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Returning produce to the supermarket because of a sale?

On Tuesday I purchased 7 organic apples for a whopping $16 (including tax) from my local Harris Teeter supermarket. I was appalled by the price but I was out and went to the store specifically to purchase them.

The next day, the store's sale flyer came out and wouldn't you know it, organic apples went on sale for $1 less per pound (I paid approximately $3/pound).

In addition, when I bought them, the apples at the store were picked over and sad but I choose the best of the lot. I've now consumed two apples which were grainy and not the best.

Do I bring my remaining apples back to the store to return them and purchase new apples (of hopefully better quality)? Or do I suck it up and just chalk it up to a life lesson learned? I'm honestly not sure what to do here because I'm not a big fan of returns but I feel ripped off.

Have you ever returned produce to a grocery store (not Trader Joe's as I know they're cool with returning anything at any point)?

(Yes, I know there are other threads out there from ages ago but they don't specifically address the issue of items going on sale nor do they address produce specifically.) Thanks in advance for your input!

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  1. $16 for 7 apples? You coulda bought a tree.

    1. The big question is, are the apples that were put on sale one day later the same ones? Meaning grainy etc. Maybe that's why they put them on sale. I might ask or mention it to them if they weren't busy, but not make a big deal about it either.

      For some reason produce is the one thing I suck up usually. Of course the buyer should be checking it out, but still, so many variables in play, including Mother Nature. Oh and organic, for some reason I am not always as happy with the quality, despite the fact that they are supposedly "better".

      1. You do not bring produce back to the store for any reason, but certainly not this. If a product is defective, you mention it to the person in charge of that section of the grocery. In this case, you are just trying to work the system to your advantage in an unreasonable way.

        When something I like goes on sale, I use the opportunity to stock up on it. But produce is perishable, so you could buy more at the discounted price and make apple butter. This would average down your cost.

        1 Reply
        1. re: GH1618

          We bought a big yellow fleshed watermelon from Kroger, and when we cut into it, the entire melon was bone dry, flavorless and not sweet at all.
          I took it back to the produce manager, who went immediately to the watermelon bin, cut a few open and had the entire pallet moved off the produce floor.
          For $7.99, I certainly did take back inedible produce. And I am sure that the produce manager wants to know if his product is unacceptable.

        2. I would never think to take produce back to the store.

          Then again, I wouldn't spend $16 for 7 apples in the first place. Especially if they were "picked over and sad"! Would have moved on to other, better looking produce or done without.

          2 Replies
          1. re: gourmanda

            I have always found as a good rule of thumb, the higher the price on produce, the lower the quality. It has to do with the growing conditions, if things are optimal then there is plenty to be had; when things go bad (heat, too much rain) the quality declines and there's not so much to harvest, but people still want it anyway.

            My advice, buy ONLY on sale.

            1. re: gourmanda

              "I would never think to take produce back to the store."

              The same here. Mother Nature is not perfect. I would alert the store if I felt that they had a bad stock of something that might make people sick, but if I buy a bunch of carrots and get them home and they are so-so, I just use them for stock or something similar. I can't even think of a time I even entertained the idea of returning produce.
              And I have to be totally honest here: I never, ever look at the flyers for my supermarket. I make a list and go to the store. If something is on sale at that point and I need it and like that brand, then I buy it. But I am not a sale-shopper by nature at all. So maybe I am not the best person to answer the OP's original question.

            2. If it is convenient for you, there is no harm in going back with the apples and explaining why you want to return. Disappointed with the quality of what you purchased. All that can happen is they say no and you are out the cost of gas. Or you can just give them a call.

              1. Nope. Not unless you got sick from the produce, in which case you should not be buying replacements from the same source for a while....

                1. I've never done this, nor do I ever think I would. If you weren't thrilled with the selection to begin with, why did you by 7 apples? I would have just gotten 1 or 2 to satisfy my apple "fix" and stocked up when the selection was better.

                  I guess you could call them and see what their policy is, I would be surprised if they did allow the return, I"m equally surprised you say Trader Joe's would take produce returns.

                  Actually as I read the title to this thread again it's obvious your intention is to return them because of the sale, money savings rather than your unhappiness with the quality. The title should read "Returning produce for lack of satisfaction" not for a sale.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: jrvedivici

                    That's my interpretation also (referring to your last paragraph). There is a Yiddish term for this.

                    1. re: jrvedivici

                      Trader Joe's will take back anything, for any reason.

                      1. re: carolinadawg

                        Really? Interesting, I did not know that, but I'm not a big TJ shopper either.

                        I did literally just go to TJ's on Monday for a few items. I must have stuck out like a sore thumb (not knowing the lay out of the store, and being somewhat of a loss as to what I wanted to buy) because every isle I turned down an associate would look at me and say "What are you looking for, let me get it for you". After about the 3rd time I said, "Wow I must look pretty pathetic".

                        I will say this, while there someone recommended "Birds Nest" frozen tempura fried vegetables, they were very good.

                        1. re: jrvedivici

                          "I will say this, while there someone recommended "Birds Nest" frozen tempura fried vegetables, they were very good."

                          I wonder: is that a take-off on Bird's Eye?

                        2. re: carolinadawg

                          Same for any supermarket chain really.

                      2. The supermarket almost surely has a policy that they will accept any returns, without question. I think that is the case with every major supermarket I've ever heard of. They want their customers to be happy.

                        If you feel like you bought the 'bottom of the barrel' or in any way received a substandard product, then I would not begrudge you returning what you didn't eat. They need to know when people are not satisfied and why or they will never be able to improve their service.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Steve

                          Not all supermarkets have this policy. Whole Foods and Trader Joe's do. Wegmans has a generous return policy but only non-perishable items which are still sealed, no returns of perishable items unless they were defective in some way.

                        2. It seems you're more annoyed by them going on sale than them being grainy. If so, it happens to all of us with all kinds of purchases. I'm sure many bad, bad words have been uttered by many Chowhounds upon seeing items marked down after you've purchased them at a higher price.

                          Happens to me all the time with laundry detergent. Sometimes I swear Tide can read my mind and decide to start a sale immediately following my last stock-up purchase.

                          Since the apples you chose were picked over and sad, you probably should have just walked by them. But at the end of the day, it's 16 dollars. Just let it go:)

                          1. I have returned precut melon that came in a small plastic clamshell because it was sour but I don't think I have ever returned whole produce. I have been tempted by some of those boxes of clementines that the bottom ones are suspect.

                            1. You suck it up. You didn't have to buy 7 picked over apples, but you chose to. You could have just bought 2-3 apples to tide you over until they got a new shipment in.

                              Produce is one of those things I don't return. The store has no way of knowing whether an apple will be grainy inside, or if an orange will be super sour. That's nature -- it's unpredictable.

                              15 Replies
                              1. re: boogiebaby

                                "That's nature -- it's unpredictable."

                                And that's why the supermarkets will refund your money. They want their customers to shop with confidence. I know it encourages me to buy produce I might not take a chance on, even if I rarely return it.

                                Your solution - to buy less - is exactly what the store doesn't want to happen. They want to move all their produce, even the picked over stuff, so they are fine when they can please a customer by accepting any returned products.

                                That's the 'nature' of their business.

                                1. re: Steve

                                  I doubt a supermarket could stay in business if everone who got a bad apple or tart peach brought them back for a refund. They have the policy in place because it's a gesture of good will that builds confidence in their customers, but they count on most people not taking advantage of it. That's the true nature of their 'business.'

                                  1. re: ttoommyy

                                    Like a lot of people on the internet, you are having trouble distinguishing an argument from a fact.

                                    The argument "if everone who got a bad apple or tart peach brought them back for a refund" would cause the store to go out of business, is only true if you know how many people are truly dissatisfied, and that the store's only recourse would be to go out of business instead of reacting in other, more logical ways.

                                    Arguments that start off "if everyone..." are usually filled with conjecture and a kind of warped moral code that makes a villain of anyone who is looking to do something completely normal.

                                    1. re: Steve

                                      Calm down. This is a chat board. I'm just making conversation, not giving a dissertation. Small talk. Chit chat. You say something, I say something, we go on. I'm not here to "argue" a point or state "facts." Just to give my personal opinion and feelings on a subject. I'll just be on my way now... :)

                                      1. re: ttoommyy

                                        Generally when people use the terms argue and facts, then emphasize them by placing them in quotes, like "argue" and "facts" that means they are trying to argue the facts.

                                        I doubt a supermarket would go out of business if people returned their apples, but first I would need to see a chart, then compare it to a graph. I prefer a pie chart, I actually prefer blueberry pie, while I eat my pie I will look at the graph. I would like the graph to be titled "Bad Apple's".

                                        I would need to send in a research team to the stores to monitor the return process. Every time a dissatisfied customer came in to return their "Bad Apple's" a member of my research team will grope themselves inappropriately and ask the customer "How you like these apples?"

                                        This will require a second chart, and slice of pie, for me to determine how people liked my research teams apples. Once the facts are in then we can "argue" the "facts" and see where the truth is.

                                        Until then I believe any other conversation is premature and inconclusive.

                                        1. re: jrvedivici

                                          So! I think I'm finally starting to be able to identify hounds by their posts bc as I was reading I was thinking this has jrved written all over it!

                                            1. re: ttoommyy

                                              but "apostrophe" needs and r ;) Ha!

                                                1. re: ttoommyy


                                                  Too, too funny!

                                          1. re: ttoommyy

                                            Ok, I'm taking a deep breath.

                                            Here's the thing: The OP is looking for guidance and help. I was trying to be supportive. To the OP: if you feels strongly, go ahead and take back the fruit. You'll feel better about it, the store won't mind, and you'll probably be a happier shopper in the future knowing you can take it back.

                                            I did not rant: "You must take back the fruit. If everyone who received bad fruit kept quiet about it, we would all receive lousy fruit."

                                            So after my support, you come out all drama and make a ridiculous statement about the store closing down.


                                            Less drama, more reality. Maybe I'm not the only one who needs to calm down.

                                            1. re: Steve

                                              "So after my support, you come out all drama and make a ridiculous statement about the store closing down. "

                                              Ok. I obviously am not as serious about posting on these boards as you are. I made an offhanded comment that I thought would be read with a few grains of salt (Maldon is my preference). But I guess not. My point was that for the most part, lenient return policies at retail stores are in place as an act of goodwill; retailers depend on the majority of customers to not take advantage of them. That's all. There was never any "drama" intended. I apologize if my cavalier attitude offended you.

                                              1. re: Steve

                                                Capisce. Capiche. Both are correct.

                                                1. re: Just Visiting

                                                  So is "capeesh." From the Oxford dictionary:

                                                  Definition of capeesh in English
                                                  Syllabification: (ca·peesh)
                                                  Pronunciation: /kəˈpēSH/
                                                  informal, chiefly US
                                                  do you understand?:
                                                  Upstairs is off limits. Capeesh?

                                                  1940s: from Italian capisce, third person singular present tense of capire 'understand'

                                                  1. re: ttoommyy

                                                    The Oxford/Neopolitan dictionary!!

                                    2. You might want to call the store and see if they offer a price adjustment to the sale price. I have a friend who is a fascinating shopper, and this is a strategy she employs when something she just purchased goes on sale. Generally, if you have your receipt and the flyer during the week (or whatever time period) of the sale, a lot of stores will refund the difference. This particular friend was a long-time store employee of Target, which did have that policy on general merchandise - I can't say if it still exists or extends to grocery items - and always asks. Might be worth a try?

                                      Now, if you really hate the apples, I guess it's either just straight up see if you can return them, or count it as a loss. If it's the savings, it doesn't hurt to ask.

                                      1. How much does gas cost in your area? How much gas will it take to get to/from the store? How much is your time worth? I'd just compost the apples or eat them.

                                        Electronics stores and clothing stores always give you a price refund if the price goes down within a certain amount of time, but there, we are talking about more than a few dollars, so it is probably worth it.

                                        1. Sorry if I'm repeating any one else but Harris Teeter has an excellent return policy. Take it back. You can cite either reason - the quality or the price difference- and they will accept it.
                                          For $16 you should be thrilled by those apples. Not underwhelmed.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: ncghettogourmet

                                            But there is no way a store can be sure an apple will taste good. A few of us have said this already; that's nature's doing. Whether the OP forked over $16 or $6, that's the risk one takes with produce, especially when it is "picked over and sad" as the OP herself stated.

                                          2. I would return them. More than half of our food budget is produce and we expect quality. Of course there have been disappointments but never a problem returning an inferior item. For a few dollars it’s not worth the trouble so it goes into a smoothie or trash. More than that gets returned.

                                            Next time you see a bin that’s picked over ask if there’s more in the back. They usually stock up if there’s an upcoming sale. If not then ask if they can discount the sad ones or either take a pass. Also ask if something’s about to go on sale.

                                            1. "Fruit's a gamble...I know that going in." Jerry Seinfeld

                                              1. Reading through your post (and based on the title) it seems like the real issue here is that the item went on sale. You knew the apples looked subpar when you purchased them, but you purchased 7 anyway. Consider it a learning experience. FWIW, I buy produce from the farmer's market, Costco, Whole Foods, Fresh Market, and (selectively) at Trader Joe's but never at Harris Teeter-- their everyday prices are considerably higher than all of the others, including Whole Foods, and the quality leaves something to be desired. The organic apples (pink lady, Fuji, Granny Smith, and gala) at Trader Joe's are $0.79 each and usually very good.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: ohmyyum

                                                  "The organic apples (pink lady, Fuji, Granny Smith, and gala) at Trader Joe's are $0.79 each and usually very good."

                                                  My understanding is that TJ's source their produce from different places depending on geographic location, so while your TJ's apples may be great, but another person's in a different part of the country may not be.

                                                  1. re: ttoommyy

                                                    True, I'm in NC. The apples this summer looked miserable and were from Chile so I didn't buy them. The apples this time of year are from Washington, Ohio, and New York, and they are beautiful. The galas have consistently sucked so I think it might just be the nature of the varietal to be sickly sweet and not as crisp!

                                                    1. re: ohmyyum

                                                      ((make sure you double check your spelling and punctuation or Professor ttoommyy will fail your post, he's a tough one))

                                                      1. re: jrvedivici

                                                        Haha to be completely honest, I don't really care!

                                                2. Erika, When I buy milk sometimes the milk goes sour before the expiration date/sell by date and I return it if I happen to be returning to the store but not to go out of my way. The store takes the 1/2 carton of milk and gives me a full one as a free replacement. IF the apples look better today than they did when you were there they may accept a replacement rather than a refund.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                    And there you have it. Once the milk is opened, it can easily go sour before the expiration date. The date is based on it being sealed. The bigger the store, the more likely they will write it off to make you happy.

                                                  2. If the quality of a product is less than expected I return most anything to the market. I just returned a whole watermelon that was way past its prime and tasted bad.
                                                    If I happen to buy something and it goes on sale the next week I would never think of asking for a return or refund.
                                                    I don't think of it as the same as buying a flat screen TV at Best Buy who "guarantees" you won't find a better price as part of their sales pitch.

                                                    15 Replies
                                                    1. re: Motosport

                                                      Even after you buy the tv set at one retailer there is a window bywhich you can be refunded the difference if you find the identical tv at a competitor. And in apparel sales, you can return an item to CS for the price difference refund if you didn't catch the garment on sale.

                                                      When in doubt, ask Customer Service what there policies are. I'm still surprised by the generous refund policies at most stores. Keeping our business is still important.

                                                      1. re: HillJ

                                                        I am sure the larger chains, Wegworld, S&S, Wholepaycheck will offer a refund just to keep a client happy. Personally it just does not resonate with me.
                                                        With a big ticket item a place like Best Buy wants to discourage price shopping and it works for them and the consumer. I got $80 back on my TV when it went on sale at another appliance store the next week. If it was a pack of batteries for $8.99 reduced to $5.99 I would not bother asking for a refund.

                                                        1. re: Motosport

                                                          The only part that's important is what my Uncle taught me many, many moons ago: as a consumer don't hesitate to speak up. Ask the question and then decide what works for you.

                                                          What factors in for when and why each of us would bother to return to a store for a refund or a replacement is entirely personal choice.

                                                          1. re: Motosport

                                                            And looking at the equation you provided my mind works like this. I'm in Best Buy twice a year (maybe) for a big ticket item but I'm in the grocery store a hundred times at least a year. For my wallet, the two could easily be equal; the grocery may even exceed the cost of the tv.

                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                              Let's talk about cherries. I love cherries. I can't wait for it to be cherry season.
                                                              At the beginning of the season the cherries are smaller and more expensive. As the season progresses the cherries get larger, juicier and less expensive. At the height of the season the cherries are the best and are usually on sale at one or more of the local markets. This all happens in a span of maybe 45 days.
                                                              I buy cherries as soon as they are available and pay the higher price. I would never, ever, think of buying a couple of pounds of cherries at the beginning of the season and returning them a couple of weeks later when the price went down.

                                                              1. re: Motosport

                                                                Nor would I. The OP example was one day later. So, while the cherry example might seem the same to you, over a period of 45 days sure seems ridiculous to me. The apples (& my milk example) are within a few days. The tv and clothing example within the window of time the retailer sets.

                                                                During cherry season, I would have several options. To buy them at the first sign of avail, or wait a week or two for a lower price, or not buy them because the price wasn't what I was willing to pay or the quality was less than ideal. Lots of options. However, if during any of my cherry purchases I was disappointed with the taste, texture or shelf life during the first few days of purchase (because not all cherries are sold loose, some come in saran wrapped clam shells and customers are not suppose to taste from the bins) I'd return them for a refund.

                                                                So, I don't believe your 45 day example is even applicable to the OP's question. I was specifically referring to within a day or two.

                                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                                  The first cherries are from California and I wouldn't touch them. Then maybe Oregon, but you have to be patient and wait until the end. Washington State is what you are looking for. All else before that is dreck.

                                                                  1. re: coll

                                                                    Excellent reminder, coll. Couldn't agree more.

                                                                  2. re: HillJ

                                                                    "If the quality of a product is less than expected I return most anything to the market." From my earlier post.

                                                                    1. re: Motosport

                                                                      Then your 45 day cherry example had me misunderstanding the point you were making since the OP's reconsidering the apple purchase was a day later.

                                                                      1. re: HillJ

                                                                        Yes, you misunderstood. The OP was concerned with the price paid before the sale.

                                                                        1. re: Motosport

                                                                          No, I didn't understand your 45 day cherry example when the OP was a day later price change at her market.

                                                                          Moving on now though :)

                                                          2. re: Motosport

                                                            Title of this post is 'because of a sale'. The rest of the explanation does not matter.

                                                            Most stores send out (via mail or email) their upcoming sale ads two to three days before the sales start. I plan my purchasing accordingly and either stock up what is currently on sale, or wait until the new sale starts.

                                                            1. re: Cathy

                                                              That's great discipline on your part but if you don't food shop with ads/sales in your hands or aren't aware of the current sale days or stop in on whim, you don't have the benefit.

                                                              I think we've all had a moment of buyers remorse when we purchased an item only to see it for a lower price soon after. It's not an odd experience. How we do or don't deal with it seems pretty specific to our shopping habits.

                                                          3. I think you just have to suck it up. Seinfeld had an episode about returning fruit.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: EarlyBird

                                                              Seinfeld had an episode about everything and "nothing."

                                                              1. re: Motosport

                                                                and about stealing marble rye...but that's tv land.

                                                            2. First, I would not have paid that price; they would have stayed in the store and I would have waited until I ran across something less expensive at another store. Or substituted a different fruit. That said, I have returned produce to the store. I bought potatoes and when cutting them up, they were bruised with black spots so I took them back, cut up and all.

                                                              I would not go 30 miles to take them back but my stores are about 15 minutes from me. Now, I don't think I'd take them back because they went on sale the next day. That's the chance you take when you buy something knowing the price changes on certain days. It would make more sense to shop on the day the prices change before spending that kind of money.

                                                              If the apples were grainy, why did you consume two? Its understandable to eat one; what other way can you try the merchandise? What purpose would it serve to take back the remainder then potentially get the same quality from the same store?

                                                              I disagree that one should "suck it up" and just accept the quality of food that a store sells. It's one thing to not like the taste of something, like an apple but if the texture is lousy and it's not supposed to be that way, I feel robbed.

                                                              Along the same vein, I bought a 10lb bag of chicken leg quarters years ago from a store; I always smell the meat I buy and I didn't notice any off odor. However, when I got home and opened it, I almost threw up....rotten as hell. You think it didn't go back?

                                                              1. I guess I don't get it. The apples were not bad -- it's not like they appeared to be fine, and when the OP bit into it, it was bad inside. I could possibly see returning something that appeared to be in good quality, but wasn't, like potatoes that were black inside, or chicken that smelled when you opened the bag. something that appears to be fine but really wasn't.

                                                                In this particular case, the OP said the apples didn't look that great ("picked over and sad"). She chose to buy 7 of them anyway. Sad looking apples will not be fresh on the inside. That's like me buying a steak that looks a little gray on the outside and then complaining it didn't taste right.

                                                                1. Last year when pomegranates first came in I bought one ($2.99) to make some "bark" and when checked it at home, it was completely white inside. Believe me I took it back to the store, even though I had already cut it in half. I took it back the next day and the store happily refunded my money. The store manager told me that the produce guy should have cut into one to see if they were ripe. That's customer service!

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. I can count on one hand, the number of times I have returned any food item to grocery store in the past 40 years. I consider it not worth my time. But, I might feel differently if I was retired or unemployed.

                                                                    I would never pay $16 for apples.

                                                                    If you brought them back to the store to save 5 bucks, wouldn't you spend some of that savings in gas? What do you Consider your time worth? Is there nothing else better for you to do with the extra time it takes? I can't imagine it would be actually "worth it" in any way other than if it helps you feel like you are correcting a mistake you made. Then it might "feel" worth it.

                                                                    For me, I would make some nice applesauce with the mealy apples, serve myself a warm bowl of it, topped with whipped cream and a shot of calvados in it. Then put my feet up, eat my dessert, and be glad I am not having to go back to the damn grocery store today.