Grocery store customer loyalty programs are popular. While regular customers typically keep their loyalty program "mini-card" on their keychains, many grocery stores entice new customers (or, those who forgot to bring their card) with instant savings in exchange for a phone number or email address. Earning customer loyalty can mean the difference between surviving and thriving, and accommodating customers' needs is all a part of that marketing strategy. Accommodating the customer can range from notifying you when an out-of-stock item hits the shelves again or permitting you to return a grocery item that's inedible.
Grocery Store Returns
Return policies vary among grocery stores, though there might be exceptions based on the item returned and how long you wait to return it. Stores that publish their return policy don't exclude produce or perishables – it's just as important for grocery stores to sell quality produce and perishables as it is paper goods and packaged condiments.
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For example, Kroger accepts returns within 30 days of purchase, with or without a receipt or electronic record of the purchase. Even without a receipt, Kroger will give you cash back for items under $10, and if the item you purchased is more than $10, the store will give you a merchandise gift card in exchange for your signature. The only item that Kroger will not give cash back for is baby formula purchased with a WIC card. (A WIC card is part of a state-administered, federal public assistance program designed to help women, infants and children get necessary nourishment they cannot afford on their own). This exception is due to federal guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Whole Foods Market, on the other hand, accepts returns up to 90 days after purchase, but the grocer requires a receipt for all returns. There are several exceptions, however, although none of those exceptions are for fresh produce or a single piece of fruit. Alcoholic beverages may be returned, but the store's return process must adhere to state and local rules about alcohol purchases, and the items must be returned at the same store where you bought the wine or beer. Aside from alcoholic beverages and items purchased with a WIC card, Whole Foods Market doesn't prohibit returns on other categories of grocery items, including produce and perishables.
Yucky Peaches Are No Exception
Shoppers might consider some grocery items – like a yucky peach – nonreturnable because it might be difficult to prove that the peach didn't get bruised or otherwise damaged by your own doing. That shouldn't matter, especially if you have a receipt. For instance, you buy a bag of peaches and once you're home unpacking groceries, you notice that a single peach is overripe or otherwise not suitable for consumption. Take it back to the store. If you absolutely need the peach for a recipe, return it to the store with the receipt so you can show that the item was already damaged when you purchased it and you simply didn't notice. Even if the time and effort outweigh the money you get back for the bad purchase, ignore the grocery clerk's possible reaction that can make you feel like the trip back to the store is one you needn't have made. Think of it as your obligation to return a yucky peach (or, any other single item of fresh produce).
Grocery Items Returns Improve Quality
Grocery stores known for poor-quality foods are the least successful. The profit margin in the grocery business is "razor-thin," according to an August 2019 Payments Journal article; therefore, a grocery store needs an effective marketing strategy, high-quality products (and produce) and excellent customer service to be best in class. When you return a rotten or overripe peach, tell the manager the quality of food you believe will keep you coming back to that store. The wise grocer will take those comments and eventual compliments and use them to improve food quality and customer loyalty.
- ShopFood.com: Do Grocery Stores Restock Returned Items?
- Cooking Light: 5 Supermarkets Share the Secret Store Policies You Should Be Taking Advantage Of
- Kroger: Kroger Co. Family of Stores Company Return Policy
- WICStrong: All About WIC
- First Quarter Finance: Safeway Return Policy Explained: Without Receipt, Time Limit, etc
- Whole Foods Market: Whole Foods Market Return Policy
- Payments Journal: Profit Margins for Grocery Stores Are Razor Thin, but Not for Private Label Products