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returning food to supermarket?

Did this for FIRST time that I can remember. NOT spoiled/rotten food, just totally unsatisfied. Last Friday or Saturday, bought package of pre-formed, frozen, 6 oz burgers... store brand. They were on sale. Cooked on up same way I always do... from frozen to what should been decently pink in center. Couldn't cut with a fork and even a KNIFE was pretty hard!?! Didn't have receipt, but store promptly gave me a store credit... used to buy a BIG package of fresh ground beef to make my own.

What things have you ever returned to supermarket? And why?

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  1. About a year ago I returned cubed steaks that smelled like medicated band aids when I started to cook them. Very unpleasant. That is the last thing I remember being so bad I had to return it.
    My mother returned ground beef many years ago that had a cockroach in between the meat and the foam tray. Shudder. She just took the money and left.

    2 Replies
    1. re: suzigirl

      Oh, good lord. A pre packaged cockroach! Now THAT should be returned, if not just to let the meat department see it! Uggghhh.

      I never return food. I don't make the time and the time/cost issue has never worked out for me. Maybe if it was a health hazard to the public or a really, really expensive item. Never happened to me yet.

      1. re: sedimental

        Same store had an ecoli break out a few years later. And before someone asks, yes they are still in business but don't get my business. Eww

    2. Long running discussion on this subject on NAF, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/890654

      1. Trader Joe's has a great return policy, I mostly return bad produce there all the time, but they encourage you return other things even things you just didn't like which I have done. Whole Foods also has a great return policy. I've had a few cuts of meat that smelled awful or were butchered incorrectly and I returned them. Here are several other threads on the topic


        1. The market I use most often has a satisfaction-guaranteed policy. Sometimes they ask why I am returning something, sometimes they don't even speak when I return an item. I've returned half-and-half that had an off smell, heavy cream that was thick and clumpy like it had been shaken to butter, balsamic glaze that tasted only like sugar and had no flavor of balsamic, products that had been opened at the store, undiscovered until I went to use them at home, cereal I discovered was crawling with ants when I unpacked the groceries, salad dressings that had long-past sell-by dates (lesson learned there), blue cheese that had zero blue veining, and probably more. Why should the consumer bear the cost of spoiled, tampered with, or bad products?

          I wouldn't have hesitated to return the burgers, you did the right thing.

          2 Replies
          1. re: janniecooks

            It sounds like your market has some issues if this was all from one location.......!

            1. re: Ttrockwood

              well, the antsy cereal and the long past sell by salad dressing were from a different store that I've not returned to but the others are from the same establishment and location. And yes, it does have some issues but you can't fault the store for products that scumbags open and leave on the shelf, or cream that has been shaken up, or the blue cheese that wasn't blue (I have bought and still buy the particular brand all the time.)

          2. I returned an unopened bottle of vanilla extract after I discovered two others in my cupboard. My husband thought I was nuts.

            I got a bad batch of clams that smelled so awful, we immediately threw them out. The next morning I took the tag from the mesh bag back to the store and got an no questions asked refund.

            1. done on several times both to grocerys stores and target. never had an issue. was rarely even asked what was wrong.

              sometimes i got store credit instead of cash, but that isnt a big deal to me

              1. I've returned a few things to trader joes, i had stocked up on their greek yogurt not knowing they changed local suppliers and it was waaaayyy more acidic and tart than the previous version i had loved. And like $20 of yogurt! I also returned a watermelon (actually just took photos of it) that had been fairly expensive yet the insides were grainy mush.
                I was going back to the store anyhow to shop and i will again, they just deducted the value of the return from my new bill. And were very glad i had brought a photo and not an actual funky watermelon :)

                1 Reply
                1. re: Ttrockwood

                  I too am sparing about this but have never found a grocery store to blink about satisfying the customer in this regard (and have never had the receipt, and sometimes not even the item).

                  Watermelon—I just mention it at the checkout and the checker always tells me to take a new one.

                  Usually I do this more as a public service, if I can say that, rather than as a way to get my money back.

                  The other day I bought a $7.99 pack of fancy sugar cookies (I know, pricey!) at Metropolitan Market in Seattle and they were so crumbly that they didn't stay in one piece to take them out and serve. My kid ate the crumbs anyway, but when I go back, I'll mention it to them, because it seems like a new product they are trying out and they should know it doesn't hold up.

                2. Hopefully you mean it was hard quality wise, and not still frozen. I return stuff whenever I want the store to know there is a major quality issue, what better way to get their attention?

                  1. I do so sparingly but with conviction.

                    Ten years ago I bought 3 pounds of chestnuts to make Nesselrode sauce and found about a third of them to be rotten. I took them back to the local Giant market, showed them my concern and was given a double refund.

                    Trader Joe's has also been accommodating. I don't like their mayo and also bought a Stilton wedge that had a most unpleasant ammonia smell. Refunds for both.

                    Considering what markets must throw away on a daily basis versus losing a regular customer, it is fiscally prudent to keep the customer happy.

                    1. Just a few weeks ago, I opened a new pack of cold cuts that were well within the sell-by date. They were slimy and smelly, so we returned them to Kroger. Some time ago I returned to Publix a package of nuts that had a terrible chemical taste. I wonder if they caught a splash of cleaning fluid or bug spray.

                      1. I vividly remember returning these items:

                        2 cans of TJ's chopped clams,
                        because they resembled and tasted like chopped lake bottom.

                        1 box of Grand Union dried milk,
                        because it tasted awful (chalky), was expensive, and was guaranteed OYMB.

                        2 jugs of Ajax brand laundry detergent,
                        because the perfume was unbearable.

                        2 jars of Mister Mustard,
                        because the jar lids were leaking and foaming.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: Cheese Boy

                          I was salivating at the idea of chopped lake bottom but then I got to leaking and foaming mustard and was really turned off.

                          1. re: Cheese Boy

                            ..and I myself vividly remember Grand Union.

                            1. re: coll

                              So do I. My mom worked in the meat dept for years.

                              1. re: coll

                                As do I - I was reading along and said to myself "Hey! We used to shop there!" Although Mom did call it Grand Onion. ;-)

                                  1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                    I thought my dad was the only one that called it that. :-0

                            2. I once returned a package of cheese I purchased from the deli counter. The employee had neglected to put pieces of paper between the slices so it turned into one huge clump.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: UTgal

                                I'm confused: you normally get a piece of waxed paper between every single slice of cheese and the next?

                                1. re: Meann

                                  I don't buy much pre sliced cheese but when I do I know that wegmans always puts slices of paper between.

                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                    and I always fight them not to do that!

                                  2. re: Meann

                                    Always at a good market where cheese is sliced to order!

                                    1. re: Meann

                                      We moved from the outer boros of NYC to the Finger Lakes of upstate NY... up here they are very weird with their cold cuts....for 55 years downstate I was never asked how thick I wanted my cold cuts sliced,(they always seemed great to me) up here they always ask and i don't know how to answer...I just say Normal please.
                                      It is always Wegmans now, not a corner deli...

                                      1. re: Raffles

                                        >> 'I just say Normal please. <<

                                        I'm still laughing over this (because of your wording).

                                        1. re: Raffles

                                          Up there, don't they call it "luncheon meat" instead of "cold cuts" though?

                                          I'm starting to run into clerks even here on Long Island that don't get the concept of as thin as possible (except liverwurst of course!) If I said normal, I'm afraid of what I would find when I got home.

                                    2. I once returned a ham hock which, when I opened the package, notice had already turned green. Then I noticed I had purchased it five days past the "sell by" date. Disgusting.

                                      I've returned mealy apples to Whole Foods before, and they are more than willing to return my money. They, as well as many markets, will be glad to get feedback on produce from customers.

                                      1. Only once. A ham that was still within sell by date and had been stored appropriately puffed up in its package - it wasn't even that expensive I don't know why I felt the need to go through the trouble of returning it but they did take it back for credit - begrudgingly - without receipt.

                                        I felt really tacky doing this - I would not have done it if I opened the package though I think it would have been too much to carry a rotten stinky ham into the store,

                                        1. I might return something that had gone off when I got it home but only if it wasn't out of my way to return it. I once took back some Kelloggs cereal that was full of weevils the day after I bought it.

                                          I would never return a product just because I didn't like it. I just wouldn't buy it again. I don't see how it's the store's fault that I didn't like a product.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: smartie

                                            One of the few times I ever returned anything was a box of chocolates I got from a drugstore (Rite Aid? Duane Reade?) that was crawling with worms when I opened the box. I marched right back there even though it was kind of a long walk. I know, I know, when you open a box of chocolates you never know what you're gonna get.......

                                          2. Two things I wish I had returned instead of throwing out and never shopping at those stores again:

                                            1. Whole wheat tortillas that had insect larvae in them - no obvious holes in the package, and several months before the sell-by date. Didn't return because the store was too far away.

                                            2. A chunk of fontina cheese from the deli that was dated "sell by Feb 2010," but I bought it in July 2010. I was so mad about this one because it was expensive! Unfortunately, I discovered this a few days after coming home from the hospital after my DS was born (had bought the cheese just before going into labor), and returning expired cheese was nowhere near one of my priorities at that time...

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: truman

                                              Those are issues that I would call in to the store and remind the manager they are reportable health violations. Get his/her name and ask if you are entitled to a refund/replacement and how that should be handled.

                                              Stores throw away hundreds of pounds of perishables every week so losing a regular customer is far more costly that the value of the item.

                                              1. re: Chefpaulo

                                                Yes, absolutely I should have called - I didn't think of it at the time (either time) though. I have, however, called Dunkin Donuts to tell them there was an ant in the box of donuts we'd just brought home! The manager never called us back...

                                                1. re: truman

                                                  He was probably busy exterminating the place.

                                              2. re: truman

                                                One of the nicest things anyone in a store has ever done for me was the cashier at the health food store that looked at the loaf of bread I was buying late in the evening when I was tired and coming home from work, and told me that the sell-by date was in two days. Then he took the bread away, went in the back and brought me out a loaf they were going to put on shelf for the morning after closing. Especially since little stores are often worse than bigger stores about things like expiration dates.

                                              3. Question- are you required to bring back the offending product in order to receive a refund or credit?

                                                I once bought a package of meat that had gone off before the use-by date, but I found out right before leaving for travel. I called the store, explained my situation, and they said I could come back upon my return with my receipt. I saved the sticker from the meat (with the weight, price per pound, etc) and brought that in with my receipt the following week. The store 'made an exception' in refunding me, but said that their policy was that I needed to bring in the actual meat for return as well. Fortunately, the clerk at customer service said it was a new policy, and since I wasn't told about it on the phone, it wouldn't be a problem this time.

                                                This fortunately isn't an issue often for me, but the idea of having to keep rotted meat around until I can make it back to the grocery store feels a bit unsavory. There's probably a reason that's better than 'needing to make sure the customer is telling the truth'.....?

                                                8 Replies
                                                1. re: 4Snisl

                                                  It depends, at TJs they routinely accept things without the product. I have taken pictures or even just called and the manager told me to toss it and just bring in my receipt.

                                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                    Yes! I don't live close to a Trader Joe's at all (closest ones are 2-3 hours away) so I feel confident that I can shop there and not get stuck paying for things that aren't up to par.

                                                    In fact, I think the only time I ever returned something there was when I found mold in the center of a cherry tomato package. Called the store, and they said to return with my receipt to ANY TJ for a return, even if it's months later. They were just glad to have the information so they could track back to a batch that may have been improperly processed/transported/stored. And sure enough, the manager at a different store, weeks later, barely even glanced at my receipt before asking if I wanted credit for my shopping trip or a cash refund.

                                                    1. re: 4Snisl

                                                      Absolutely, their return policy is great and have returned many things mostly rotten produce but also other items that were just off.

                                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                        TJ's actually encourages customers to try new products even though they may have doubts about liking them. This is with the clear understanding that if the customer doesn't like the product, it may be returned with no question asked!

                                                        1. re: josephnl

                                                          I thought this policy was odd when I first started shopping there. But alas, months later I seem to spend a larger proportion of my grocery budget there every week with only occasional returns so they are clearly getting more business from me.

                                                          1. re: josephnl


                                                            That's my local TJ's policy.

                                                            I can't in good concious eat something and refund it for full refund unless a fresh product that has gone bad or rancid when purchased , but I will give them an earfull on packaged foodstuffs that suck.

                                                            That the price of admission to shop at TJ's.

                                                            But they know me at the "bitch desk." Oh yea, they know me. Well.

                                                            GIGO in tech terms for some of what they sell.

                                                            They are pretty good at taking note.

                                                    2. re: 4Snisl

                                                      I always throw spoiled meat into the freezer, and take it back when I can.

                                                    3. A fresh Thanksgiving turkey purchased 4 days before Thanksgiving that, upon opening early that morning, was bad. Like not just bad - BAD. I ended up sending my Mom to my stepbrother's around the corner from her and my sister and BIL went to his family's house. I had also caught a head cold overnight, so wasn't in the mood for jury-rigging anything for Thanksgiving dinner. (And you *know* the turkey was bad if I could smell it with a stuffed up head!)

                                                      Returned it to my (then) local Stop & Shop the next morning, and got attitude from the customer service person. Attitude was such that she implied I was lying about the spoiled turkey. I had brought it back with me and held up the bag and said "Do you want to smell how bad it is?" and she just looked at me and handed me the money. I left the turkey on the counter, walked out, got in the car, and said "Nope. Not putting up with that." Walked back in, asked for the store manager, and when she came up to me, I told her about the attitude I had gotten. She apologized for both that and the spoiled turkey. A $20 GC was given to me (which I refused, as that wasn't the reason I was there) but she implored me to take it.

                                                      I used the GC for vegetables and staples, but haven't purchased meat at S&S since then. And since I moved 3 years ago, haven't had a S&S near me, so no need to shop there anymore.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                        Quick story about S&S ... It turned me off when I noticed that the DELI workers were using the butcher's band saw to cut up cheese wheels.

                                                        That is just wrong on so many levels.

                                                        1. re: Cheese Boy

                                                          Even my dumpy little grocery has dedicated cheese slicers in the deli, not sure if it's common all over though?

                                                        2. re: LindaWhit

                                                          Good for you. Linda. I used to be a mealy mouth but several years ago I had an attitude change about people rolling over me. She needed to be reported.

                                                        3. In general, does anyone know if unopened non-refrigerator or freezer items like jars and cans are reshelved?

                                                          13 Replies
                                                          1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                            To my knowledge, yes, unless there appears to be compromised quality to the item (e.g. the can is bulging, the jar is cracked, the item is past expiration/best by/use by date, etc.)

                                                            Near customer service, there may often be a shelf of returned items to restock, but YMMV depending on the store.

                                                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                              Ican say for sure that Publix supermarkets does not. I have returned things that I got for client by mistake and they put a big sticker on it that says "damaged goods, do not return to shelf". Even things like crackers or cereal that were obviously not tampered with get stamped. Now I am super careful when I shop there. I hate to see food go to waste. Otherwise, I am unsure.

                                                              1. re: suzigirl

                                                                That's what I read somewhere so wanted to hear others' experiences.

                                                                1. re: suzigirl

                                                                  Interesting. I just asked at Whole Foods and they have to throw out all returns. I know at TJs they restock unopened sealed non-perishables. Must be store-dependent.

                                                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                    I think it's a waste. All the hungry people out there and they can't donate it to a food bank? So sad. And that is just one more check in the YAY box for TJ's. Now, if I hadn't gotten hit in the parking lot the other day, they would have a bigger YAY.

                                                                    1. re: suzigirl

                                                                      I know! It's fine on the shelf for who knows how long but suddenly unfit for consumption. Sorry to hear about your accident, I got towed at TJs clearly a great store but a risk to drivers :)

                                                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                        Yes, it is. You have to be careful in the parking lot. I never park there. I generally park three doors down and get a beer and a taco and walk over but I skipped the snack and parked in the lot. That won't happen again. And to add insult to injury, the crazy bitch that hit me refused to get out of her car and acknowledge me. She just sat there and texted. Lucky there was no real damage to my ancient (20 yo) old car.

                                                                2. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                  i work for a major food manufacturer so i under the law here very well

                                                                  Some stores may bring returned product back to the shelf, but if they do they risk MASSIVE fines. This is an FDA rule. From a chain of custody perspective, even if something appears to not be damaged, it must be destroyed.

                                                                  In fact, even if a case of food from the distribution center is accidently opened, law says it must be returned/destroyed to the manufacturer.

                                                                  1. re: DukeFan

                                                                    Is this so for unopened canned goods? I can't imagine why they can't be reshelved and sold.

                                                                    1. re: josephnl

                                                                      I think so. It's the fact that they can't know exactly where that can has been.

                                                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                        exactly. if a consumer ever got sick and you could prove that this may have been a returned item. The sick person would end up owning the grocery stores after all the lawsuits were done.

                                                                        1. re: DukeFan

                                                                          It's like criminal law chain of custody evidence sort of thing. So they can still donate this food though?

                                                                3. I just started returning fruit that isn't sweet or juicy. Mealy peaches & apples, dried up oranges & clementines pears that never ripen, I'M SICK OF IT! They should taste the fruit before they put it on the shelf and if's sub standard send it back to their suppliers!

                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                  1. re: zackly

                                                                    You return fruit? I can see if it's mealy or dry, maybe but if it's just not sweet? Do they refund you?

                                                                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                      Yes, I'm starting a revolution! After years of throwing away fruit that looks good but is not up to my standards for sweetness I'm bringing everything back. The last straw was @ Christmas when I bought a wonderful box of clementines then the next week bought two more as gifts. It was a different brand but somebody should have been tasting these before they offered them for sale.They were bone dry. I've also forgotten what a good strawberry tastes like. Hand fruits are picked so unripe they never reach full flavor and if they refrigerate them incorrectly they go mealy. Melons, grapes, berries & cherries don't ripen after harvest (although melons get soft) so there is no excuse.The receivers should check for sweetness on arrival. Hey, if you got a lousy chicken or a bad piece of fish wouldn't you return it? People have very low expectations for fruit it seems. So I urge everyone to join my revolution and just say NO to lousy fruit!!!!

                                                                      1. re: zackly

                                                                        I applaud you in your efforts!

                                                                        I am lazy. If I get a bad fruit or an insipid vegetable or whatnot I toss it (I would love to say I compost it, but since my home remodel my backyard is still a disaster. And compost heap free....)

                                                                        I have to ask, do you grocery shop every day?

                                                                        Because for me a trip to the market is a 1-2X per week event. I cannot imagine keeping the "rejects" around all that long.

                                                                        1. re: pedalfaster

                                                                          Yes, I'm retired and I do shop frequently. If I'm returning something I do so immediately so they can re-sell to another sucker if they choose to do so which I'm sure they do.From the reactions of the customer service people & the produce guys they page this is an unusual request.As I continue to do it I may be challenged but I'm resolute. I will not pay for crap!

                                                                  2. Recently, a bag of mushy, haas avocados SO bought. They gave me my money back.

                                                                    Luckily I don't have to return items very often.

                                                                    1. I just love the people who return a 3/4 eaten bag of potato chips saying they were stale. Store has nothing to lose giving credit then sticking vendor with giving the store credit.

                                                                      This practice is one of the reasons for sky rocketing food costs.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                        1. I absolutely have. There are two scenarios where I will return food:
                                                                          1. It goes bad well before the expiration date.
                                                                          2. In the case where there is a "like it or get your money back guarantee" and I don't like it.