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TJ's: be careful when you purchase dairy there

Well, on November 8, in the morning, I went to my local TJ's in NJ, and purchased a number of items. In the dairy dept, I purchased 5 yogurts, eggs, half and half and heavy cream. Three days later, on the 11th, I took out the eggs and heavy cream to make a quiche. I open the cream, and it is a solid mass. I look at the date on the cream, and it is October 23. It was 2 weeks expired when I purchased it, yet this cream was right in front on the shelf. To make matters worse, there was someone stocking the dairy when I was there. So I get a little paranoid, and start checking the dates on everything else I bought from the dairy. The yogurts were OK, as was the eggs. The half and half had a date on it of November 16, still saleable, obviously, but that went bad on November 14, so I had to throw it away when it curdled in my coffee. It went bad in less than a week. No telling how long the cream and half and half were on the shelf at TJ.
Normally, I purchase dairy like milk at my grocery, Target or even our local WAWA..
When I go later to the store to purchase half and half and cream to replace what went rancid from TJ, I will likely find a date on the cream of late December or even a little later. I can guarantee my half and half will also have a late December date.
So, how old are the dairy products that TJ sells? They are selling items past their date, and nearly past their dates.
Yes, I'll admit that I didn't check the dates. I guess I assumed (stupid of me, I know), that TJ has a bit more integrity than my local grocery store and I tend to trust what they sell a bit more than the big box. That's it; I'm done with purchasing dairy from TJ's. Oh, and naturally I threw the receipt away, so there's no way to get a refund. BUYER BEWARE!

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  1. I'm a fanatic at date-checking. TJ has "Packed on" dates on their produce and cheeses, so there's no knowing when they'll expire. Also, I bought a loaf of Mom's White Bread that was undated and seemed pretty stale by the time I got it home.

    1. i do check dates [compulsively], and unfortunately this is an issue at most markets, not just TJs.

      it's a chronic problem at WFM - i find expired product on their shelves at least once a week - at this point the dairy guys there start checking dates themselves when they see me coming ;)

      i showed expired product to the manager at my local A&P a few weeks ago as well...and i've also had to do it at Stop & Shop in recent months.

      it's a universal problem.

      for the record, you can get a refund at TJ's even without a receipt - they have an incredibly lenient return policy.

      1 Reply
      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        I agree. I know OP's experience was with TJ, but I have found the same thing at other markets. It's not fair to single out one specific market. Check expiration dates for products from any market.

      2. Even if you threw out your receipt, I would still bring it to their attention. They should be aware if there are a bunch of overdue items on the shelves. Also, FWIW, I have always had really positive experiences with the TJ staff and they seem to always go above and beyond. If you are a regular I wouldnt rule out the possibility of getting a refund.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Chefsquire

          Even if you aren't a regular they will probably give you a refund. They have a "no questions asked" refund policy. The checker once gave me a refund when I just mentioned as she was ringing up my cottage cheese that the last carton I'd bought had been bad.

          Expiration dates are really meaningless, as food can be good long after that date or can go bad before the date, depending on how it is handled and stored. For cheeses, I'd actually rather have a "packed on" date than a so-called expiration date. Cheeses (except for fresh cheeses like cream cheese, chevre, etc.) don't "expire" but the do deteriorate in quality the longer they sit in plastic wrap on the shelf.

          Speaking of TJ's in particular, I think how well the dairy products are handled and stored tends to vary a little from store to store. I've never had any problems with dairy at my TJ's keeping well, but other people have claimed their TJ's dairy goes bad quickly. Since they use a centralized distribution system (as opposed to having the dairy deliver directly to the store), the freshness of the dairy might vary slightly depending on how far your store is from the distribution center.

        2. I am an obsessive date checker, and even go so far as to feel products for temp before I put them in my cart. See the thing about perishable items at any grocery store is they're being stocked by human beings, and whats more, human beings being paid a pretty low wage. If perishable items aren't rotated properly when being stocked the older dates get pushed back in the case. Check your dates before you leave the store and if something doesn't meet your standards when you get it home, bring it back.

          1. Unfortunately my experience is the same as yours. TJs is not very good at removing out of date items. Perhaps they assume that the turnover in the store is adequate to take care of it, and that people will accept their liberal return policy as the backstop measure. I have doubts that they have a consistent practice about pulling outdated dairy. It happens too often. I can't think of another store that has as bad a track record on dairy as TJs. I've posted about this before, and others have poo-poohed that it must be because I shop at a low-turnover store. Not so, in fact I've seen mention that my local store has one of the highest sales per square foot of any. Add to the problem with liquid dairy and cottage cheese, very often their pre-cut cheeses mold quickly.

            1. This isn't a problem unique to Trader Joe's. In a tiny convenience store I frequent I had to point out an out of date half pint of milk the other day. No big deal, they threw it out. It's just something that sometimes gets missed when busy stocking or whatever. Yes, they should catch it, but any number of various scenarios could lead to them missing it. Who knows?

              Anyway, tell them about it, that's the only way they will know they need to watch a little more closely. Also, they will refund your money, no problem with receipt. Just talk to the manager or bring it up at checkout. They will need the manager to come over for a return, but they will fix it if you give them a chance to.

              A slip up can happen anywhere, in any department. I don't think it's a question of anyone's integrity, nor do I think we should give TJ, Whole Foods or anyone else credit for having "more integrity" than a local grocery chain. The business is pretty much the same and has most or all of the same potential problems. I remember once coming home from Whole Foods, we had bought some tetra pack of soup that turned out to be on the shelf with a use by date that was already weeks ago as I recall. At the very least, it was past the date when we bought it. We never even thought to check those dates for such items, as they're typically months ahead.

              1. I'd have to say that the turnover of dairy at the TJ's closest to me is about 100% every two days, so I'm confident it's fresh. No bad experiences, anyway. That is, if it's in stock!

                2 Replies
                1. re: coney with everything

                  >>I'd have to say that the turnover of dairy at the TJ's closest to me is about 100% every two days, so I'm confident it's fresh.

                  At TJs, it is a real crap shoot. In SoCal, the fresh food flies off the shelf quickly and the stuff is really fresh.

                  In some of the Chicagoland stores, you really need to check the dates on most of the refrigerated stock (not frozen). I would attribute this to the unfamiliarity with certain products and that they do not source much of the product locally. Also, their fresh items seem to be a lot more expensive than many of the local independent markets like Caputo's and Eurofresh.

                  1. re: jlawrence01

                    I'm in Southern California. It isn't always fresh. Check the dates. I've even had stale popcorn.

                    I've seen mainline supermarkets doing date checks in the dairy department. I wonder if TJ's even includes this as a standard practice.

                2. They checked the local supermarkets in my area including Trader Joes, Whole Foods and a local grocery store chain (Stew Lenards). Trader Joes (all 3 of them in the area) had no date violations.