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WWCD? (What would Chowhounds do?)

OK, I feel really petty for even caring about this a week later, but here goes:

About a week ago I went to a local Mexican market which is known for good produce at great prices. It is near my office, and I often buy produce there, and am rarely disappointed.

My husband is on a gobi (cauliflower) kick lately, and had asked me to pick some up along with the other veggies. Now, I admit that I didn't look at the prices as I picked out the produce. As I said, that particular store almost always has good prices. I just bought what I wanted.

But when I went to checkout I was shocked to find that my cauliflower rang up at over six bucks. For a cauliflower?? I asked the checkout clerk to check to make sure she had hit the right key, she had. It was priced at 2.99 a pound and was slightly over 2 pounds. And no, it wasn't organic. Or one of those fancy ones that are yellow or purple. Just a plain white cauliflower. A full head, not processed florets. I asked to speak to the manager...yes, the price was right per her. (She went and checked the posted price, but didn't look it up anywhere else).

I was in a hurry, and hungry and tired, and anxious to get home and let my husband cook the damn cauliflower. so I paid and left, cursing under my breath and wondering if maybe I should shop elsewhere.

But twice since then my husband has bought cauliflower in other stores (stores that often have prices for produce that are quite higher than this favorite Mexican Market). In both cases he paid around 2 to 3 dollars PER cauliflower, not per pound. I am convinced that the cauliflower was marked with the wrong price (ie it was meant to be a per each head price and not a per pound price). But remember, the manager already told me otherwise.

Would something like this keep you from shopping at a favorite store? (of course, I will NEVER buy a cauliflower without carefully checking the price again:-) Talking to the store manager got me nowhere...should I try and figure out the owner and talk to them? Would I have had better luck if I tried complaining in Spanish (the manager's English was perfect btw). There is a part of me that wants to do a survey of cauliflower prices in the city and take it to the produce manager. Do chowhounds let things like this bug them; try to remedy it, or just move on?

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  1. You move on. They had the price correct. It's not like it was listed at .69/lb and it rang up at 2.99. It's possible they got a smaller than normal shipment, and therefore priced the available stock higher. I've seen cauliflower at the market I go to for 1.99/lb before when they normally have it for .69. I don't buy it if its over .99/lb though because the price fluctuates and I can get it some other time when it's cheaper. It's not like they deceived you - you have the option of not buying the item or buying it from a different store for cheaper.

    1. I bought a 3lb cauliflower at Trader Joe's for $2.29 today...

      That said, I agree with boogie baby that you move on. In that situation, if I wasn't willing to pay that price, I would have simply asked for the item to be removed. Pressing the point a week later after already having brought it up with the manager-- and ultimately agreeing to pay the posted price-- is neither fair nor rational. You seem to like the quality and the prices (in general) of the produce at this particular market. Are you really willing to cease shopping at a "favorite store" over $2.99?

      1. How would you handle this at your office? You have a unhappy client......... That's what I would do.

        1. $2.99 per pound is not out of line for early November. Supply is short as the coastal valleys are mostly done with harvest and there's not enough available to meet demand. Some grocers aren't stocking it now because prices are too high if you don't have grower contracts. You were lucky to get some at a small store. It will come down soon as more supply becomes available from the desert.

          1. I'm not really sure what the question or problem is here. There is no price fixing on produce, so if that was the marketed price, they double checked it, confirmed it, what's the problem?

            Actually as I think about this it's a Mexican market, cauliflower is not a traditional staple in Mexican cooking, your probably not the only gringo that goes there to scoop up their lower priced produce. I'll go on a limb and say this is gringo gouging.

            Gringo's going to come in here and take advantage of our low price's on peppers and onions, we'll get them on that cauliflower and broccoli!! BAM $2.99lbs! Sound's like smart marketing to me!

            4 Replies
            1. re: jrvedivici

              <gringo gouging>

              Thankyou very much for the update. Naive me would have never known there was such a thought.
              That cauliflower would have found a nice place to rest on the counter as I walked out the door with a smile.
              I may or may not return now that I know there's a mentality like you're describing.
              Sounds like the OP has lots of places to purchase fresh produce around him/her, with a much more watchful eye.

              1. re: jrvedivici

                I've eaten plenty of coliflor (cauliflower) in Mexico, particularly in soups and stews and sometimes in salads. Sometimes it is an ingredient in sopa seca de arroz (rice dishes) as well.

                That said, your assumption doesn't much sense even if wasn't found in Mexican cooking: This is a Mexican type market in the U.S., meaning it caters to a predominantly Hispanic/Latino market base, yes. Assuming the market is anything like the Mexican supermarkets in my area, so few non-Latinos shop there that it simply wouldn't make economic sense to up the price on certain ingredients in the hope that a few anglos would buy them. It would make more sense not to stock them. Explanations about seasonality seem much more likely (not that I'd be likely to pay $6 for a cauliflower; I'd wait till it is more readily available again, or go elsewhere if the price is that significantly different or important.

                1. re: jrvedivici

                  Oh for God's sake- I guess there are conspiracy theorists everywhere.

                  1. re: jrvedivici

                    my neighborhood meximarts sell cauli and broccoli much cheaper than the supermarkets do.

                  2. I wouldn't have bought the six dollar cauliflower. If I'm not comfortable with the price, asked a Mgr. and still wasn't comfortable, start to doubt myself. I'd just leave the veg behind. Maybe I would have stopped elsewhere or gotten a fresh start the next day and paid what I was comfortable paying. But even at the checkout, I would have politely said no thank you and left.

                    But beyond the moment it would have been over.

                    1. I can relate to this since something similar happened to me this week. I was in a local supermarket, wanted a cauliflower and saw them marked 3.99 which is more than I normally would pay for one. Farm stands around here in PA have them this time of year for 1.50. I bought it anyway and when I got home I looked at my slip and I had been charged 4.99. I chalked it up to "my own fault" for not checking my slip before leaving the store. Too lazy to go back with it.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: casinsepa

                        when that sort of thing happens to me, 100% of the time it is because i forgot to give them the discount card that most supermarkets issue.
                        often a $4.99 item WITH THE CARD is priced at $5.99 WITHOUT THE CARD.

                        (essentially, the store is bribing you in order to be able to track your shopping behavior.)

                        1. For whatever reason that price was written in stone by someone up the (computer program) chain of command and the manager was not free to change it.
                          If I liked the place otherwise I would continue to shop there and keep a keen eye on the prices.
                          I have a similar issue with my favorite local market. One of their grocery products is always priced wrong. I brought it to their attention to no avail (it's a small chain).
                          I still shop there but don't buy that item.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Motosport

                            I think it's different if an item is marked a certain price and rang up at another. In this case, the cauliflower was marked $2.99/lb and rang up at that price.

                          2. OK, I'll let it go, but just a few comments: Someone made a comment about it being a small store. I said it was a Mexican market, which it is, but it is NOT small. In our area the Mexican markets can be supermarkets.

                            And I would buy what Melanie says about short supply, except that we bought Cauliflower the very next day at another local store (I did say DH was on a cauliflower kick; he's been trying different recipes) for less than half the price for a larger head.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: janetofreno

                              Some store chains have futures contracts for guaranteed price or have a local source that doesn't go through brokerages. Your store's regular distributor may not and had to buy on the spot market. It's not unusual for some store owners to buy from other retailers that have better prices when needed.

                              1. re: janetofreno

                                janetofreno: you don't seem to understand how wholesale produce pricing works.
                                the nature of produce causes it to be an "inefficient market."

                              2. Stores can price their products the way they want is the bottom line. You may have bought the cauliflower at another time in another store cheaper; they are entitled to charge you whatever they want. You, on the other hand, can choose to pay that price or go elsewhere.

                                Unfortunately, I feel your pain...I live in the South where there are fields for growing food. Some basic things are reasonable but some things like cauliflower ironically are priced too high regularly. Instead of appearing in the stores in my area, these crops are shipped to other places like Arizona, for example, where my daughter lives. She can buy produce way cheaper than I can in the desert....something is wrong here.

                                Makes no sense to me at all. I buy most of the things I want on sale. $2.99 lb is too rich for my blood, which is why I try to grow the things I refuse to pay higher prices for. I wouldn't let that stop me from buying at that store unless I figure out they are trying the old bait & switch everytime I go in there.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: Cherylptw

                                  <She can buy produce way cheaper than I can in the desert....something is wrong here.>

                                  I had the same experience with pineapples in Hawaii, many years ago. That pineapples were a huge cash crop in Hawaii there's no doubt; fields were everywhere. But in the supermarket? WAY more expensive than on the mainland.

                                  According to my brother in Waikoloa, it's still that way; local produce can be very pricey.

                                  1. re: DuffyH

                                    <I had the same experience with pineapples in Hawaii>

                                    It's no different now, as your brother says.

                                    The same goes for Washington State, the leading apple growers in the US.
                                    They export most of the greatest apples, leaving what should be the apples for consumers within the state, and leave the less qualified apples to sell for Washington retail at a high price…higher than what I pay in S Cal.
                                    I've actually purchased 'culls' in the W. state and couldn't actually believe the high price for such an inferior apple.

                                    1. re: DuffyH

                                      The most outrageously priced produce I spotted in Hawaii was organic cherries for.. $21.95 per pound!

                                      I know, they're not native to the islands. But that price totally shocked me.

                                      1. re: OhioHound

                                        my grand mother helicoptered to a glacier in ALaska to go dogsleding.. when they were finished my grandfather went to tip the guy and girl a few hundered dollars. the guy said thanks man" the girl had kind of a lukewarm smile.. so mermer asked her if she was"ok" the girl said " Oh I wasnt meaning to come across rude it is just i have been up here a long time with him and money is really good but I would kill for some fresh fruit" My mermer, being dibetic had put a couple oranges and a bananna from the cruise ship in her coat pocket and pulled them out and handed them to her. "That is the best tip I have gotten allllll season! Thank you!"

                                    2. re: Cherylptw

                                      I'm in Arizona, and it seems fair to me!

                                    3. I think you should consider yourself blessed to be able to fret so much about the price of a cauliflower. Actually I agree that it was probably mis-priced but you still had a chance to not buy it. I'd continue to shop there - it's alway treated you good, just be a bit more wary about those prices and I also bet you're likely to see the price of that cauliflower change to a per head price.

                                      1. I'd keep shopping there, but go elsewhere for cauliflower. We currently go to MacDill AFB for groceries; we've always shopped the military commissaries when possible, because overall, the prices are much, much lower than out in town.

                                        But for some reason, red peppers are always more. Always, at every commissary I've ever been to. So I buy my red peppers elsewhere.

                                        1. There's no way to remedy it, so that option is out. I'd figure that your post here was your opportunity to vent, and then move on.

                                          When I've had things like this happen, I just tell the clerk, that I don't want it at that price and they whisk it away. Then you have to go on another cauliflower expedition, but you don't feel like you've been cheated/gouged.

                                          1. I would have told them to keep it and made DH wait till another day for his cauliflower fix... that price is ludicrous and I just wouldn't have bought it. But since you did, I hope you enjoyed it...

                                            1. I bought a beautiful cauliflower at Aldi today for $1.69 (NJ) and thought of you janetofreno. Would you like me to ship you a few?

                                              1. If this happened to me, I'd probably go back since they usually are a good market for you. But if something like this were to happen again, I'd vote with my feet.

                                                1. You were there, you bought, knowing the price. Stores base price on what they paid. I don't want to be so harsh as to say "get over it", but you knew the price before you paid for it. You had a choice. I've done that before, and consider it to be a convenience item in that case- you didn't have to go out shopping for a cheaper one.

                                                  1. Skip on down the road. Chances are most of us have had similar experiences.

                                                    You did not look at the price when you picked up the cauliflower. When you found out what the price was at the cash register, you could have told the checker that you did not want it. Yet you did not.

                                                    Consider it an inexpensive lesson. Not only when you shop at that market, but at other stores and markets as well.

                                                    Should you have a similar experience in the future, tell the person at the cash register that you do not want the item.

                                                    1. I had this same issue with Cauliflower! I was used to paying $1.99-$2.99 for EACH and I was at another store and realized it rang up that way 'per pound'. When I realized it was per pound and I knew I could get it much cheaper elsewhere, I told the cashier I didn't want it.

                                                      Since that time (and I know you will do this now), I religiously pay attention to when it says per lb or each on the sign.

                                                      1. Like a lot of others have said, I probably wouldn't have bought it once I found out the price. I would continue to shop there and buy my cauliflower elsewhere, but being the pain in the ass that I like to be, I wouldn't put past myself to ask why it's so much more expensive than the other stores. I'm not sure I'd go out of my way to ask, but I've asked this before to the immediate store employee in front of me when I've received my own sticker shock on items. And for the record, they always look at you stupid and never have a good answer. Oh well.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: SaraAshley

                                                          lol...I actually did that, and pointed out what I still think to be the case: that it may have been accidently marked per pound instead of per head. Cauliflower in just about every other grocery store in town (I've checked) is consistently running 1.98 per head. Which would make even 2.99 a head on the high side. and 2.99 a pound WAY out of line. Sigh...

                                                          1. re: janetofreno

                                                            Yeah, it never hurts to question. Again, I do it a lot, and again, being the pain that I am, these dumb looks and non-explanations have received a "that's stupid" response from me in the past. Like you said, sigh...

                                                        2. I'd move on ...

                                                          I shop at a gourmet grocery store, a Mexican grocery store, and two farmer's markets. I prefer to shop at only one grocery store per day, and if I really need something when I'm shopping at the 'wrong' store, I'll buy it at a non-ideal price. What I'm really paying for is saving myself time, inconvenience, having to put dinner back because I'm getting home late, etc.

                                                          In this case, what you were really paying for is your husband's joy in experimenting with cauliflower recipes, which is totally worth 2.99/lb.

                                                          1. embrace and let it go...it sounds like you are more upset that your husband got it at lower price than you did. and you feel like you were a victim and want some sort of vindication....

                                                            WE HEAR YOU. stuff happens. dont cut your nose to spite your face. if you like the store go back and chalk it up to a series of marking mistakes and everyone tried to do their best by you. Were they polite when you inquired? Did they check? Did they become rude? .....well then let it go. if they got all defensive shop somewhere else.

                                                            1. Move on.
                                                              Within three blocks of my apartment i have seen broccoli for $3.99/LB, $2.99 per bunch, and $1.50/bunch.

                                                              I'm going with cauliflower might not be a large volume veggie for them and therefore they couldn't negotiate a better price.
                                                              Go back, shop, and stick to the produce they do the most volume of.
                                                              Don't forget some of that tamarind chili candy and some Abuelita hot chocolate.