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Produce butchery: am I nuts?

Can I run a pet peeve by you guys? When stocking leeks, my local supermarket produce department requires its minions to remove the bottom inch of each one, not just the roots, but the actual white part of the vegetable. This exposes the interior to air and causes them to spoil really fast. Nobody would do that to an onion or a scallion and expect customers to buy it.

Don Quixote-like, I've actually approached the poor kids doing this task (in public!) and asked them to please stop, only to be met with the reply "We've been told to do it this way." Of course, its not their fault, they're just doing their jobs. This is not a corporate policy, as other branches of the chain do not mishandle their leeks in the same way, but the policy of the produce manager of the individual store, whom I have NEVER seen out on the floor.

Am I just completely misguided on this or is this really egregious and ignorant?

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  1. Yes, it is ignorant. But, as you say, the poor kids are just doing what they've been told. It sounds like you need to talk to the manager of the store. The manager probably doesn't know any better either and needs a little polite education.

    1. Maybe point out to the produce manager that he's throwing away salable goods because the best part of the whole leek is that bottom inch of whiteness!

      1. I'd bring it up with the produce manager if you happen to come across him/her. Probably not much of a leek eater. But if you're lucky and run into the produce staff in the process of lopping off the good bits, could you just ask them for an uncut leek?

        My biggest produce pet peeve is when they water/mist the leafy greens to make them look "fresh". Wet spinach turns to goo fairly quickly in plastic baggies...

        2 Replies
        1. re: milkytea

          I just submitted a product quality contact to the chain's website. I suspect that if the store management has promoted this person, who clearly doesn't understand how to treat vegetables, to the position of *produce manager* then they're not gonna be too sympathetic at the local level.

          Or I'm just too chickensh*t to confront the actual responsible manager in person. :)

          From what I've seen, judicious spritzing can prevent the premature wiltage of leafy greens. As a countermeasure to overspritzing, they should be taken out of the plastic bag ASAP when you get home and wrapped in damp papertowels to keep the humidity correct. Or you will get rotten goo.

          1. re: the_MU

            Yes, I've kept greens crisp for WEEKS in a ziploc bag with a paper towel. It's amazing.

        2. More vegetable abuse:

          - missing greens from beets
          - celery without leaves
          - waxed fruit
          - packaged anything in plastic and/or Styrofoam
          - overtrimmed asparagus
          - scallions with the outer layers removed
          - carrots without their tops

          They should all be reported to the SPCV and sent to veggie love class!

          12 Replies
          1. re: alwayscooking

            Wow, you must live somewhere with a year-round growing season. Carrot and beet greens (local ones, anyway) would never make it through February around here (Northern New England), but the roots will. Our winter CSA ran out of leeks (mostly roots still on, majority of leaves trimmed off) around then. But still had carrots and beets.

            I'm starting to realize the depths of my produce-obsessiveness.

            1. re: the_MU

              I confess
              I don't always buy local


              So when I'm being bad, I want the whole thing.

              1. re: alwayscooking

                Oof, I didn't mean to sound sanctimonious -- local is nice, but greens left on the root veggies do ensure you're getting the fresh stuff. I'm cheap so I usually go for the best deal, which is the CSA around here. Until the veggies run out.

                1. re: the_MU

                  Nope, you were fine. It's just my rather personal sore and guilty conscience talking! I grow enough vegetables to last from July to Nov - and the tomatoes until Jan/Feb [now comes the personal rationalization whether you want it or not!] but in the winter I visit the greengrocers. I wonder where the nice parts are going (hopefully to a composter and not land fill).

                  As an aside, growing up, we never went past the white part on the scallions - sigh - we missed out.

            2. re: alwayscooking

              LOL. One day at the farmers market I very carefully picked out the bunch of beets with the best looking greens. I handed them to the lady, and she started to twist the tops off to discard them until I yelped in dismay. Turns out most of her customers don't want to hassle with the tops. She wanted to know what I did with them .... *sigh* Sometimes even the people who grow them don't know what to do with them!

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                They beheaded them in public?! Outrageous!

                I hope you set her straight. Shouldn't she know that the tops are chard and perhaps sell them separately?

                1. re: alwayscooking

                  I've done that. I've seen someone ask the farmer to chop off the tops of the beets and I've gone over and asked the farmer if I could buy those. Gotten for free that way too, despite my protesting that I should pay. I think the farmers (at least the ones I've talked to) just sigh and do what the customer wants.

                  1. re: LNG212

                    I've had that experience, too. Although the hippie vegetarian farmers certainly know not to behead the beets!

                  2. re: alwayscooking

                    Believe me, many don't know they can be used. Just cuz they cash you out doesn't mean they know how to cook them. Everyone I have seen buy beets at our market, all the tops they request pulled off or at least most people. It isn't his or her fault they just have never cooked with them or never learned. There is nothing wrong with that ... many people don't know what to do.

                2. re: alwayscooking

                  Root vegetables with their tops are fine if you are buying them at the farmer's market two hours after they were harvested, but other than that all they do is suck the life and the moisture out of the root. They are very pretty to the uneducated, and very appealing to shoppers who like pretty things, but if you know what you are talking about they are extraneous. Plus, if I'm paying $2.99 a pound for fresh carrots I don't want the extra weight of the inedible tops!! Wax, too, keeps the moisture in the fruit, to keep it fresher longer, and simple enough to remove when you get it home.

                  1. re: skeip

                    Call me uneducated but carrot greens can be eaten and they are very good.

                    1. re: skeip

                      Wax, none on ours. I know the one guy locally. They don't wax and 2.99 a lb. wow, expensive. I've seen many people and the people working give us one to try right there. They are all washed but No additives. Very fresh tasting and just good veggies.

                  2. Does this same store sell mushroom stems and discard those nasty caps? ;) adam

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: adamshoe

                      They should trim off those raggedy looking asparagus tips after they're done with those mushrooms.

                      Thanks, folks. I know I'm nuts, but it's still nice to have backup on this :)

                    2. Yer not nuts! Me, I'd stand there in my chef's coat and explain to everyone who came intot he produce department that the management doesn't know or care about produce because they are elimating the saleable part of the leek, and the people who buy produce there probably should not. Then after the police escort me out of the store, I would go to the local newspaper and tv station and explain how poorly run the store is and get some media exposure. With a week they won't be cutting the whites off of the leeks!

                      1. My problem is green tinted onions - onions that have been exposed to daylight when they should not have been! Most Colombians just think that they're somehow fresher.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                          Mmm!!! Just like those yummy green potatoes ! Ya know they're fresh when they're green!

                          1. re: adamshoe

                            Oh, vomit. The WF near me is always always always selling green potatoes.

                            MU, you're so right that it IS rather delicate to tell the store people... it always is when people are both extremely ignorant and energetic about putting their misguided notions into action.

                        2. Followup. Just received this. Not sure if they even read my complaint. At this point I'll just throw up my hands and say "whatever." And go elsewhere for the leeks.

                          May 11, 2009

                          Dear Valued Customer:

                          Thank you for taking the time to notify us of your unfortunate experience with the Leeks you purchased in our store. We truly appreciate the feedback we receive from you, our valued customer. Please accept our sincere apologies as this is certainly not representative of the standard of quality we strive to offer in our stores.

                          We, at Hannaford, work hard to provide you with a shopping experience that is both pleasant and convenient- and your input is an important part of that. We have forwarded your feedback to our merchandiser, our quality assurance team, and the supplier. The intention of our private label brands is to provide a product that is comparable to the leading brand in quality, at a better value. To support this goal, we offer a "Double Your Money Back Quality Guarantee" on all of our private label products, as well as meat, deli, bakery, seafood, and produce items.

                          If, at any time, you are not satisfied with the quality of a product, please return the item and/or packaging to your local Hannaford. All products returned to the store initiate a comprehensive quality assurance process that ensures we can consistently meet and exceed your expectations.

                          Thanks again, for taking the time to bring this matter to our attention. If we can be of further assistance to you, please do not hesitate to contact us again, or feel free to talk with the management at your local store.


                          Kelly Smoot
                          Consumer Research Specialist

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: the_MU

                            Dear Ms Smoot,

                            Actually I'm not sure which brand of leek I purchased. It may have been your private label brand or it may have been the leading brand. I am returning the plastic bag (i.e., the "packaging") in which I placed the leeks and expect a full refund.

                            Sincerely, the_MU

                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka


                              I'm considering copying that and pasting it to my email. Except I never actually purchased the leeks, because they were mutilated.

                              Would my case be stronger if I bought them, left them in the fridge for two days, and then brought them back all dessicated and/or rotten?

                              1. re: the_MU

                                nahh, just send em a plastic bag froim their produce section and ask for $20.00.

                                1. re: the_MU

                                  Perhaps you could suggest Ms. Smoot remove the word "Research" from her title since she obviously did not even read your complaint, much less "research" it. Ha!

                              2. re: the_MU

                                gotta love those corporate form letters. I've gotten some of those after my carefully crafted letters of suggestion and it always makes my blood boil! Sometimes I think they are answered by a keyword-searching computer program!

                                1. re: the_MU

                                  Despite some of the truly clever and humorous responses, there is another perspective - the business write-offs from lost merchandise (old produce), union labor standards for modifying professional protocols (viz., how management is able to engage and modify union employees' handling of produce), and the original quality of the produce on arrival. Each of these "behind-the-scenes" business practices needs to be examined closer.

                                  1. re: k56sf

                                    Don't think they have unions at Hannaford in Maine, but I'm not positive. I do know its not a business-wide protocol, just this store. A couple of days ago I was at the Portland store and not only were the root ends of the leeks intact, but the greens were nicely trimmed at a jaunty angle to minimize how much waste we're paying for. A much preferable way to handle them. In all cases they come from the farm roots-on.

                                    I have no idea what the margin is on leeks, how many the actually sell vs. throw out, or how it compares store-to-store, but it has to be worse at this store compared to others. Hannaford gives its produce managers a lot of latitude, which allows each store to buy locally and tailor their stock to the customer base. I usually like this about them.

                                    1. re: the_MU

                                      I shop mainly at the Waterboro store; I will have to look at the leeks next time & see if they're chopped. My peeve is being charged the full price for a head of romaine that has very obviously had a lot of outer leaves stripped off.

                                      1. re: ccrow

                                        I bet your leeks are just fine. :) For 3.99 a pound they ought to be.

                                        In the case of lettuce, you'd WANT them to charge by the pound. Which they're not. Annoying, for sure.

                                  2. re: the_MU

                                    I recently made an online comment on the Glad site; I was complaining about the new tops on the gladware containers. They now have a big circular 'bump' so the covers can stack together. I use the containers in the freezer, and the 'bump' ensures that full containers will absolutely *not* stack well. I told them I have switched to store-brand containers, whose lids are still flat. My form letter said something like "this problem is highly unusual, and furthermore, would not expect it to occur again" and gave me a coupon for a free package of the containers I don't like. I don't think any of them actually read the complaints!

                                  3. You have my sympathies and my vote. I prefer all vegetables to have their roots, and this includes basil, cilantro, parsley, spring onions. With the roots in water (with a little bleach if you wish) and encased in a plastic bag they keep for much longer.

                                    (Correction - I don't want potatoes with roots)

                                    But to some extent I disagree with other posters. The leaves suck moisture from the plant, especially things like carrots, so the first thing to do is chop them off. Leaves on celery? I like them, so this is the first part of the celery I eat. So rather than the traditional way ( pulling of the outer stalks and working your way into the by now floppy inner stalks) I just slice my way down from the top.

                                    We all have our little quirks.

                                    1. ...and, yeah, you're chicken sh*t. You should speak to the produce manager and then the store manager if that doesn't work. If you have a problem in life, it's usually best to deal with it in the most direct manner. Writing a letter puts additional layers that ought not be necessary.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        You're right, of course. I'm just not that confident in my own powers of diplomacy. I'm bad at hiding it when I think someone's an idiot. And I would still have to keep shopping there even if I managed (unintentionally) to piss off the produce manager.

                                        1. re: the_MU

                                          You could call - that way it would be live but not eyeball-to-eyeball. Sort of mezzo sh!t (that's halfway between chicken sh!t and full-on brassy!).

                                          1. re: Mawrter

                                            Good idea. I don't have a problem talking about such things. I get real sugary sweet (which I rarely am in real life) and say things like "Hi, not trying to tell you how to do your job (HA) but do you realize that your folks are cutting the most edible part of the leek off and throwing it out? I just love your store and especially YOUR produce (HA) but when I need leeks I have to shop somewhere else. Do you think you could possibly get them not to do that? Please? You'd be doing me a huge favor and might even increase your own sales as I've heard others comment on this also (not a true lie as we 'hounds have been commenting on it, right?) If you get a negative response, I'd have the SAME talk with the store manager. Good luck. You could build a skill here, couldn't you? :)

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              You're not sugary sweet in real life? But your avatar looks sweet as can be! (J/k!) :-)) Me, too, actually - kill'em with kindness so they save face.

                                              You can also share the information with them as if it's a marvelous new secret that you've just discovered yourself, and now, in your enthusiasm, want everyone else (well anyway, the philistines who don't know already) to learn, too.

                                      2. Didn't read through all the other replies, so I don't know if this was mentioned, but -
                                        My pet produce peeve is bananas in plastic bags. I think that they spoil much quicker that way.