Picking Your Own Apples Can Take A Cider Press To Your Wallet

The fall harvest season is here. For some reason, that makes people want to pay large sums of money to go out and pick their own fruit. Delicious. Reader Jennifer wrote in to share her apple-picking experience this past weekend at two different orchards in the Midwest as a cautionary tale. Sometimes the businesses out to mislead you and rip you off aren’t monolithic global corporations. They’re a farm in the next town over.

On Sunday, my boyfriend and I went to [Orchard One], intending to do some apple picking. The website enticed us, and we dreamed of homemade apple pies. Only, when we got there, a greeter cheerily explained that there was an admittance fee to the orchards (a steep one, at that, $13.50 per person!) and a charge for apples picked (about $7 a small bag) Being the mathletes that we are, we figured we’d spend almost $40 between getting in and paying for our pickings.

So we didn’t go in. We sat on a bench, smartphoned our way to some more nearby orchards, and started simultaneously calling around to find the best set-up. Here was a promising conversation I had with [Orchard Two]:

Me: Do you offer apple picking?
Orchard: We do.
Me: What’s it cost?
Orchard: $9 a peck.

Cha-ching. I checked in with my boyfriend, and found out he called the same place, and got the same answer–pick your own apples for $9 a peck.

So we drove out to [Orchard Two], intending to do some apple picking. Again, the cinnamony scent of pie called to us. Only, when we got there, a greeter drearily explained to us that we needed to buy a bag for apple picking, and that the bag cost $15. What? We were told $9. Oh, no, that’s the cost of a bag of apples in the store. To pick your own is $15.

We, ugh, shelled out the cash. But we were not pleased. The first orchard, [One] had a misleading website. The second, [Two], pulled a clear bait-and-switch. And worse off, when we got home and looked at both websites, knowing their prices, we saw just how deceiving the sites were… [One] all but hid the fact that there was an admission fee, choosing evasive language and false links, and [Two] didn’t even list a price, only “FREE ADMISSION.”

We’re not looking to get our $6 back. I mean, we wouldn’t say no. We’re just looking to raise awareness that little businesses–ones that are hard to hold accountable because there’s no customer service phone number to call where you can work your way up to the execs, and no credit card usage to enable a charge-back–take advantage of customers, too. So we wanted to share our experience as some sort of cautionary tale to others.

Thanks, Jennifer. Now, where’s that pie you promised everyone?

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.