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Etiquette question: Returning fruit (peaches) to a farmer's market vendor

  • erica Oct 4, 2008 04:02 AM
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For about the fifth time this year, I have wasted money on mealy peaches at my local farmer's market (Union Square in NYC). Few days ago I spent $3. pound, a total of $4 for 4 peaches. Cut into one only to find it mealy and inedible. I am tempted to return the remaining 3!! I have had the same experience with different vendors this summer and, unfortunately, twice before with this particular vendor.

I know I should not be buying peaches so late in the season. But why is this well-regarded vendor even selling them? Surely they know that the quality is poor.

What would you all do, aside from refraining to purchase next time??

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  1. The first thing the vendor will say is 'How do I know they're from my stand'. I'd make a compoet with them and skip going back, it'll cost you more to return them, in time and transportation money. The next time you go to the farmers market, I'd also let the vendor know of your displeasure with the quality of fruit at his stand and then leave to shop at another stand.

    1 Reply
    1. re: cstr

      Never thought of that! But I will let them know. The vendor is Terhune, by the way.

    2. I had exactly the same thing happen to me a few days ago at the Lincoln Square farmer's market. I had a recipe that called for peaches, but thought I'd probably substitute plums since I didn't even expect peaches to be available this late. But there they were. Peaches, from an otherwise reliable vendor, so I thought I could trust them. As you say, we both probably should have known better and I'm just chalking it up to experience.

      Why were peaches so bad this year? I always bought them at the farmer's market and only got one batch of good ones all summer long.

      2 Replies
      1. re: JoanN

        I agree wholeheartedly ! This also includes nectarines, which also seem to be having a bad year. I can't tell you how many "tree ripened" fruits I've paid too much for, only to find them mealy, maybe got one or two good ones. Purchased from vendors who were previously known to me for high quality fruit. Peaches and nectarines are such a wonderful thing during the summer, it was such a shame they were so bad this year :(

        What gives?

        1. re: im_nomad

          Vendors can't have high quality fruit if high quality fruit isn't growing. If you know they do a good job with their orchards, then it must simply be a matter of nature. Temperatures, rain fall and so on...clearly aren't helping stone fruits this year.

      2. Fruit at a farmers market comes straught from nature and sometimes you get good and sometimes you get less than perfect. But jfood is astonished that you tried to return to a Farmers' Market. And it is not the first time at this vendor and then add others. "For about the fifth time this year, I have wasted money on mealy peaches at my local farmer's market" gotta learn fromyour mistakes.

        If you want the same peach every time, they come in cans. You buy them fresh, you take your chances. NEVER return fresh fruit to a Farmers' Market.

        14 Replies
        1. re: jfood

          Here is the update: Back at the market today (for additionaI shopping), I notied that the same vendor was there today. Peaches are now $4 a pound one dollar more than I paid on Wednesday. Politely mentioned my dissatisfaction to the person who I think is the owner/farmer. He apologized, said it was the end of the season, and asked me how much I had spent. I told him $4 but I had eaten one peach. He tried to refund the entire amount. I accepted $3 (minus a dollar for the peach I had cut open at home.)

          I am not an idiot and resent the comment about how I should eat canned peaches. If ALL of the peaches in a batch are bad, I think the vendor has some responsibility either to refrain from selling or to do exactly what this vendor did. Especially since this vendor is a fruit specialist!! And WHERE does it say that I tried to return the fruit?

          All in all, I was very impressed by the response of Terhune Orchards

          I should add, that when I asked to try the peaches before buying earlier in the week, I was told that that was not possible, and that I would have to buy before sampling. The person who told me that was not the farmer.

          1. re: erica

            I dont think anyone said you should eat canned peaches, just that they are more consistent...so perhaps you should give jfood a similar break for slightly misreading your post in a similar fashion. clearly from your post and your title you were thinking about taking them back. (and in essence you did end up taking them back, or at least the vendor refunded your money).

            Next time you might want to be a more assertive consumer and not wait till after the third purchase to say anything. Surely, if the vendor has responsibility the consumer can take a little also.

            Personally, I would have stopped buying from them after the first time, or said something before purchase number two ('you know, I bought some expensive peaches from you last week, and they were mushy and no good. I'd like to purchase more, because they look great, this week, but only if you let me sample first. Oh, no samples? well, ok, in that case, never mind, I am going over there to vendor B").

            1. re: susancinsf

              Thanks, Susan. I SHOULD have said something before this. Anyway, I do not want a brou-ha-ha with anyone, least of all JFood!!

            2. re: erica

              jfood suggested the canned peach idea and was not directed at anyone but offered as an alternative to the vagaries of fresh.

              But let's look at the facts. You had not one, not two, not three but four separate bad experiences, asked for a sampling, was told no and still bought them.

              Let's change this to a Chinese restarant in NYC. You order take out sesame chicken and go home it is raw inside, you do it again and again and again. Then you go to order for the fifth time and you ask to cut open a piece to see if it is raw and are told no. Do you buy it and take it home. Jfood would not.

              So jfood is not by any stretch calling anyone an idiot, but maybe you are too trusting, too nice, or just a little naive. THose are endearing qualities, but after four bad experiences, some responsibility has to fall on the customer's shoulders.

              You asked for an opinion, jfood gives his. If you like, OK, if not still OK. Not to worrow.

              Ciao and enjoy NYC, great food to explore and eat.

              1. re: jfood

                JFood, you are right! I certainly can be a bit too trusting. One more element of this tale: This particular vendor is "famous" for fruit. They appear on every list of top farmer's market vendors. So maybe that convinced me, the first time, to pay their prices, which to me are VERY high at all times. But as to why I went back even a second time, I have no answer. Hope against hope that the first time was some kind of fluke. And then I went back AGAIN! So I guess I am fortunate that I finally took my case to CH and have learned my lesson!!!

                Some of the best peaches I had this season were those from SC/Ga/NJ purchased from the supermarket or small markets, for $.99 to $1.49 pp. There, I said it, as non-chow-ish as that may sound!

                AND: Who has an answer as to why today's peaches are $4 per pound and Wednesday's (same vendor) were $3. Today's, by the way, are the "last of the season," according to the person I spoke to.

                1. re: erica

                  peaches at the small produce stores were $1.49-2.00 this season. They were very good and sweet. And they always have 6-10 cut up to-try bins.

                  C'est la vie erica. it's NYC, gotta be a little more careful than the average bear. but it worked out in the end.

                  ciao

                  1. re: erica

                    "Some of the best peaches I had this season were those from SC/Ga/NJ purchased from the supermarket or small markets, for $.99 to $1.49 pp. There, I said it, as non-chow-ish as that may sound!"

                    Good food does not require explanation or apology! Being open to other options and exploration is chowish. Limiting your choices due to perceptions or external expectations just leaves you with fewer chow possibilities! A place known as the "best" can have a bad day - a plain jane little storefront might be a diamond in the rough - all part & parcel of the hunt!

                    A good peach can, unfortunately, be very elusive...

                    1. re: meatn3

                      Thanks. Well put!! I am certain that the reason that I kept giving this place a chance is that they are long established in the NYC farmer's market scene and always seem to get such glowing reports.

                      Also, I just cut into the remaining 3 peaches. All are bad..one was completely brown inside, although the outer flesh was in prime condition. They had softened but turned to mush instead of ripening.

                      I appreciate all of the comments here..that is why I love CH!!!!!!!!

                      1. re: erica

                        They refunded your money when you told them the fruit wasn't up to your expectations, right?

                        Thus, glowing reports. Can't ask for much more than most always having wonderful fruit/vegetables and refunding money if the customer happens to get less than ideal produce.

                        1. re: erica

                          erica--I understand the frustration and disappointment with bad fruit. But that is likely a result of the weather. Too much rain at the wrong time and the result is mealy, flavorless fruit. My great-grandfather said (to my grandmother and great-uncle) that he always preferred too little rain to too much rain--the fruit was sweeter. Since you are in NY, I think you had a very rainy 2nd half of summer (I know the Philly area, where my family lives, did). That probably affected the peaches (though not the price of them!) I'm lucky--I'm in eastern Indiana and we've had a bone-dry August and September. The peaches were late (cool, rainy spring and first part of summer), but when they arrived, they were absolutely exquisite. The best local peaches I've had since moving to the Midwest!

                          I, too, am impressed by the response of Terhune Farms. Sounds like a reputable vendor.

                          1. re: nofunlatte

                            I agree that the vendor "did the right thing." And like someone wrote above, he had no way of proving that the peaches had actually come from his stand.

                        2. re: meatn3

                          I think Alice Waters took all the perfect peaches.

                    2. re: erica

                      "When I asked to try the peaches before buying earlier in the week, I was told that that was not possible"

                      Wow. That vendor wouldn't last a week at any of the farmers' markets in my neck of the woods.

                      1. re: erica

                        The fruit vendors at the California farmers market I go to (Oakland Lakeshore & Salinas ) all offer samples of their fruit, which they really push. In fact, so do the Oakland prepared food vendors. . .sometimes there are so many offerings, it's almost like going to Costco!

                    3. It is so easy to get a lousy peach. They can smell nice and ripe and still be awful.......
                      Because of this you must ask nicely for a sample and if the sample is good insist on getting peaches from the exact same bin or box

                      $3 is a lot so those peaches should have been high quality

                      Late peaches can be excellent

                      1. Out here in the heart of farming in California's Central Valley, all the Farmer's markets have samples to be tasted. Best way to know what you're getting.
                        Danny

                        1. I'm an avid farmers market fan and believe the OP did the right thing, Part of the market experience is building a (trusting) relationship with your farmers. When you are paying 3-4 dollars a pound (OMG!, btw), you should expect the quality to match the price. Now, of course the farmers can't guarantee that all of their produce will send you swooning, but your feedback was very important. Everyone benefits from what you did, kudos.
                          I also tend to patronize the farmers who give samples.

                          1. It would not surprise me if one peach was good and the one next to it mealy. Apples seem to cooperate with one another, but for pears, peaches, plums, melons, citrus...not so much.
                            I learned how to choose produce from my mother, and am usually right on the money. As a general rule, you want a piece of fruit to feel quite heavy for its size. That translates to juice. For ripeness, it's color, smell, and firmness (a little give when gently squeezed).

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: greygarious

                              First off, I would never buy expensive highly variable items such as peach or melon without tasting first. And if one was bad, I'd try the rest before complaining. And then I'd complain promptly to the vendor. If they care at all, and I wouldn't be their customer in the first place if they didn't, they would cheerfully give me a refund or credit. And they would be grateful for the honest feedback. I'm a loyal customer and the trust is mutual. There would be no burden on me to "prove" where I bought them. Being "late" in the season as it is now in Portland, I am still getting outstanding peaches and nectarines from my trusted vendor of choice at the farmers' market.

                              And I love that they have signs everywhere saying "We're ripe and juicy...pleeza no squeeza...it hurts our feelings!" Even so, a few selfish boors always must do so, no matter what. Another reason to get there early...

                            2. When the peach bin doesn't almost attract you like a siren with its aroma, let caution be your guide. Buy one and sample it.

                              1. Sounds like the Seinfeld episode. I think the response from Joe the produce guy about a bad peach was, "act of god:" In season, 50% of peaches are still a risk and out of season that's more like 98%.

                                1. Terhune is in fact, famous for their fruit.
                                  I have also not had luck purchasing great peaches in NJ this summer. I stopped on the way to the shore at a well known farm in Tabernacle where I saw beautiful white and yellow peaches. No, they would not let me tast them, but assured me they were excelent. I bought around $8 of these peaches, because I love them and so does my little niece. The next morning we were treated to the most beautiful and completely tasteless peaches you have ever had. Devoid of all flavor. Other farmily members tried them with the same lousy results. We ended up throwing them out. Now I know why the grower would not let me taste them and I have been suspicious of this farm since then. In the past they usually would have a few pieces of fruit cut out so you could have a taste. I didn't bring them back to the farm, where I have been stopping regularly for over 15 years. I have simply stopped buying as much from them, so in turn for selling me mealy peaches they have lost far more than the $8 I spent on the peaches. Normally I would make the trek there for fresh apples, but that experience soured me so I found another farm where I have been buying them.

                                  1. I am done with store peaches I will only buy from farmers markets or directly from farms or farm stands. I purchased produce for 40 years and never had a quality issue like this. Sorry but this was and is my only solution to the terrible products in the traditional food stores.