Shoppers baffled by mum’s ‘foul meat’
This has to be a shopper’s worst nightmare: You spend 30 minutes walking around a grocery store, grabbing bargains here and there to plan your meals methodically for the week.
But once you get home, something in your stash turns out to be spoiled or off.
An Adelaide mum experienced this and asked a bargain hunter forum whether she could return her spoiled meat, even though she had cooked it.
The simple question sparked an intense online debate about the return policies across major Australian supermarkets for spoiled food.
Pastry cook JC Ballis told news.com.au she purchased three packets of Coles lamb schnitzel, coated in a buckwheat crumb, on sale for $2.45 each on Sunday for her family’s dinner.
Always on the hunt for a mark down, JC said she was excited to cook up the dish for her family that evening.
According to JC, she couldn’t initially smell the meat was off, as it was crumbed and wrapped in a tray.
“I cooked them in the oven, as per the directions on the box, but none of us could eat it,” she said.
“I could smell it as soon as I pulled it out of the oven that it wasn’t right.”
JC said the family was so disappointed their dinner had been ruined, she had to buy chicken from a shop down the road, turning her $7 meal into a $22 endeavour.
Asking for help from the bargain Facebook group, JC warned it “doesn’t pay to buy reduced items even when cooked the same day”.
The question received a flood of responses from people in two minds about the return policy at major supermarkets.
Most people told JC to contact Coles and “let them know it was off”.
“It’s illegal to sell food that is off, and if you have the docket that’s even better. It has nothing to do with the meat being close to the use-by date,” one person said.
But others weren’t sure JC would get her money back.
“As a marked down product with a same day expiry date, you may struggle to get a refund, it will depend on the person issuing the refund,” one person wrote.
Another person, who works as a sales assistant in a supermarket, told the group it was “always handy to have a receipt or barcode” as it made the staff’s jobs easier.
“We sometimes require packaging because people just go through the bins and get receipts to get money back for things that they never bought,” the person said.
So what are the rules for returning food to major Aussie supermarket chains?
A Coles spokesman said unsatisfied customers were encouraged to bring their purchase packaging back for a full refund or replacement.
For meat or fresh produce, even if it has been cooked or eaten, all the store needs is the packaging it was purchased in.
“Coles has a try it, love it or your money back guarantee on all Coles brand products,” the spokesman said.
“Customers can return either the empty packaging or their receipt to their local store for a full refund or replacement.”
The hitch is the refund only applies to Coles brand food — which includes meat, fruit and vegetables.
The spokesman said Coles could offer refunds and replacements for other brands (above $5), but the shopper must present a receipt.
If the shopper doesn’t have their receipt, Coles can still help.
“They can contact Coles Customer Care and we can assist in locating a copy,” the spokesman said.
A Woolworths spokeswoman said everything in store, except gift cards, was covered by their returns policy.
All a shopper needs is a proof of purchase.
“If the product you buy from Woolworths is faulty, or if you are not satisfied with it, then we will refund the purchase price, exchange or repair the product,” a statement read.
According to the statement, anything worth less than $30 can be exchanged, refunded in cash or repaired.
One woman recalled purchasing three chicken breasts from the low-cost supermarket that turned blue as she cooked them.
“I took them and the other three packs I bought at the same time and got a refund the next day,” she said.
The supermarket chain’s website says “it’s OK to change your mind”.
“We will immediately refund or replace any grocery item you are not entirely satisfied with,” a statement said.
“All you need is to provide your original receipt.”
News.com.au has contacted Aldi for comment.
As the supermarket chain is comprised of hundreds of independent franchises, an IGA spokeswoman told news.com.au there was no blanket returns policy.
As such, each IGA store will have their own returns regulations.
Most stores, however, require the shopper to produce a receipt in order to claim a refund on their purchase.