I, like many in the retail industry, was pretty skeptical about Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s new no-questions-asked approach to its fresh produce guarantee.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based company launched the campaign back in June pledging to improve fresh produce execution in stores and offering a 100% money-back guarantee for fresh produce.

Wal-Mart already had a guarantee for its fresh produce. Many retailers already guarantee produce purchases (and some, like Sam’s Club, even offer double your money back).

The kicker for me was when Jack Sinclair, executive vice president of food business, said you don’t even have to bring back the produce to get a refund.

This is huge for me. I regularly use Costco’s no-questions-asked policy when I get home and find that hidden moldy berry or drippy tomato in my club store pack. It happens. I understand. But I, like many, hate dragging rotten produce around with me until I get the time to make a second trip to the store.

Many times I just chuck the whole thing and forget about it, which would probably make my ultra thrifty mother cringe. She once put a rotten chicken (she had just bought it, and it was not expired) in a bucket and took it back for a refund.

So when I picked up a 10-pound bag of potatoes on a Saturday and discovered a rotten one on a Sunday, I decided to test the guarantee on a Monday.

Because I had a theory of how this was going to work out, I brought the bag with me, and left it on the front seat of my car. (The aroma that greeted me upon my return reminded me this was a poor decision.)

I went in, receipt in hand, and asked for my refund.

The kind lady at customer service asked me if I had the potatoes in question. I said, “Not with me, no.” I said the new policy was supposed to be that I didn’t have to bring them in.

She brought over a customer service manager, who confirmed that I had to bring in the offending potatoes. They don’t do refunds if you don’t bring in the unused portion of product because too many people abuse the policy, they said.

So I went out and got the potatoes and got my refund. I did show them the policy on my phone, from walmartfacts.com, which clearly states: “If customers are not completely satisfied with Walmart’s produce, they can bring back their receipt for a full refund. No questions asked, and no need to bring back the produce.”

The manager asked me when that was from, and I said just a few months ago, and she said she hadn’t heard of this policy.

Clearly, the new policies haven’t made their way down to the local stores just yet.

I’ve dogged this Wal-Mart location before. They had a pitiful display of SweeTango apples a few years back, and this most recent visit wasn’t much better. I wanted some of Naturipe’s Berry Quik Snacks and couldn’t find any that weren’t out of date and moldy.

The bag of potatoes in question was the third I picked up because the other two were moldy, and I picked up some peaches and had to toss one back because someone had taken a bite out of it.

I hope this means that Wal-Mart’s Fresh-Over hasn’t hit my store yet because, if it has, I don’t think it’s going to do much to improve produce execution on the whole.


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