I want to food shop for the wow factor, make a morning trip around food shopping--I prefer Wegman's. At least at Wegman's I can purchase a variety of items under one roof....if they would only add a tire rotation/oil change service to the bldg. I'd be all set!

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: HillJ

                                      HillJ, I believe we live in the same area of NJ and go to the same WF and Wegmans. Like you I go to WF for specific foods and while impressive I prefer Wegman's for most things. I did think Wegman's produce was their weakest part. Fortunately, we have Delicious Orchards for seasonal produce and several good fish stores for seafood.

                                      1. re: tom porc

                                        yes indeed tom. We are very fortunate to have choices!

                                    2. I just went to this new local WF that's huge w/ min-restaurants in it. It made me really sad to see this huge yuppified conglomerate and remember Fresh Fields and Bread and Circus which were great little marts 20 years ago and were bought out by them.:-(

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: chowser

                                        Reading all these posts makes me nervous...I love our WF here in CT!

                                        1. re: amanda3571

                                          What bums me out about Wh is that they put sale prices on the shelf and if you look under the sale price you see the same price-this pisses me off.

                                          1. re: amanda3571

                                            Makes me nervous, too. We live about an hour from Austin and sometimes make the trip just to shop at WF. We don't ever buy fresh meats, however, because of the travel time...maybe that makes the difference?

                                        2. I bought a rack of ribs there once, took it home and unwrapped it to find it was foul. Same thing happened with a piece of salmon. I've never completely trusted WF since.

                                          1. Well I haven't had those problems, but after 2-3 trips decided that TJ's was all around better (certainly much cheaper) for almost everything, plus their selections are more interesting. Then, if you go to your local "international" market, be it Iranian, Turkish, Mexican or whatever, you can round out your produce purchases - often not organic, but certainly very fresh and about 1/5 the price... that's here in LA. Look around, there are several small organic food chains with better prices than WF...

                                            All in all if I were Jim Cramer I'd "ring the bell" on WF.

                                            1. Wow, our WF in Plano is wonderful...Never have had this type of experience...Their pecan pie is the BEST...Just goes to show you that each store is very individual in terms of quality

                                              1. Frankly this can and likely WILL happen at any fish market you buy from at some point and time. I've worked in seafood on and off for over a decade and the fact of the matter is that even if the fish actually did come in that morning (some of it did, most of it did not) chances are it's been out of the water maybe a week, maybe longer. If you're talking about long-line caught species like swordfish, the boats may be out for 10-days to 2 weeks at a time. So if a fish is caught within the first couple of days that means it's in the hold until the boat comes ashore. Do the math! BUT...if it's iced and stored properly it will in fact look and taste just fine when it gets to your market. But of course after another several days on display at the market chances are it's going to start to turn. With some fish it's far easier to tell than others. Shrimp essentially develop black age spots as they break down (and any pinkness except on actual pink shrimp) is a sure sign of decay.
                                                And relatively unpopular fish like skate is likely not to have a fast turnover so if a market has a slow week or particularly if they over-order and/or fail to properly rotate the product it's very likely you could get bad fish. I can say from experience that one of Whole Foods smaller competitors had possibly the most disorganized and disastrous product rotation of seafood that I have ever seen. Essentially there was no rotation so old stuff got lumped in with fresh stuff and at the end of the day there was no telling what was what. And that was a store on the coast where ideally seafood should be fresh.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: human entity

                                                  You know, human, what you say is really thought-provoking. Given that most caught fish is held (one way or another) for over a week, at what point do we decide that flash-frozen fish (frozen on boat, that is) is in fact "fresher" (when thawed) than "fresh" fish-- or at least more reliable in quality? I know a frozen fish will never rival something caught today or yesterday, but since we rarely (in big cities, never) see fish that fresh, maybe we should just cut our losses and buy frozen?

                                                  1. re: human entity

                                                    What do you do? What kind of fish do you eat? Knowing what you do, I'm curious as to how you approach eating fish in general.

                                                    Recently Fox News in NY had a segment of a local woman who purchased fish from Whole Foods, took it out of the frige later that night, and discovered worms in it. I had a similar experience with salmon from a local fish market as well. So you're right in that this will happen in any fish market eventually, and that's basically what Whole Foods said when Fox News asked for a reply.

                                                    1. re: gloriousfood

                                                      Worms in fish is normal. Take any piece preferably whole fish but any filet and put it on a brown grocery bag and sprinkle salt on the side that wasnt on the ice. And watch all the worms come out onto the bag. They are easier to see against the brown bag. Of course, you'll have to toss out the fish after all that salt.

                                                  2. I, too have had it with WF in Glendale, CA, after 2 weeks in a row being overcharged on several items (the first week the manager gave me a refund for the $29 I was charged for $17 worth of chicken breasts), but there were several other items I had to dispute in the checkout line both weeks.

                                                    By week two I was watching EVERYTHING closely & the kid checking me out argued with me about the prices on tomatoes & avocadoes (I was right after finally getting a price check but got no apology--it would have been another $10 overcharge if I hadn't caught it)--I called the manager to say I won't be back. One of the expensive avocadoes turned out to be grey inside after all that.

                                                    It's a shame; they have some things I like, but it shouldn't be an unpleasant experience shopping there, at those prices. You have to unload your own cart, too! I think they have gotten too big, have too many inexperienced (ill paid?) employees, & the produce is not always marked with prices, hence the confusion at checkout. I've had 3 different prices quoted for unmarked tomatoes (aren't they required by law to post prices)? It's too bad...

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: Babette

                                                      Why is unloading your own cart a problem?
                                                      The employees are paid relatively well, and they are usually one of the top large companies to work for, with good benefits, etc. I've NEVER had a problem with a whole foods employee in any section, and I've done most of my shopping at a WF in every city I've lived in from college to today (like 5 different whole foods locations and different states). When I get something rotten, i bring my receipt back and they credit me.
                                                      While I dislike the WF near me because it's very cramped, I find everything I need in a quick amount of time, and since I'm mostly a veg, my bill is considerably cheaper than if I shopped at the grocery store down the street. And I've compared a few times. I buy most things there, and suppliment with trips to Trader Joes for more bulk-like items (rice, broth, etc). And for "grocery" items I just go to Target.
                                                      I don't believe Whole Foods is perfect, but little things like going when it's less busy or getting to know the people might make your experience different.
                                                      Blaming the employees as "inexperienced" (they have a very strong training program) or ill paid is rude. Which is ironic, because in the WF I go to (outside DC), my least favorite part of my shopping trip is the other customers.

                                                      1. re: Jeserf

                                                        Not a problem except at those prices, a little more service would be nice. Especially if I need to be watching the tape the whole time to see whether it'll have an extra 10-20 bucks overcharge! Trader Joe's, Bristol Farms, etc. add that extra bit of service, and everything is marked so there's no question about the price.

                                                        And, the manager herself said the employee should have called for a price check immediately rather than flat out telling me I was wrong. He was the one who was rude. I politely asked for a check, he resisted, and when it turned out I was correct, I got no apology.

                                                        I actually support the concept behind Whole Foods, but I cannot see why you say it's rude to object to being overcharged. I'm happy your experience has been perfect with Whole Foods--I agree there's a lot to like, there--but I am reporting on my recent less than perfect experiences.

                                                        1. re: Babette

                                                          I said it was far from perfect, and I didn't say being bothered by overcharging was rude. I said expecting someone to unload your groceries for you and blaming someone because they might be ill-paid is rude.

                                                          Then again, every "grocery" store I've ever shopped at has had TERRIBLY rude check out employees - like, talking on their cell phones, examining my purchases, nasty attitude, throwing my food into a bag rude. And it's considerably more expensive to buy healthy food (organic produce...even fat free milk!) a the Giant or Safeway.

                                                          1. re: Babette

                                                            I see no reason to expect anything less than good service at any grocery. To compete chains especially should aim for high marks in customer relations, employee training and quality products...otherwise we can take our biz just about anywhere.

                                                            Further I think it is in WF's best interest to have their company philosophy closely match their in-store promises.

                                                            Where I shop most frequently if an item is marked incorrectly or the register tape indicates an error AFTER the final sale I am entitled to that item at the marked price (if cheaper) or free of charge. "Or it's free" is becoming a standard at many retail stores--but not so at our local WF.

                                                            Yes, I can buy Fage yogurt and wonderful cheeses at WF but I also feel courtesy, accuracy and fair play are what I'm paying for.