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Bad Seafood at Woburn Whole Foods

Does anyone else have this experience? Three times in the past 2 months we have arrived home (less than 10 minutes away) and had dodgy seafood from the counter at Whole Foods in Woburn. Once it was scallops, once it was trout, and last night it was "wild harvested shrimp". Shame on us for not demanding to smell what was being sold to us at the counter, but we don't have to do it at our other trusted seafood locations.

I should not admit that we reluctantly and lazily overcooked and ate the first two, but the shrimp are going back directly to the General Manager along with a chat - they smelled awful, were generally mushy, and the legs were falling off most of them.

We very, very rarely have this problem at Fresh Pond, River St. or the new Medford location (in fact, we got a beautifully fresh whole snapper there recently and grilled it upon the counter guy's recommendation.

Are we just unlucky? Should we write off this location for seafood as we currently intend to? Does anyone have some praise and hope to offer for it? It's our closest fishmonger aside from the once-amazing, now just OK Carey's Catch...

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  1. I got a bunch of dodgy oranges at the Cambridgeport Whole Foods last week. Should have known something was up when I saw that the price was actually reasonable.

    If I were king, prosecuting the price gouging this place engages in would be my first order. If you can tell me, for example, why Barilla pasta is $1.49 a box at every other market and $1.89 at Whole Foods, I will send you a check for the difference.

    Another example - Newman's Limeade - $2.50 - $2.99 at Whole Foods - as low as $1.50 at Market Basket, normally $1.99 at most other places.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Bob Dobalina

      Bought seafood at Fresh Pond a few times and it was fine. The new Medford store is closer to me, but I haven't purchased seafood there yet.

      I bought a couple of tomatoes at Fresh Pond (conventional), paying more than in a "regular" supermarket and they started going moldy in a day. Ones I buy at the regular supermarket have been good for a week. Considering the volume they do at the FP WF that is surprising.

      As far as price-gouging: Amy's Organic Pizza at WF: about $8. At "regular" supermarkets about $5.50.

      1. re: Bob Dobalina

        Kashi bars $4.49 a box. Target $2.89 or almost always on sale for 2 for $5

        1. re: Bob Dobalina

          If you can tell me, for example, why Barilla pasta is $1.49 a box at every other market and $1.89 at Whole Foods, I will send you a check for the difference.
          Because they can. :-)

          1. re: Bob Dobalina

            I asked the Bedford WF manager why Amy's broccoli pot pies were $1.50 cheaper at MB than WF. He said MB bought more of them and other products (not just the Amy's line) handled by that food distributor so MB can negotiate better wholesale prices.

            It sounds plausible but $1.50 difference is huge.

            1. re: three of us

              I asked the manager at the Brookline Stop and Shop why Edie's Fat-free ice-cream is $5.49 there, and $2.99 at the Framingham S&S...She said it came from a different distribution center....You can find these differences everywhere.
              WF, OTOH, actually sells Domino Sugar (4 lb. canister)for less than the restaurant supply place I go to; go figure!

              1. re: three of us

                My BS detector is jumping...I think LindaWhit has it right on the money.

            2. No matter where I buy fish from (WF included), I always ask to smell it before they wrap it up........just too easy to get stuff on/over the line!

              1. I've pretty much given up on Whole Foods. The Hingham one is probably the worst. The first thing you smell is the seafood department when you walk in, not an appetizing experience. The produce you have to use the day you buy it or it's done. Often they have outdated items on the shelves. It seems that Hingham is the last stop for items before they are thrown out.

                1. I visited a Whole foods (Fresh Pond) fish department for the first time because there are no fish markets in my town and I have been extremely frustrated at the quality/freshness of the fish at our local Shaw's and other markets. Well except for an increase in selection and a huge increase in prices, I did not see any quality difference between Whole Foods that I visited and Shaws - they got the same slimey, dull looking farmed salmon as everyone else. For the price that WF charges, you may as well go to a proper fish monger.

                  And a good tip for those buying shrimp - never buy them from the counter - you have no idea how long they have been sitting unfrozen. Its my understanding that all shrimp - except local Maine shrimp in the right season - are frozen before they get to our local stores, so you might as well buy the 2 lb. frozen bags from the freezer for exactly the same price per lb. as the stuff at the fish counter. If you don't need 2 lbs, just toss the leftovers in the freezer for another time - most of the bags are resealable and they only take a few minutes to defrost under running water

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: LStaff

                    Actually at the Bedford WF they sell loose frozen shrimp.

                    1. re: cassis

                      ALso sell loose frozen shrimp at the Woburn store- 9.99 pound- cant remember the size, though.

                  2. I'm surprised - I've gotten seafood many times in Woburn and never had an issue - although usually it's fish I buy and not shellfish. I usually go to Fresh Pond and have never had issues there, either. While I'm not sold on everything WFM has to offer and agree w/a lot of the criticism here - I think some of the pricing issues have to do w/volume of product moved thru the WFMs . . . for instance, someone was pointing out to me recently that items like Stonyfield Farms yogurt are cheaper at WF than at Shaw's. So I think it just depends.

                    1. I've had trouble with fish from Bedford WF but not recently. Now pork, that's been really nasty of late. I've had a roast turn green and stinky when the sell-by is a couple days away. Likewise, chops. You get your money back but the point is I don't want to have to deal with bad quality product, 'specially when it smells. Oddly, no problems with any other meats.

                      2 Replies
                        1. re: Bob Dobalina

                          Yeah, if only . . .

                          Nonetheless, I'm paying a premium for responsibly raised/farmed/fished fill-in-the-blank so I expect it to be edible when I'm cooking it well w/in the exp date on the package.

                      1. We've had this problem with chicken from a few different Whole Foods locations. Bought chicken legs or thighs, neglected to smell them, brought them home to cook that night and were horrified to see that they were NOT good, despite the OK date and the fact that we got them out of the counter area. Blech. I don't know how this happens, but it does.

                        1. I do often see the WF / Pigeon Cove trucks up in Gloucester buying the SAME fish everyone else buys; yes there is a Pigeon Cove where the contract boats come in and yes they also go to the Seafood Auction and bid on the same catch and compete against other retailers. By the bucks they charge, you'd think they get their seafood from their own organic private ocean. I have bought SF from WF once and had the same experience as the OP with very expensive 'diver' scallops. I went back about 10 days later with my receipt and I got a store credit after they wanted to know why it took so long to get back to Woburn. BUT...I think because of their high high prices for fish, there must be great incentive to NOT throw stuff out since its clearly where they have plenty of margin at their fish counter. Just speculating, but they do have by far the highest fish costs of anywhere else I have ever been.

                          I am fortunate to live on Cape Ann and get fresh fish delivered to my door every Thursday, along with free range eggs - so my bias is apparent based on my fish fortunate locale.

                          1. I love the Woburn Whole Foods, but rarely buy seafood there. I generally try to think what most other customers are buying, and consider that the freshest, while more unusual (and in the Boston area, anything outside of swordfish, halibut, seabass and cod is unusual,) I try to avoid. As far as the ordinary seafood goes, well, I don't have faith enough in people's pride in their work to assume that they check for freshness. That said, I have had delicious fish from the Woburn store: skate wing, sole, wild salmon in season, and I like the smoked seafood selection. I a big Spence fan.

                            Tip: never shop for seafood on a Monday.

                            1. Yes, I have gotten terrible seafood from the Woburn WF, my salmon had bones in it! Top dollar price too.

                              It's funny, because after that I went into MB (never shopped there) in Woburn, because their lobsters were so cheap last summer. And much to my surprise, the seafood department, had so many customers. The fish looked fresh and the lines of people were long (of course it was a Saturday), so I bought some scallops too. Now, I tend to buy all my fish (except flash frozen from Costco), at MB in Woburn. Go figure... Everything is cheaper, and looks really fresh. I swear it's the hight turn over, nothing sits around long.

                              1. I've had very good fish from the Woburn WF, but I buy there very rarely because of the price. I have always had good fish from Roche Bros in Burlington and the Stop and Shop in Lexington. I haven't tried the fish dept at the WOburn Market Basket because the Burlington MB is closer to me and their fish is packaged. I've never dared to buy that.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: chowmel

                                  LOVE MB's fish. Usually go to the Billerica location. Also, the Fish House and Grill in Burlington has incredibly fresh fish. The owner is also a seafood distributor.

                                  1. re: chowmel

                                    The fish at MB in Woburn is not packaged. I really do not like packaged anything, one of the reasons I stopped shopping at MB. Their produce was always packaged, but now have stopped doing even that, for the most part.

                                    My home store is really S & S in Stoneham, but the fish doesn't have the quick turn around as MB.

                                    Have you tried Costco?

                                    1. re: mcel215

                                      And I won't buy meat at the Stoneham S&S anymore after getting a bad "fresh" Thanksgiving turkey there with a sell-by date 5 days after the date of the holiday! And then really rude C/S the day after (blamed on a "substitute C/S manager") - that store lost most of my fresh food business - I will buy produce there, but not meat or fish. I'd rather go to Roche Bros. in Burlington, WF in Woburn, or the MB in Reading.

                                    2. re: chowmel

                                      Second the seafood counter at Roche Bros. The guys who man it seem to really care about the product. They sometimes have bluefish, which I love - I once remarked to them that I rarely see it, and was told that it goes bad very quickly so most places don't bother with it; theirs is always fine. If you are 10 minutes from Woburn WF, you're not more than 15 min from RB. Also second the Fish House - they told me that they buy from the fish piers every day. I also like the quick-frozen-at-sea fish at Trader Joe's.

                                      1. re: chowmel

                                        We have also had good experience with the seafood at Roche Bros in Burlington. Now that I live in Sudbury, we always get our seafood from Sudbury Farms (same as Roche Bros) and it has always been excellent. The fact that it does not smell like fish at the counter is a good sign. I can't stand it when I walk through a grocery store and it totally smells like bad fish. Who would buy it?

                                      2. I haven't gotten bad seafood at any of the WF markets, and I rarely buy meat there. It's inexcusable and should be returned "along with a chat." WF really shouldn't cut corners on this issue as it just destroys their brand/image.

                                        1. I've purchased bad fish several times from the Newton (Washington Street) WF. They _do_ make it difficult to ask to smell it, and when it's late and I'm tired and ready to get my dinner, I haven't pushed it. My mistake. Yes, I get my $ back in the end, but it's not without the hassle of now having nothing for dinner and also have stinky fish in my house.

                                          Last week we purchased some beef that had turned.

                                          For the prices they charge it really is inexcusable.

                                          FWIW, I have never had any trouble with their deep-frozen fish.

                                          1. Still no excuse for the experience, but the Woburn Whole Foods customer service counter decided on their own to give us DOUBLE our money back when we returned the nasty shrimp - they could smell it through the ziplock bag and acknowledged ruining our dinner that night. At least they understand customer service - we'll be back - just not to the seafood counter.

                                            Where is the MB in Woburn? (don't think the one in Burlington is so good in spite of the crowds) and we are fast finding the Roche Bros. worth the extra 5 minutes drive in many areas!

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: rlh

                                              rlh, it's in the Woburn Mall, on Commerce Way/Mishawum Road - one of the end stores opposite the Lowe's access road.

                                            2. I usually shop at Hadley, and have never had a freshness issue with seafood, meat or produce. Generally, though, I only go to WF for meat and fish and a few other items not available at Shaws or Stop and Shop. *Sigh* I miss the old Star Markets. I like the naturally raised, no hormones, no antibiotics meats, and at Hadley the customer service has always been great. A lot depends on the store manager and the department managers. Buying all our meat at WF means that once I month I have to shop at two stores...boring...but as everybody else has said, it's a lot cheaper that way.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: Altaira

                                                From what I hear, the Hadley WF is a whole different animal than those in the eastern part of the state...

                                                1. re: galleygirl

                                                  Well, Whole Foods might be a victim of their own success in some ways.. they've gotten bigger, losing some of their ability to be nimble and local, and people have become more aware of being aware of the quality of their food.

                                                  My girlfriend is now in a CSA, I buy pasture-fed beef from a farm in western MA, and find myself hitting local farmers markets, growing my own herbs, and preferring local seafood vendors and butchers far more than I used to. Do I hit WF often? Yes, but mostly its for spot produce needs..

                                                2. re: Altaira

                                                  We also have experienced the bad chicken phenomenon someone else mentioned -- at least twice. From the Washington Street in Newton store. Now I try to smell any chicken I'm considering buying, before I leave the store. I was disturbed it happened once, and really appalled when it happened a second time. Put some quality control people (and refrigeration people, if necessary) on the staff!!! It's especially galling when you realize, with no time to spare, that you don't have anything good to cook for guests who are already on the way.