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Sep 12, 2013 03:26 PM

Bad produce, what's the right thing to do?

I have been wondering about this issue since it happened the other day. Let me just start by saying that our family (2 adults, 3 kids) eats no processed food, for serious health reasons. We buy and consume probably $200 a week worth of fruit and veggies. I shop at local farmers markets and also at two small area groceries. We live in a rural area, stores aren't close by, a trip to food shop takes me one hour, minimum. I have bought a fair share of crappy produce, I usually save my receipts and return the items with an explanation. I think it stands to reason that if I buy as much perishable food as I do, I have to return things often. Does that make me a bad person? My kids eat no sugar, are always happy to eat good fruit, request that even at parties. If we buy fruit with no flavor, why should I flush the money down the toilet? I', asking because I had to return a bag of peaches and a bag of oranges yesterday at the store. The peaches were moldy, I saw that when we got home. (They, along with the oranges, were pre-bagged by the store), I bought them because they were on sale with a big sign that said "Sweet and Juicy" for both items. The oranges were not moldy, just had no flavor, the kids took them into school with their lunches and I chucked what they didn't eat (almost all of it) into the compost. I returned what was left of the remaining, uncut fruit. When I took the items back, the manager had a gruff attitude, said maybe the peaches got moldy after I put them in the bag to return them. I definitely got an attitude from her, but, in all fairness, I have returned mangoes there this year, and she also dealt with me then, and she was decent. I'm sure she remembers me only from that, not the hundreds of dollars I've spent in their store in between with great satisfaction. I need and will respect to hear your objective opinions, even if you disagree with my actions, I just want to know what I should do in the future?

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  1. I also eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, and I also refuse to pay good money for bad produce, which is why I am extremely selective about where I shop, and why I shop several times a week. However, it does not seem like you are willing or able to do this since you said you live in a rural area.

    That said, you note yourself that produce is perishable, and I don't think it's necessarily fair to the store if you are buying too much and it is going bad at home because you are expecting it to last all week. If your only complaint is that something has "no flavor," try finding something else to do with it so you can minimize how frequently you are making returns-- you do not want to be blacklisted as a chronic returner!

    As far as what you can do to prevent this from becoming a recurring problem, make sure you inspect what you are buying carefully, and that you select climacteric fruit on the underripe side-- hard avocados, green bananas, etc. Transport all refrigerated produce in a cooler since you have a bit of a drive. Make sure you are storing produce correctly. Don't be drawn in by sales if it doesn't look good enough to purchase at full price. Try samples if offered, or ask for a sample before buying a huge bag of something. Consider buying some vegetables frozen if you will just be cooking with them anyway. Vegetables picked and frozen at their peak often retain vitamin and antioxidant content better than fresh vegetables. If you do notice a problem, call the store immediately and let them know; don't wait until your next trip. And if at all possible, try to make more frequent shopping trips, at least twice a week, so you are serving your family only the best and freshest. Good luck.

    1. "Hey, you got a bad peach? That’s an act of God. He makes the peaches. I don’t make the peaches, I sell the peaches. You have a problem? You talk to him."

      I have to agree.

      2 Replies
      1. re: travelmad478

        I only buy plums that are red on the inside.

        1. re: John E.

          ...then give me all the mirabelles and greengage (Reine-Claude) that you leave behind, please

      2. If you BUY bad produce, a refund is reasonable............If you OVERBUY.........well, then that is your fault...and with so many things you can do with "almost gone" Fruits and Veg, I'm surprised you would have many returns at all

        1 Reply
        1. re: FriedClamFanatic

          I agree. While I understand the "tasteless" complaint If you buy bags of fruit on sale there is usually a reason it's on sale. Wouldn't those peaches have made a great compote, jam, ice cream, pie, etc? How much did it cost you to drive back and return them?

          The best advice I ever got from a local chef was before you commit to buying produce at a farmer market or even a big box grocery, is to buy a single piece and eat it. It greatly reduces your chance of buying tasteless, mealy or otherwise unappetizing produce. I have found that many farmers, when I explain what I am doing are happy to give me a "test" piece. These are the ones you know have the good stuff that they are happy to stand behind!

          Another option is to get to know the owners! You said these are small farmers markets and grocers, right? These places live and die by regulars and you said you spend $100's of dollars a week! Introduce yourself and your kids. Let them know how much you enjoy shopping there and how much you and your kids love good fruit and veggies. Start by focusing on the good- the wiill be less testy when you point out the bad.

        2. The original comment has been removed
          1. Sorry, I wasn't clear, the peaches had mold on them the same night I came home from the store, I opened the bag they were in and discovered that when I was putting the groceries away. I have been buying produce for well over 20 years, I would never dream of returning stuff that grew mold or spoiled because we didn't eat it in time.

            1 Reply
            1. re: kmlmgm

              If it was one or two peaches, then I'd have just chucked them and mentally chided myself for not having looked them over well enough before I bought them.

              If it was the whole bag that was mouldy when you got them home, then it was kinda your fault for not having looked them over at all.