Safeway Tries To Sell You Meat Substitute That Expired 37 Days Ago

Reader Daniel wrote to tell us about his potentially unsafe purchase from a Safeway store in Daly City, California. When Daniel arrived at the checkout counter, he quickly checked the expiration dates on his Yves vegetarian sandwich meat only to discover that one of the packages had expired April 18th, 37 days ago, while the others had expired 4 days ago. He even took a hostage-style photograph with the expired product next to a stack of current day newspapers to help substantiate his claim. We would expect that when confronted with this information that a Safeway employee would promptly be instructed to scour the shelves as to prevent other hapless shoppers from buying the expired imitation meat, but apparently we expect too much. Daniel’s letter and photos, inside…

Dear Consumerist,

I’ve become an addict of the site lately, so when I had an experience today that seemed ripped from your headlines, I had to share.

As a recent vegetarian, I’ve taken a liking to Yves vegetarian meat-substitute slices, which I’ve been purchasing at my neighborhood Safeway at Westlake Mall in Daly City, California. The only thing I don’t love about them is that if I take a break from eating sandwiches for a week, I often return to them to find they’ve gone bad, even if the package is unopened. So knowing that they have a rather short shelf-life, I thought today to check the expiration date before putting the product in my cart. Imagine my surprise when I found the package in my hand had expired over a month ago–18 April ’08! I remarked about it to my family, and nearby customers were also disgusted. A quick rifling through the rest yielded four more expired packages, all dated May 21. Keep in mind that these dates say “Use by” and not “Sell by,” so it’s fair to expect at least a week or two of “usability” after you buy it before it expires.

I went to the front of the store, waited for ten minutes at the “Customer service” counter and asked for a manager. At a nearby checkstand, some kind of assistant manager answered their page, saying that “Christopher” was on break, and asked what she could do to help. I showed her the expired fake meat and expressed my displeasure, noting that the non-expired portion of product on the same shelf had expiration dates as late as mid-July, meaning that this food by my calculation had probably been on the shelf since late February, and obviously no one had checked the dates since April 18 at the earliest. She sympathized with me and apologized, but did not hint at offering me any compensation for almost selling me food that was without a doubt unfit for consumption, nor for doing the store employees’ job for free by finding all the expired packages for them. She did promise, at my request, to speak to the person responsible for checking the dates in that area.

Upon checkout I used the same checkstand with the manager-type to see if she would address the issue properly and she asked me if I’d selected any of the same product, because she wanted to give it to me for free. I did in fact, so I received my one package of “bologna” for free.

In addition to this Safeway’s constant ineptitude at keeping even the simplest products in stock (such as green onions), finding so much expired food so easily seems to tell me that I should probably stay away from this store as much as I can, despite it being so conveniently located. Even though I’ve been shopping at Safeway stores as long as I’ve been shopping, I think this might motivate me to check out their only supermarket competition in this town, Lucky. I’m certainly going to try to do as much of my shopping as I can at the also-nearby Trader Joe’s, which has never disappointed me, and whose staff are always plentiful, alert and helpful.

I’m not sure what kind of response it would have taken to completely satisfy me and make me happy to return to their store after what I just saw, but the $2.99 discount didn’t exactly cure my blues 100%. Maybe having the manager send someone immediately to check that whole shelf while I observed, and a 10% off certificate for my whole order that day would have told me they really cared. And it would only have cost them $10 since my total was $100. But hey, I’m not telling them how to run their store, I’m just telling my fellow readers how they do run it so you can make your grocery decisions accordingly.

Thanks for helping me share my story,

-Daniel

Daniel’s story illustrates the importance of checking food expiration dates since grocery stores often lose track of their expired inventory. These dates can play a larger role in imitation meat products because unlike real meat, these types of products often don’t change color or produce any strange smell after the “use by” date. According to the USDA, a “use by” date is a date established by the manufacturer that guarantees the product is at peak quality, therefore some products that have expired can be usable for a few days after if stored properly under 40F. Could someone safely consume 1-month-expired imitation meat? Unfortunately, we couldn’t find anyone to volunteer for that test.

Food Product Dating [USDA]

Comments

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  1. SonicMan says:

    So, they said they would speak to the one responsibe, and they gave you some of the non expired for free. But that is not good enough?

  2. shockwaver says:

    At a Safeway here in Canada, I’ve noticed the imitation meat often expires. I’ve had it on more then one occasion that I’ve picked it up to look at it, and the inside of the package has been covered in mold…

    I’ve also found that their shallots are usually moldy as well.. the other produce and what not is always really good.. but shallots? All of them have been rotten for the last 2 months.

  3. Youthier says:

    So… he got free faux meat but feels he should be compensated more?

    This stuff happens, it’s not necessarily a conspiracy. I’ve seen it happen at a variety of stores… once at Target with expired yogurt (the manager was horrified and immediately pulled it from the shelves herself) and once at Meijers, when I purchased out of date ranch dressing and brought it back for a direct exchange.

    This all seems a little over the top. I think Safeway responded fairly.

  4. LAGirl says:

    i always, always, ALWAYS check the expiration date of any products i buy, regardless of where i purchase them. if it’s about to expire? won’t buy it. i like to give myself some ‘wiggle’ room with the dates. especially with dairy products.

  5. dragonvpm says:

    @SonicMan: I suspect the problem is that she didn’t respond in a suitably surprised, prompt, and concerned manner (i.e. she didn’t immediately call someone over to go check/remove the expired products).

    Instead she took a more relaxed approach (as if this wasn’t the first time it happened) that may have come across as either lazy, or worse yet, lip service that wasn’t going to lead to any of the expired food being disposed of.

  6. BoomerFive says:

    Maybe have the manager check out the shelf while you observed? Just who the hell do you think you are, The vegan police? And you want 10% off your whole cart for telling them about it? Get a life man. You got more than can reasonably be expected for what happened.

  7. Youthier says:

    @dragonvpm: Instead she took a more relaxed approach (as if this wasn’t the first time it happened)

    Fair point but let’s be real – it’s not the first time. Probably not even the first time that day that something expired was found on the shelf.

  8. loganmo says:

    Next time, just eat a handful of Bacos!

  9. katylostherart says:

    so he didn’t actually purchase anything when he found the problem but was still given something for free and was told that the person who did the stocking was going to be talked to. but that’s not enough?

    ok the melodrama victimhood is a bit annoying. problem? yes problem solved? yes. whiney customer? yes.

  10. katylostherart says:

    @Youthier: this isn’t the first time in the history of grocery stores that something expired was found on the shelf. there’s hundreds of thousands of individual food items on the shelf. not only was this not fresh food (ie deli) but it was probably something very rarely purchased. when restocking happens grocery stores have to basically take everything off the shelf to put new product in and move all the current shelved product to the front. deliveries for produce and bread only come on certain days but anything in a can or box comes in huge bulk pallets and are often good for months from receipt.

    indignation at this type of mistake is just overboard.

  11. captadam says:

    So, somebody screwed up and left expired product on the shelf. This stuff probably doesn’t sell very well, so it was probably overlooked. Definitely not the end of the world. Did this guy think he should have to lead an employee back to the fake-meat case, stand by as the employee checks each product, and then lead that employee back to the dumpster to make sure it’s disposed of?

    I have, in the past, seen expired products on the shelf. In most cases, I’ve informed an employee and received a thank you. I then let them take care of it from there. It’s not my position to tell them how to do their jobs.

  12. sleze69 says:

    I just don’t understand why vegetarians don’t eat meat but will still buy fake meat. There are plenty of vegetables, pastas, and fruits.

    If you want meat, eat meat.

    That said, this Safeway seems to be run by incompetants.

  13. cronomorph says:

    10% off your whole order? No one told you to hunt down all the expired faux meat product and do the employee’s job for them.

    One free is just compensation. I would have happily taken my freebie and gone on my way giving myself a pat on the back for saving other shoppers from accidentally buying expired junk.

    Personally in my shopping I’ve never run into anything expired upon purchase, but I remember once when I was home from college over the summer and my mom had bought some Jack Links jerky for me in single serve foil packages. I took one of them into my room where I was watching a movie. It wad dark when I opened the package and put the first piece in my mouth. It tasted funky, so I swallowed the piece I was eating and went into the living room to tell mom to not buy that flavor again. As I was walking I looked into the package, and ever single piece was covered in mold.

    I figured I was gonna either get sick from them or be really healthy, having taken some unprepared penicillin.

  14. coan_net says:

    If I see something expired on a store shelf (and you can almost always find something in almost every store), I’m happy to turn it in and let them know – and happy to know that I possible helped someone from buying that expired product…… I never thought I deserved a reward for being helpful.

  15. gamabunta says:

    “She sympathized with me and apologized, but did not hint at offering me any compensation….”

    I hate it when trolls attack people for being stupid/lazy/etc.. but it really sounds like you’re overreacting over an relatively small mistake. Food expires and people that work at grocery stores are usually high school dropouts or college students so don’t keep your expectations high.

    If it really bothered you then you should have reported it to the health department and purchased your food elsewhere but instead it sounds like you wanted something for nothing. After all, you didn’t buy the meat. Last time I checked Safeway wasn’t precrime.

  16. Jesse says:

    Looking at the fact that there was so much product that was out of code, it was probably an item nobody ever buys in the first place.

    On the store’s side, it’s a rotation issue. Either they aren’t spot checking codes or new product is getting put in front, which pushes older product in back to be purchased later (opposite of what should happen). When I used to work in the dairy department at a grocery store, it was common for this to happen. Either the person was lazy or didn’t know any better. It happens.

    At least someone caught it. However, it’s not that big of a deal.

    Judging by the two page story the consumer wrote, the whole thing’s probably blown out of proportion.

  17. witeowl says:

    I’m sorry, but this seems like a lot of overreaction. I check expiration dates religiously. Sometimes I find something expired and peacefully bring it up to an employee so they can dispose of it. I don’t expect compensation, nor do I expect a huge apology. Mistakes happen and I’m just being a good citizen. (What happened to that concept, anyway?)

    The store where I should have gone back and thrown a fit is the frozen meat product which made me sick. The only explanation is that it was left on a shelf, defrosted, gone bad, found, and stuck back in the freezer. That is unacceptable.

  18. captadam says:

    @sleze69: Well, he said he was a recent vegetarian, so buying fake meat gives you something with taste and texture resembling meat, without the whole flesh of dead animals thing. It allows for a transition. Or maybe some people just like the stuff. But, I agree; something isn’t inherently good just because it’s made from plant products. Fake meat is heavily processed.

  19. Kevino says:

    Wow, 10% off? Why? Just look at the date when you pick it up maybe? Pretentious? This happens often and you probably eat a lot of the food not knowing that it had expired.

    The major issue here though is fake meat, why? We have canines in our mouth for a reason, to eat meat. Also, we owe our existence to meat proteins. So why the devolution?

  20. bohemian says:

    Our local grocery chain could care less about having expired product on the shelf and have said as much. They will leave things on the shelves in the hopes that someone will still buy it rather than toss it.

    I check the date on everything.

  21. l951b951 says:

    I just don’t understand why this customer was due any compensation. He found expired product and brought it to management’s attention. Good job. But why is anything owed to him? He suffered, at most, the inconvenience of having to walk back to the shelf to pick up replacement product.

    If he really feels that there’s a problem with their stocking process, he should stop shopping there. The comment that they should have given 10% off his total (unexpired) order is ridiculous.

  22. ThinkerTDM says:

    Dear folks at Safeway;
    You NEED to give me more fake meat for free.

    When I go anywhere, I start on the assumption that the people who work there are lazy, unmotivated, or just plain stupid. Unfortunately, I am right most of the time, but I am not caught unawares. And hey, if I’m wrong, then its a pleasant surprise.
    It’s a sad world when the girl checking out is also texting on her cell phone, and the “managers” (who are teenagers themselves) are gossiping at the service desk.

  23. legotech says:

    I guarantee that most of the people that work in a grocery store do not have your best interest at heart. Stocking grocery shelves is a mind numbing, soul sucking job…no matter how much pride you take in the work your manager is still pissed off at the world because they are little more than stock clerks with a better paycheck and I am pretty sure that no one in that store goes out of their way to check anything that isn’t out of stock or nearly so…find a store where more vegetarians shop and the turnover on that stuff is better…it’s your only chance of getting safer food.

  24. gamabunta says:

    @legotech: Agree with you 100% It’s all about the stores bottom line as far as corporate is concerned.

  25. laserjobs says:

    Safeway is a consignment store. They hire people to stock the shelves unless they have a delivery person who does it (bread, soda, etc). The supplier only gets paid after the product is sold. Do the employees give a crap? Would you if you worked at a consignment store?

  26. cmdrsass says:

    I run into this problem from time to time as well. Although many vegetarian items have a long shelf life, the Yves imitation meat does not move as quickly as other items in the vegetarian section. I learned long ago to check the dates. Another thing to remember is that the veggie deli slices almost always have a current coupon, so never pay full price.

  27. HIV 2 Elway says:

    @sleze69: Amen. They preach healthy eating and living and then fill their guts with the most overly processed fake shit sold. If yo’re going to go vegan or vegitarian, go the extra step and go organic.

  28. spinachdip says:

    @sleze69: Some of the fake sausage out there is really, really good, and I love meat (nullus, as they say).

    As someone already mentioned, a recent vegetarian convert might want the texture. Also, it’s hard to find as efficient a protein source as meat, so if you want the protein without the fat or overeating, a meat substitute is a good option.

  29. Floobtronics says:

    Near our home in NJ, Safeway is Genuardi’s, a formerly well-respected grocery chain. Since taking the wheel, over the years, Safeway has driven the chain into the toilet.

    My last 4 trips to our local Genuardi’s was to grab a loaf of bread and a jug of milk. On 3 out of the 4 occasions, they didn’t have any skim milk at all, let alone the organic skim we prefer to give our kids. On 2 of the 4 trips, the bread aisle was nearly picked clean, aside from hot dog rolls and some random 79-grain bread that looks like it’s made with sand, and Wonder bread. Voicing concern to the person wearing the “Person in Charge” badge (and no, I’m not making that up — it really says that) was met with blank stares and shrugged shoulders. I got an apology that amounted to, “Sorry we were out of milk.” What grocery store runs out of MILK?????

    I don’t even bother with them any longer for the quick “I need this 1 thing right now” trips. I go to the Shop Rite that’s about the same distance, but less convenient to drive to because of road topology. Shop Rite has yet to fail me in this capacity.

  30. Nogard13 says:

    I think the problem is the way Safeway employees restock the inventory. When I worked in retail, we were always instructed to put the new inventory BEHIND the old. That way, the older inventory gets purchased first and we can usually prevent things like this from happening. We were also told to inspect the dates on the packages when we restocked and to make sure they were in order, starting with the earliest expiration date up front (and to remove expired items). Of course, this was 15 years ago.

    Since then, tho, I tend to reach as far back as possible to get refrigerated/frozen items. Not only is it the coldest part of the fridge/freezer, where the meat/vegetables/product tends to keep better, but if people do their jobs right, that’s where the freshest product is to be found. However, this isn’t a substitute for checking the expiration date on the package.

  31. whereismyrobot says:

    As an experienced vegetarian from Texas I say, get used to it. You aren’t owed anything because you almost bought an expired item. You are making the rest of us look whiney.

  32. @HIV 2 Elway: Many faux meats are organic, just heavily processed like you said. You just have to weed out the crap and get the good stuff with as few unprocessed ingredients as possible (ie. tempeh rather than faux bacon strips) and in any case, veg or otherwise, prepackaged has nothin’ on old fashioned homemade food but when you have 20 minutes for lunch and feeling real sloppy, we all cave.

    @spinachdip: There is a surpassingly good “scrapple”, vrapple, made locally that is by far better than real scrapple which I used to make when I worked in a meat shop years ago (once you see what goes into scrapple you will never eat it again).

  33. bobosgirl says:

    God, you’re greedy.

  34. Lambasted says:

    Years ago before I started checking expiration dates, I bought some expired food from Safeway. I noticed the date later when I was home. I brought it back to the store to exchange it for a fresh one but the rest of them were expired too. I reported this to the manager yet days later the expired items were still on the shelf. Some managers care, some don’t. Now I always check expiration dates before I put an item into my basket.

  35. Lambasted says:

    @legotech: I second that. The worst offenders are the employees who put refrigerated or frozen items back on the shelves even though the food has been sitting out for a while. Usually these are discarded items at checkouts from customers who decided not to buy it. Instead of calling someone over to put these temperature sensitive items back on the shelf right away, the clerk just tosses it to the side. I’ve seen meat just sitting there happily collecting all the bacteria it can.

  36. Kat@Work says:

    And here’s where you lost me…

    “…but did not hint at offering me any compensation for almost selling me food that was without a doubt unfit for consumption…”

    They almost sold you expired food and you should be compensated? What?!

    Safeway is just like every other grocery store – they pay teenagers who couldn’t care less minimum wage to stock the shelves.

    Get over yourself.

  37. katylostherart says:

    @spinachdip: beans and peanut butter. any legume really.

  38. MissPeacock says:

    I agree that this guy doesn’t deserve any compensation for not buying anything, but it’s quite alarming to me that the expired food sat out there for SO LONG without anyone noticing. Do they not have employees go through the food once a week (at least) or something to throw out the expired items? It’s not like this was one item either; several expired items had been left out, which indicates that somebody isn’t doing his or her job.

  39. Kat@Work says:

    @MissPeacock: Yeah – seems to me the manager should do their job and jump down some employees’ throats.

  40. It doesn’t sound like Safeway’s organizational system is very efficient. They should look into that and fix it.

    The guy didn’t even deserve the free fake meat that he got. I like to live my life by the idea that we’re a community, and as a community we can be expected to point out when something is wrong, not so we can be compensated, but so it can help other members of the community.

    This guy pointed this out, the store pulled the products and now the next person isn’t going to die of whatever you die of when you eat expired fake meat. Yay.

    This is a prime example of a feeling of entitlement. “YOU OWE ME!!” Yes, they do. They owe you a thanks for helping them fix a problem. If you’d bought it and taken it home, they’d owe you a non-expired package of fake meat and possibly a refund for making the trip.

  41. ChuckECheese says:

    @shockwaver: Clearly the shallot manager is deficient!

    This weekend, I found @ my local grocery that nearly all the half-gallons of milk were expired, some by as much as 2 weeks. Nobody is buying half-gallons, because compared to full gallons, they are severely overpriced ($3.79 a gal/$2.99 a half-gal). Quarts are $1.99, and 12 oz (no pints) $1.49. Whatever happened to proportional pricing? This expiration-thing happens at Wal-Mart too, except for their cheapest (store) brand of milk.

  42. gmss0205 says:

    Compensation for finding expired food? Come on. I find expired food from time to time in the supermarket. I tell the manager and they clear them off the shelves. My “compensation” is knowing that I possibly prevented someone else from getting sick. That is all I need. I never ask to get the item for free. This person feels the world owes them. Grow up.

  43. Also, shouldn’t an inventory system automatically inform you of when your products expire? The store should print out lists daily and have people go and pull the products. This should be standard…I mean logically.

  44. backbroken says:

    So, this shopper needs a substitute meat substitute? Might I suggest meat?

  45. katylostherart says:

    @Daniel Alderman: never worked in food service have you? everything has to be dated and all date checks are visual. instituting an electronic system to keep track of an entire grocery store’s worth of product would be less efficient than just having people check the dates while stocking. this goes for restaurants as well. you mark it, put it in order newest in back, oldest in front, and you just check every time you stock, or in the case of restaurants, every time you do prep. as it is, it’s actually perfect. even an inventory system with a database and printouts would still be faulty at the point of human error/laziness. it would just waste more paper.

  46. @katylostherart: Bite me, I spent $100 and that was AFTER the cashier’s response.

    @coan_net: So you do the store’s work for them for free and never expect anything back? You truly are a store’s best friend.

    I didn’t expect a ticker-tape parade. Note how I didn’t ask them for anything. I waited to hear what they would offer and accepted it graciously. I just think people should know that nobody had checked for expired product in over a month. If that’s cool with you, by all means keep shopping at Safeway.

    @ all the vegetarian bashers: You’re pretty funny. For the record, I’ve only been a vegetarian for 9 months or so and I’m used to eating sandwiches. meat substitutes make it easier and there are a lot of tasty options out there. I like them. So I buy them.

  47. @captadam: I didn’t tell them how to do their jobs. I’m just sayin’, that if I were the store management, I would have gone out of my way to prove that I did take that seriously, lest the customer go home figuring that we leave month-expired product on the shelf all the time and think it’s no big deal. See the difference?

    If you walked into McDonald’s and were served a cheeseburger that was a month old, and when you brought it back you just got a response of “oops, here’s a free cheeseburger for your trouble,” I wonder how excited you’d be to go back and eat there?

  48. @gmss0205: ” I never ask to get the item for free.” Neither did I. I didn’t ask for anything. I would have been more impressed by someone doing something about it than any amount of freebies. But I forgot this is Blame-The-Consumerist, right?

    We pay their high prices so they can pay good wages to employees who–don’t do their jobs. And I better shut up and like it. Right?

    They need to do their jobs.

  49. Gopher bond says:

    I’d have told them I’d take it all off their hands and cooked up a huge pot of jumbalaya. Expiration dates are for wimps. You cookthat stuff up long enough and add enough hot sauce and it’ll be ok. You’re like my wife, won’t drink milk one day after the date printed on it. It’s not a black magic spell, just a conservative guess for the lawyers.

  50. @Daniel Alderman: Just pointing out, I pulled the products, not the store. They paid me for my work doing that with a $2.99 discount. I don’t care too much about whether or how much i was compensated.

    They DID OWE their customers in general (not just me) the courtesy of checking to see if I’d found them all. They’d send a clerk to help me find something, at least in a nicer safeway they always do, so why in the hell wouldn’t they send someone to double-check that they weren’t selling tainted merchandise?

  51. chewiemeat says:

    A month? That’s not a big deal. We had a grocery store next door to us where I grew up that had many shelves full of expired food. And by “expired”, I mean from another decade. I mean expiration dates in the 1970s still sitting on the shelves in the 1990s.

  52. @katylostherart:
    I have worked in food service. Restaurant management in my younger days… I just haven’t worked at a grocery store. I agree that if it’s not done correctly a computer aided inventory tracking system is inefficient. But the idea is to do it right, to assume that no one ever will do it right is just pessimistic.

  53. katylostherart says:

    @Daniel Alderman: not that one will ever do it right, but no one will ever do it perfectly. i’m betting the rest of this store wasn’t full of expired food, just one (known) mistake. it’s just as perfect as you can reasonably get. even if it was automated, it’d still be designed at some point by humans and therefore subject to human error.

    @dgp: bite me back :p you didn’t do their job for them, you found an oversight and they responded correctly. if you had bought it, you probably would’ve received a refund and maybe a coupon or store credit, but you didn’t. danger averted. why expect something offered for just being nice? if you’ve never, ever made a mistake in your entire working life and can prove it i’ll mail you a lifetime achievement trophy.

  54. @katylostherart: Thx for the reply. For the record, i only told you to bite me ’cause you said i didn’t buy anything, when i spent $100. I am of course, perfect in every way. I’ll get you that proof as soon as I can ;)

    Also, you have a valid point about the automated system. Even if it’s well-designed, it’ll fail anyway when someone is too lazy to provide a necessary input or carry out an instruction. e.g.:
    – Computer: Product XYZ has expired. Remove from shelf and press OK.
    – Employee: “OK.” (forgets/is too lazy to remove item)

    Robots, however, would excel at this task. Where are our cheap and skillful robots that we were supposed to have by now? :D

  55. Basic inventory handing ASSUMES the idiot pulling the goods pulled the correct (oldest) date.

    Computerized inventory can work, it just requires assigning the item number to the actual dated unit rather than a number to a group of products. A much more involved process for the programmers and the product pullers, hence the reason few companies actually get that minutely involved with inventory management.

  56. katylostherart says:

    @dgp: robots will be our demise…

    i’ve read too much asimov lately.

  57. gmss0205 says:

    @dgp: First off – you are liar. Read your orignal email. You said “and a 10% off certificate for my whole order that day would have told me they really cared.” While you may not have “asked for it,” you certainly were either expecting it or hoping for it. So you were hoping to get something for free. You wanted 10% off. What, 9% wouldn’t have been enough? 11% would have been greedy?

    Trust me, I don’t want to see expired food on supermarket shelves either, but come on, you told a manager that something was expired and you got a good one for FREE. You also wanted 10%? Be happy that you got the product for free. Maybe next time I go food shopping I will fill up a cart with everything that expired the day before and say that I want one of each for free. Or maybe I should wait in the store until the clock strikes 12:01AM, so that I can really nail them for “day old” food.

  58. cashoverass says:

    I love yves bacon.
    also, if you dont understand why someone would want to eat something delecious without the negative side effects of real meat, you are totally retarded. and i am speaking directly to sleze69

  59. jimmydeweasel says:

    Here at Winn Dixie that product is opened, packaging trashed and served up as part of a “Fresh Salad” at the deli counter. When confronted the management just doesn’t care. If the food turned over as fast as the employees…It would be the freshest in town……….

  60. jimv2000 says:

    This happens ALL THE TIME at grocery stores, and it’s sick. I used to work in a grocery store, and employees are SUPPOSED to pull out older products and place new products behind them when stocking shelves or coolers, as well as check the dates on the old stuff to make sure it’s still good. The rule of thumb where I worked was to mark it half-off if it was within 3 days of expiring, and then throw it away after it expired. Unfortunately, most employees were lazy and would shove the new stuff right in front or on top of the old stuff, thus leaving old stock on the shelves for ages. I would regularly find milk and cheese that was anywhere from a few days out of date to months out of date, and once found some canned vegetables that were 2 years old. (SICK!)

    And what really chapped my hide was that I was the one who would get in trouble for the stuff being out of date, when I was the one who pulled it from the shelves.

  61. backbroken says:

    @jimv2000: “And what really chapped my hide was that I was the one who would get in trouble for the stuff being out of date, when I was the one who pulled it from the shelves.”

    Ding ding ding!!! I think I figured out the reason why expired items were left on the shelves.

  62. dandyrandy says:

    Daniel acted like a jerk – wanting to be ‘compensated’ for ‘almost’ buying something?? Jeez, no wonder food prices are skyrocketing.

  63. wjmorris3 says:

    Y’know, I think it ought to be pointed out that some stores have a standing policy that if an expired product is found on the shelves, the customer who found it gets a bounty of $1 (my store happens to do that.) Perhaps if a policy like this existed at Safeway, less expired product would stay on the shelves?

  64. sncreducer says:

    Seriously, DGP, you’re giving people named Daniel (like me) a bad name.

    You acted like an entitled jerk. People called you out on it. Stop trying to pick apart every one of their arguments.

    In case you’re wondering, here’s a handy three-step system for the next time you encounter this issue:

    1) Notice expired food on supermarket shelf.
    2) Notify manager or store employee. (Sub-step: Do not attempt to purchase expired food.)
    3) Walk away and move on with your life.

  65. mariospants says:

    “but did not hint at offering me any compensation for almost selling me food that was without a doubt unfit for consumption” fuck man, if doing that kind of thing were grounds for monetary compensation, I’d be driving a free Porsche by now. Be glad the manager didn’t say “hmmm… looks like nobody’s buying that product. I’d better remove it PERMANENTLY from our stock.” Of course, that might not be the case (possibly the supplier or Safeway system is at fault) but still, caveat emptor.

  66. backbroken says:

    I can’t believe nobody has posted this yet…

    Step 1: Go to Safeway
    Step 2: Find expired pseudo-meat
    Step 3: ??????
    Step 4: Profit

  67. gmss0205 says:

    I love this line from his letter – “the $2.99 discount didn’t exactly cure my blues 100%” Hey buddy – sorry that the expired meat that you didn’t buy gave you the “blues.” I think your issues are a little bigger than being upset about fake meat.

    Why can’t people just do the right thing without always expecting to get something in return?

  68. BrianU says:

    I’m looking past the customer’s actions, and the theory that with so many items on shelves and with a usually limited number of stockers, some percentage of outdated items will be on sale. What I do see is that even if you can “idiot proof” a process, there’s still still the human lazy-tired-rushed-angry-you name it factor to contend with. Plus, something happened to the younger grocery employees IMO so that the principle of stock rotation seems like an advanced abstract physics theory to many of them. And for that matter, anything that haven’t heard of but have to do gets them frustrated and confused and seems like someone is just giving them a hard time for no reason. Being that retailers routinely reject smarter applicants, because they won’t stay very long etc. makes even well intentioned hard working employees potentially dangerous around food and medications. Thankfully there are expiration dates on products for the last line of defense – the consumer. I once saw expired breakfast cereal on sale, and the sale signed clearly said why. Probably it was still good, but the wheat and sugar could have been harvested close to a decade beforehand, which isn’t appetizing to me. If a fake meat product loaded with chemical went bad, I’d say that it would have to be really, really bad.

  69. Sanveann says:

    I have to agree with those who’ve pointed out that no compensation really seems to be necessary here. The guy didn’t buy the expired meat, get home and then have to drive back to return it. He didn’t make a big meal with it and then have to toss the whole shebang. He didn’t eat it and get sick. He just picked it up in the store. *Shrug* If I find expired milk on the grocery-store shelf, I don’t expect a 10 percent discount for the trauma of the ordeal.

  70. stezton says:

    Yeah, a month old is pretty nasty but expecting a certain compensation that to me seems high is kind of goofy. I found a package of meat in the meat department that had gotten torn open and the meat had turned color from the air. I just picked it up, walked over to the butcher and showed him. I saw no reason to expect some compensation. I was just doing a nice thing.

  71. Syrus28 says:

    @dgp:

    Well I work at Safeway here in Arizona, and If you’ve ever worked at a grocery store, you know that many, many things are often expired. Happens everywhere, and its not exactly something that should entitle you to 10% discount. Heck, I wouldn’t have even gave you the free one. I would have apologized on behalf of Safeway and moved on.

    Also, we usually don’t throw expired, broken, or damaged goods away unless it molded or something. The store still has to account for that item, and its taken to the back for PRC where we get “credit” for the product. Just because the item is not throw away does not mean it ended back on the shelf.

    Also, is it not possible that the meat department was called, and told to remove it? At our store, we try to keep people at the front of store, particularly when its busy. Im just saying, because a person was not sent to solve the problem ASAP, does not mean it wasn’t solved at all. You see, if us people at the front handled every single problem presented to us ourselves, we wouldn’t even have time to be in the front. That’s what the intercom and other departments, particularly the department with the problem, is for.

  72. witeowl says:

    @Kat@Work:
    “They almost sold you expired food and you should be compensated? What?!”

    Ha! Yeah, I’ll try that next time I successfully swerve to avoid an accident. You almost hit me! Give me money!

  73. redsox says:

    What a joke. A 10% discount on an entire grocery purchase because a couple items are out of date. Grocery stores wouldn’t be around if every single person recieved a 10% discount for everything wrong that happened. How many cartons of eggs have you checked that had cracked or broken eggs? How many cans have you seen dented? How many loaves of bread squished or how many apples are bruised?

    While a grocery store does its best to ensure older items are not on the shelves, its ultimately up to the customer to confirm the dates. Daniel isn’t a complete moron as he checked the dates, but he is completely out of his mind if he thinks he deserves any sort of recognition for his finding. As far as I am concerned, he shouldn’t even have gotten the free item. Take some responsibility for what you buy rather then blaming everything on a grocery store that is just trying to get you in and out as fast as they can.

  74. glycolized says:

    You cannot serialize every single item in an entire supermarket efficiently. There might be 100K+ items in a good-sized store. What is to stop someone from buying the July 22 tube of cookie dough behind the June 18 tube? Unless every you can uniquely identify and inventory every single perishable item in the store, your computer alert idea isn’t really feasible.

    I’m not sure about the ‘consignment’ system that a few have mentioned above, but I have a friend that was a ‘detailer’ for one of the big snack food companies years ago. He went store to store stocking the shelves at the markets (including rotating the stock), not the store employees. The drivers left the product in the back of the store, and the detailer stocked and straightened up the shelves. Maybe a similar system is in place, in which it’s the distributor’s fault in this case.

    I’d like to think that the store manager would have someone quickly cull through those products and pull out the old stock once they were alerted to the problem.

  75. DAK says:

    As much as I hate Safeway, with good reasons for doing so, this is a ridiculous complaint. Some people simply don’t have anything better to do with their lives than find reasons to bitch and moan.

    The Consumerist needs to do a much better job of differentiating between legitimate complaints and whining. Bitchfests like this are why the reputation of the site has fallen so far that it’s hard to take many of the complaints on here seriously.

  76. Anticitizen says:

    Methinks either two situations.

    1. Person bought expired meat, failed to eat it by expiration date, made up a huge story, tried to bring it back to the store, was told no, and made up a bitchfest to try getting free money/product.

    2. Someone brought the meat back previously (Could be due to reason #1), and one of the checkers/booth clerks instructed a courtesy clerk to return it to the shelf without knowing what was wrong with it.

    #1 happens all the time at the Safeway I work at. #2 is few and far in between because usually we keep tabs on those things.

    But referring to the OP, if it isn’t scenario #1, and the manager of your store doesn’t take, then take it to corporate. Safeway does care about it’s customers, and it sounds like that store may just be flying rogue.

    Also, let’s remember, it could be a vendor screwup as well. I’ve seen that all too many times.

  77. Teapotfox says:

    Having done my time in (non-grocery) retail, I have to say the smug attitude of entitlement from some shoppers will forever leave a bad taste in my mouth. When did shopping (for anything) become a treasure hunt for simple mistakes made by the imperfect human beings who work there? It’s as though some people feel there is an eternal sweepstakes going on in every store, everywhere… find the error and get a prize! I really feel like some people try to find minor problems simply so they can demand something for free in return. I’ve even had customers brazen enough to lay it out in exactly those terms–“I feel I deserve something for free because I pointed out that x was wrong with y,” never mind that the “helpful” person in question was in no way inconvenienced.

    Yes, when a customer is truly inconvenienced (actually -buys- a faulty or expired product, etc…), the store management should make it right. In this case, I think Safeway handled this in an acceptable manner–the customer received an apology, a promise that the issue would be addressed with the responsible employee(s) and free food, to boot. To demand more is simply greedy.

  78. @sncreducer: I love how you guys’ solution (us doing all the date checking for them and being glad for the opportunity to help out) allows the stores to completely stop bothering to check their own shelves! Why bother to hire any employees to do that job?

    I would like to shop in a store where I can expect the food to be not expired. What you people keep saying–“STFU and just tell them about it, the store shouldn’t be penalized for screwing up” is fine when you look at it from the “finder’s” POV–sure, since I didn’t eat this food I wasn’t harmed and don’t need any real compensation. But when you look at that as a store policy, that means the store has zero incentive to avoid this happening, and in fact has a big incentive to never check the shelves. It’d be like punishing theft by making the thief give it back. That would encourage thieves to steal as much as they can, even if they get caught–and your suggestion encourages Safeway to never remove the expired food–(A) some people will buy it unknowingly, more profit, and (B) when someone does check, the store isn’t out anything.

    Compensating the customer isn’t to enrich the customer. It’s to punish the store which gives them incentive to stop screwing up. That’s why I would have liked to see them do it. Hell, if a store wanted to impress me, they could have a policy where if you find expired food they put a donation of $X in a charity bin (or hell, a non-expired unit of food).

    I’m really blown away at how many people got hung up on that one sentence of my letter. Frankly, I wrote it because if I just said “I think the free item doesn’t really solve the problem” people would ask “WELL WHAT EXACTLY WOULD IT TAKE TO PLEASE YOU MR. PICKY.” So I put on a manager hat and said, what would be something they could do that wouldn’t break their bank but would make it look to the customer like they were really really sorry. I didn’t even think up any sort of alternate compensation until i was at home writing the submission. And I take issue with @gmss0205‘s “you were hoping or expecting something and that’s the same as asking for it.” Even if the customer does want to score some great discount, just thinking about it would not make them an entitled asshole or whatever. If you can in fact find a cart full of expired food in your local store, I would urge you to consider trying out the competition. For an update, I stopped by the same store again today, to buy one item they don’t have at Trader Joe’s… it wasn’t expired.

    What’s funny is everyone apparently considers it too much to ask for the food to be unexpired. By the general consensus here, Safeway is better off without me as a customer because I suck so much, right? However TJ’s apparently doesn’t think that I’m asking too much, because they don’t leave expired food on their shelves, and because of that they’ll be getting much more of my business now. Think about how much money one family spends in a year on groceries. Tell me, how exactly is keeping your customers confident in your ability to dispose of expired merchandise a bad business decision?

  79. TheRealAbsurdist says:

    @dgp: I say this in all sincerity, and I hope you accept in the spirit in which it’s offered:

    You really are one whiny, self-righteous little bitch.

  80. Anri says:

    I don’t understand all of the random veggie hate. Yes, this person’s complaint was rather annoying, but not because of the vegetarian aspect. So why all of the stereotypes and rude responses?

    There are plenty of reasons to go vegetarian. My grandfather had to give up red meat and real cheese for health reasons, so he eats the substitutes. Are they full of nasty processed stuff? Yeah, but they’re a lot lower in fat/cholesterol which is what his doctor cares more about.

    I am vegetarian for religious reasons. I am also a college student so I prefer cheap and easy food. Meat substitutes are $3/box at Wal-Mart and almost all of them are microwaveable – much cheaper and easier to make (and tastier) than organic tofu or whatever it is I “should” be eating. Furthermore, meat substitues are a good middle ground for eating with non-vegetarians.

  81. gamaliel says:

    Baloney!

  82. sncreducer says:

    @TheRealAbsurdist:

    Amen.

    @dgp: The incentive to the store is the same as in any other retail field – the fear that you’ll go somewhere else, somewhere that provides the retail experience you desire, including shelves free of expired foods, at a price you find reasonable.

    I certainly haven’t said that I don’t have a problem with expired food being on store shelves. But it’s not something I experience very often, so you’ll forgive me for not considering it a major crisis. If you’re unhappy with that part of the experience, by all means, take your business elsewhere and feel free to inform the manager and the CEO of your reasons for doing so.

    But the “harm” you can demonstrate from this incident is infinitesimal at best. Insisting, as you have repeatedly done here, that the only acceptable response involves bestowing free product on you is childish, selfish, unrealistic and, most importantly – symptomatic of a customer culture that discards all reason at even the slightest perceived offense. There are plenty of companies out there acting in bad faith, and Safeway may certainly be among them. But the amount of indignation you’ve displayed here over a minor incident is pretty far out of whack, IMHO. Look within.

  83. superchou says:

    It really amazes me how people feel they should get something for free in a situation like this and get miffed if they fail to get a financial compensation. It is normal and a good customer practice to check dates on perishables – duh…. as for the produce etc… if they store you are shopping at has poor quality produce then why shop there? To me, fresh, quality produce is a larger indicator of the quality of the rest of the store. But as far as the expiration date thing, things happen… I have found expired stuff on shelves from time to time in a number of shops… you tell the people and be done with it… don’t expect something for nothing.

  84. Jetgirly says:

    I bought some “fresh” packaged juice at a Safeway in Calgary, Alberta, Canada last year. When I got it home and found it tasted off, I noticed that it had expired two weeks earlier. My bad. I called Safeway’s 1-800 number (because the store was closed for the night at that point in time, and I would be leaving the next morning before they opened) and asked if I could return it for a refund. They said yes. I asked if I had to bring back the unused portion, as I was worried about it spilling (at the time I was a university student without a car, and I had to use two busses to get to the grocery store). They said I could pour it out, rinse out the container and bring back the empty container along with the receipt. So, the next day I took it back. At first, the store refused to refund my money because I hadn’t returned the unused portion. I told them that I had called customer service and they told me that was unnecessary. The people working in the store told me that I shouldn’t believe what the people on the 1-800 number say. Okaaay. Anyways, they agreed to refund me for the juice. I thought I would buy some more, so I went back to the juice fridge and saw that EVERY SINGLE CONTAINER of fresh juice had been expired for the past two to four weeks. Eeeew! On my way out of the store I told the person who had “helped” me at Customer Service that the juice was ALL expired. They were totally blank-faced and just said, “We’ll look into it.” The NEXT next day I went back, just out of curiousity, and found all of the expired juice was still on the shelf. They truly didn’t care. (And if you’re wondering why I went to Safeway three days in a row, it’s for two reasons: their apple muffins with caramel filling, and the fact that I had to pass it every day when I walked from my practicum to the bus stop.)

  85. gmss0205 says:

    Nobody is arguing that supermarkets should do a better job making sure that expired foods aren’t on the shelf. If you took even a minute to read what everyone here is saying it is that you had no right to expect a 10% discount. One thing has nothing to do with the other. You are selfish and have a warped sense of entitlement. Was it not enough to help out your fellow shopper by getting the food off the shelf? Do you really feel better about the situation by getting something for nothing? As I said before – grow up.

  86. theatrechick says:

    I work in a grocery store Do you have any idea how many different products we have? My store is well respected, but I can promise you every single store has something on the shelf that is expired. We have a rotating system: this week, all stores are supposed to check beans, cereals, butter, and frozen dinners. However, things do come up- say, customers rush in unexpectedly because of a freak storm, or someone is sicks/quits/is fired/gets injured/whatever. And even if I could personally check all the dates every day, there is the customer factor: customers grab the July 22nd instead of the July 6th juice. As a result, I think I have sold all my July 6s, but noooo, customers think the date is gospel, and they can’t deal with the idea that there is a fresher product available.

    Obviously, we do try to catch all coded product when it expires. The problem is that if all the beans are not expiring for two years, should I really check it daily? If we raised our prices enough to check all codes everyday, you wouldn’t shop with us.

    We have had plenty of customers bring us expired product, and I have never seen anything given away for free, the exception being refunds on already purchased products. Now, does all product get removed right away? No. Let’s be honest- if you return something in the middle of a rush, I at the service desk may not be able to talk to the grocery manager, and if I go home before the rush is over, it is unlikely the message will get sent.

    Try not to think of it as “doing our work for us”. After all, we return the favor in other ways to the community and other businesses. I wouldn’t demand something free at your business because I saw something minor like this. Maybe you turn in expired product to me, and tomorrow, I walk past your business and pick up some litter in front of your store. Not every action has to be rewarded.

  87. Smaugster says:

    Daly City? Is’nt that a slum below the Bay? What else did you think you would get there? Of course expireing and /or expired products go to the low income areas. Go to any “Mexican” market here around SoCal, and you will see it prevalent. All the big chains know well what they do. They paid for it, and will get something out of it no matter what the threat to public health.
    It’s YOUR responsibility to look at what you shove in your cart, and instead of complainig, simply DO NOT BUY IT! Idiots!

  88. sodden says:

    @Youthier: the problem is that chances are, lots of this expired stuff has been sold and already eaten by customers that didn’t happen to notice the dates.

    Personally, I don’t want anything free. I do want to be reasonably sure I’m not buying expired foods without worrying that I forgot to check everything.

    It shouldn’t have to come down to the customer to notice expired merchandise on the shelves, EVER. Nor should the customer have to correct the cashier’s POS system because the advertising didn’t match. These are standard things that the store should be checking themselves.

    Just like customers should not have to tell management when the floors need to be polished.

  89. sodden says:

    @theatrechick: It’s not a matter of checking things daily. That stuff expired MONTHS before. There had been new stock added several times since, unless a single stock refill tends to have Use By dates months apart. You’re comparison to checking canned goods is disingenuous.

    Really, I’ve worked retail. You’re supposed to check the existing dates of the stock when you refill it. Don’t simply just add more to the back. This is especially true for items with low shelf lives, such as meat or milk, which has to be refilled and checked multiple times a day.

  90. Anonymous says:

    safeway – rotten organic egg
    Black mold and a milky liquid filled one end of an organic grade a brown egg. This carton of organic eggs certified by “quality assurance international” was purchased 12/24/2008, expired 1/10/2009 and was opened on 1/1/2009.

    I consider this grossly contaminated, unbroken, uncracked egg a major failure of safeway, lucerne foods, inc., and organic certifier processing, inspection, handling and food safety requirements.

    This product from safeway marked with a jan 10 pf 347-p-1686a expiration mark was a major, potentially fatal, food safety failure. It is a serious failure of safeway/lucerne policies and procedures.

    I requested that safeway contact me with a report on this failure and will repost when/if i receive a response.