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Anyone else FED UP with Bountiful Baskets?

I after my second to last purchase from them, I vowed to not participate again but we LOVE 9 grain bread I went ahead and participated two weeks ago. Again, I was so disappointed in (low) level of quality of the produce they offered. The lettuce had was completely brown inside and went directly into the trash. The nectarines were very, very hard so I left them to ripen a bit but they rotted within four days (and were still hard! how does that happen??). The other items were meh...

I started having a lot of questions that could not be answered as Bountiful Baskets do not answer emails (I've tried).

With the abundance of local produce available, why was everything from California, Mexico and places other than Arizona?

Why are there grocery stickers on some of the items?

Being a slightly suspicious sort, I wondered was this "co-op" legit and began doing some research. I found Articles of Incorporation filed with Arizona for Bountiful Baskets with Sally & Tanya being the owners. Thing is..it's a FOR PROFIT company.

Wth? Can anyone add to this?

Oh, and if I could just buy their bread somewhere else..it's amazing but not identifiable as the bags are unmarked. Can anyone enlighten as to the bread maker? I would be in your debt ;)

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  1. I pretty much gave up on them last year as well- I was spending too much for subpar stuff, half of which I didn't really want. Between the other farmer's markets around, and Whole Foods, I can get local stuff cheaper and without the hassle of bountiful baskets.

    3 Replies
    1. re: cactuschowdah

      I just really regret not being able to get the bread they sell. It's in unmarked bags for a reason, I guess.

      1. re: fluffitude

        I get the Nine-Grain from BB frequently. There is always an Alpine Valley sticker on the outside bag. I'm not sure about other kinds of bread they offer.

        http://www.alpinevalleybread.com/

        1. re: apl222

          great! will check it out.

          but what is weird is I just checked the outside bag (got some stashed in our freezer) and no sticker.

          Thank you so much for your response!

    2. A relative used to do this and their bread was "Alpine" too. I get it at the Christown/Spectrum Costco. It is delicious!

      1. Yes, I agree. I stopped using Bountiful Baskets, also because of ‘subpar’ produce, and also because it is NOT local.
        I tried coutless times to talk to the organizers of the group about my concerns with no response.
        One of the organizer at the park told me i had to tell them right then and there. Sometimes that was difficult because we were standing outside in a park in cold winter weather and sometimes it was not even light out. I so prefer the ‘farmers markets’ where you have your choices and can also chat with the local growers.
        Not happy at all with the opeeration or the quality that Boutiful Baskets brings......

        1. http://starpas.azcc.gov/scripts/cgiip...
          Same address as Kodiak produce a distribution company. To me it appears that they are not an International Cooperative Alliance principled organization. No Board of Directors, no election process as Co-ops are one member one vote, no equity investment process, no ownership for the people making orders. They don't have a process to share profits with their members.

          They are a distribution company marketing a buying club and trading on the good reputation of how "Food Co-op" is perceived by the public. The only way to counter this is to better educate people on what a Co-op is and does.

          Of course with just a couple of bucks of profit per order at the hundreds of sites per week, the owners are reaping probably thousands of dollars a week with their model of operation. Why pay staff or sales people when you can get "volunteers" to work for a produce credit.

          1 Reply
          1. re: doobydub

            <<They don't have a process to share profits with their members. >>

            Hint: They don't need one, it's a non-profit outfit; by definition there can't be profits! In this day and age to declare oneself as non-profit and be profit not only goes against state law, but federal (IRS), and interstate commerce as well. So, if you really think they're risking jail time to sting you, why not complain to the officials? Speaking for myself I'm not looking for "local" produce. I'm looking for quality and value, and local is not always a good thing, for example Colorado and Georgia have great peaches. Another location that's not one of those two might be local, but it also wont be as good. While the produce may not always be local the BB Coop is local, I haven't read any extensive bragging that the produce is exclusively local. I know I'm getting consistently better quality and price than Fry's, Basha's, and Safeway. What the coop does is bind together enough purchasing power to have an equal footing with those large markets, and the distribution from farm to you is also shorter than through those outlets. In more than 2 years of participation with BB my only complaint is they're hard to reach, but they get the job done, even refunds, and there's no need for you to walk away from your local pickup with a product you are not happy with it, just refuse it and that will put the refund wheels in motion. As for getting your produce ripe that's what the brown paper sack is for, and there are chemicals to slow ripening, and those two user interventions apply just as well to the produce bought from big chain markets. Any business has some sour apples (and I'm not talking about produce), the fact is if the sour apples were the rule instead of the exception then Bountiful Baskets would go away overnight because customers vote with their dollars not with blogs. There's nothing inherently wrong with blogs except like other similar tools the majority is silent and the minority is outspoken; so readers should be inquisitive, but they should also look deeper than a forum thread that's addressing one side of the coin.

          2. BB will refund for any product not acceptable to the customer. I've never had a problem in 2 years of participation. I've never ordered their bread, but then I'll never have a need for 10 loaves.

            2 Replies
            1. re: dwpenn

              Really? I've been waiting for a refund on a product they could not deliver since the end of May. It's now the middle of August. I have contacted them no fewer then 10 times and have been ignored each time.

              We have started uusing local farm stores and getting much nicer and cheaper product and yes locally grown. Goodbye BB and keep your lousy $12.50.

              Ken in Roswell, NM

              1. re: Roswell2

                In full disclosure I waited a couple of cycles for my local rep (who said I'd get a credit) to make it manifest itself, and I followed up once with them (to no avail). My refund came when I documented in a letter (using U.S. postal, don't trust email) to the Enterprise HQ. Eventually it showed up, not on my credit card, but applied as a credit to a new week's purchase. It also just appeared, that was my only acknowledgment. They pretty much declare themselves as not having time for individual contacts, and when you think of how many of those there could be, many of them ludicrous, petty, and silly, then you can appreciate (a little) why it's slow, and why I chose a completely different form factor to get their attention. It only happened the once, but I'd go straight to HQ again and skip letting the local rep try to handle it. Odds are the local rep only gets slightly better access to HQ than we do. If a person can find better I'd suggest they do so, and I'd measure "better" by "value" not merely by quality and certainly not by cost. I'd change to where I could get better value in a heartbeat, but such a place doesn't exist here in my small community, and it didn't exist in Tucson when I lived there. If you are suggesting they could improve their "customer care" you get a resounding yes from me, it just doesn't seem to be on their priority list. They're not running a business, they're running a co-op and probably without much business experience, but then with volunteers you don't always get the best, take our politicians for example (any party, congress or senate). Anyway, given your specific locale you may have been exposed to a problem I don't have: One of your volunteers might be one of them aliens running around and if they were say 20 at the time they landed they'd be 87 now, and slowing. Try the Vulcan salute.

            2. Since you say that they don't answer emails, have you contacted either the city departments where they should be registered, or the BBB to get a telephoned number?

              1 Reply
              1. re: Lady Grey

                The simple answer is "no." Sorry.

                Optional narrative for all:

                As I mentioned I had that former situation resolved, at substantial delay, using the U.S. mail. Had I not achieved resolution (since it's a state or multi-state enterprise) I honestly wouldn't have considered contacting any city or county government official; although if it were a public health matter I would certainly go to the "county" Health Department but in that event I wouldn't be trying to reach Bountiful, I'd be enlisting the Health Department in something they need to be involved in.

                So, my first stop would have been at "the Arizona Corporation Commission" and/or the "Interstate Commerce Commission" (I live in Arizona and my last basket came from New Mexico, so the ICC certainly has some oversight).

                I don't know that either of them is the right contact on any specific issue we’d have so my call to either of those would be simply to ask them "who I should contact,” and that's where I recommend you pick up the quest. *

                If I were running Bountiful Baskets, I'd be just as difficult as they are for the ordinary Joe to reach by phone or email. I might try that in a "for profit business" seeing if I could get by with it, but I’d ABSOLUTELY have to run it that way as a non-profit, no choice.

                Note: On the consumer end, I'm not wild about that fact of life, but as a retired 40 year businessman I absolutely understand why they don't answer email and don't have a published public phone number; it's a business necessity (to not have it!). Most of you can ponder this a bit and arrive at the basis for that being the way it is and "get it," but more than a few won't understand and will want the “whole nine-yards” of service (like a business with a lot of overhead would have). Economics 101: Overhead is a cost that does not go into the product nor do you receive it in your bank account.

                Also, this one point in defense of Bountiful Baskets. No one should be surprised that they're not easy to reach. It's a point they drive home at their website, in every week's announcement, in each pick-up order & receipt, and it was even there as a part of the welcome email after you joined. Oh, and it was on the website to read without having to sign up. This is very definitely one of those "caveat emptor" situations, and Bountiful did their part by telling us in advance and repeating it weekly, no less than three times.

                New business: for several months now there's been (sadly) a pattern developing (at least for me in Northern Arizona) and I have been comparing notes so it's not just my opinion or a fluke. It began with a bi-weekly delivery that was for me between 20% and 25% lite, and no explanation or reason was offered. There was no reduction in rate or credit rolled forward either. [Segue begins here]

                Actually that last point is much easier to understand, the business model is “to collect money” not hand it out, or hand it back, or to process credits. It’s a non-profit, so you just don’t have any extras you shouldn't need and those activities are all opposites of what’s normally needed. If it were a business (instead of a non-profit) they’d be setup for credits and take the hit as a “cost of doing business” but in a co-op as in government where some haven’t got it yet there’s no such thing as “free money.” This coop likely doesn't have anyone on payroll (or volunteer) with the skills who can regularly and timely tackle credits, etc. A business would want those certified, insured, bonded, etc. All of those cost, a takeaway to the members.

                As a non-profit (subject to audit) that process can’t be done in half measures or by uncertified volunteers! The acceptance of someone all the time who is there to give credits means we all get less and pay more to bear that overhead. If there’s an added cost we either pay more or do with less product, and I suspect none of us really want to do that, but it’s the reality. What we really want is the original business model to be working 100%, in that business model we don’t need credits or refunds. We really don’t want to inherit the costs of a big retail business with customer service departments, call centers, etc. We want what we used to have, and that was a lean-mean veggie machine, (with fruit).

                These extras some people want would take us away from being a very low overhead coop on equal footing with big company buyers meeting with farmers trying to acquire the best product for the least amount. It's all that layering on, having someone there to answer the phone, email, etc. that would make Bountiful staff up in the likeness of Safeway, and we all inuitively know there's no advantage in that for us.

                Let me pick up where I diverted from and then I’ll close. [Segue ends here]

                The next time I ordered it was about 10% light in goods (where it's remained for me until this last Saturday where it was back to being an est 25% short of produce). Here's where, if I were running the place, I still wouldn't be inviting individual phone calls, but I'd be sending out an explanation addressing any common knowledge or shared issues or experiences. Lately I've been skipping more weeks than buying (because of this trend I've witnessed), but I've still been comparing notes and checking things out with neighbors who were and are buying and the quality has been an issue in my judgment in selection and in quantity. I've been rooting for our coop “Bountiful” to get it together, but my good wishes haven't helped where I would have liked.

                When I joined in Tucson and first resumed in Northern AZ, IMHO the quality, cost, and therefore the "value" couldn't be touched by Safeway, Wal-Mart, Basha's, AJ's, or Fry's. Hands-down the coop was the best “value” in town, and worth the trouble to order, plan around, and pickup.

                I cannot countenance the slip in quality I see, the reduction in quantity, and with the cost unchanged the value is just not there anymore for me. I will be shopping at the super-markets or the occasional weekend fairs where I can pick exactly what I want, pick it at the best price, and in doing those achieve the best value for me under those circumstances. What it will take to get me back into participation with the co-op is hearing that the problem I perceive is resolved/gone, and that the resolution is not a flash in the pan, but a sustained fix in whatever part of the process that was broken (and it would be nice to have an explanation of that looking back for me to know). I won’t be recommending the program to anyone new for now, and I'm not recommending anyone leave, it's a personal choice based on your own experience. It would go a long way if, at their web site or by email, they conceded the obvious to those that need to hear it, stated what they are doing about it, and apologized if that's justified. I know they can't take the time to talk with any of us individually, but they do have the time, obligation, website, and email addresses to reach out to us as a group. To not be doing that could be short-sighted. If everyone isn't experiencing this, then I'd certainly be wondering why these pockets of folks exist with contrary views.

                I'll close by saying, though something’s clearly wrong from my vantage, there are a whole lot of volunteers in each city doing their job with excellence. They're getting up early, cleaning baskets, unloading/loading trucks, dividing up what they receive equitably for the location and for the individuals. They also squeeze in those special orders people go for. Those volunteers see us all off to our homes merchandise in hand; cheerfully at that, then they stay on to clean the borrowed facility. They do this rain or shine, cold or hot, feeling well or not. Sadly it's a thankless job, and thanks is the least we could give them since they're not making any money.

                It was a very good thing IMHO, I can only hope it comes back to what I experienced before.

                In closing, two things:

                1.I’m not satisfied and I’ve stated why and what I’m doing about it for me. I’ve tried to explain in my own words why some things run the way they do. Please understand that I’m not trying to dissuade or persuade you to change, or to not join for that matter. I’ve made you privy to what issues I encountered and what I’m doing about it for me, I make no recommendation to you except to suggest that you to evaluate your experience and do whatever’s right in your personal situation. I have no way of knowing if this is a local matter confined to the town I live in (one part of it) and if I’ve just been in an unfortunate few, or if the problem is ubiquitous, though I noted some people in this blog already weren't exactly happy for one reason or another. Of course that's life, there's often some dissatisfaction in any organization, and here more people are likely to write about the negative than the positive.

                *2.If you don’t know who to call and the places I mentioned don’t help, you can get ahold of Joe Ducey, a reporter for ABC15 TV down in the valley (but he's there for all of Central Arizona says Joe). There’s a standing “Let Joe Know” offer on ABC 15 that is one of his main bits at ABC TV; he’s a problem solver or fixer for the public. He charges nothing, but he doesn't take on every case he hears about it. I suppose it helps if it’s news worthy, do-able, affects a lot of people and is interesting to channel 15 viewers? If you feel strong about it, give Joe a try, who knows he might help you with your problem, and things for everybody might change as a result? I would suggest that you avoid throwing any volunteers under the bus, and avoid the baseless cheap-shots that someone’s got to be pocketing money. In fact I would recommend you avoid all hyperbole and stick with your personal experiences. There's probably no need to name names either. Let "facts" come out where they may. I do think there’s something broken here, I don’t think there’s something illegal. I think good people are involved through and through.

                I'm rooting for this thing to turn around, I'll be reviewing what people say here about their experiences as a part of my decision process.