Dollars & Sense columnist John Ewoldt searches the Twin Cities and beyond for bargains and strategies to spare you time, money and hassles.
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Posts about Supermarkets

Can unused or unopened groceries be returned?

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: September 4, 2012 - 4:10 PM

Deal spotter Scott of Minneapolis recently tried to return a few unopened bottles of cranberry juice to Aldi. The store refused to accept them, saying it was against the law. “Is this true?” he asked.
No, there is no state law that prohibits a customer from returning perishable items to grocery stores, said Mike Schommer, director of communications at the Minnesota Dept. of Agriculture, but the department encourages stores not to restock those items in case the product was mishandled.

Most stores allow returns of items with a receipt, although some perishables such as meat or produce may not be returnable at some stores. Call for specifics at the store where you plan to make the return. Aldi does not allow unopened items to be returned, said divisional vice-president Gordon Nesbit, although opened items deemed unsatisfactory may be.

Items that a consumer deems unsatisfactory are also returnable. Aldi, for example, offers a double guarantee that they will replace an item and refund its price if  a customer is dissatisfied (Non-food special buys exempted). Customers with receipts always have the greatest success but even without a receipt many stores will give store credit, especially if the item is a store brand or has a store's labeling on it.

Common sense tells us that any item returned for poor quality should be nearly whole or uneaten. If  a person brings in two slices of moldy bread in the loaf wrapper and expects a return, that seems over the line.  

If you're unsure if your return is reasonable, call the store and ask. Be aware that stores will almost always toss returned items for safety reasons.

Sometimes, it's better to call the manufacturer than the supermarket. I recently purchased some microwave popcorn that was excessively greasy. Trying to ask for a refund at the supermarket seemed inappropriate when I had eaten one of the three bags. So I called the manufacturer who gladly sent me a coupon for replacement after asking for a bunch of numbers off the box. (No, I wasn't asked to send in the uneaten portion.)

Have you had any trouble returning unused or unsatisfactory food at local stores?



Wal-Mart in no-holds-barred price fight with Cub Foods

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: March 28, 2012 - 1:24 PM


There's an unwritten rule in advertising that you don't take on your competition directly. Conventional wisdom says, "Why give a competitor free advertising by mentioning them?" But in the case of Wal-Mart v. Cub Foods, Wal-Mart isn't doing Cub any favors by mentioning them, said Glenn Karwoski, managing director at Martin Williams Advertising in Minneapolis.   

Wal-Mart's recent ads include a food basket of 39 items showing that the Monticello store charges 11 percent less than the Cub Foods in Monticello. That was the snapshot difference on March 12 when the price comparison was done. The items are identical brands and sizes, including Diet Mountain Dew, Purina One cat food, Kraft mayo, Tide pods, Bounty paper towels, Bertolli olive oil, Swanson chicken stock, and Jennie-O ground turkey. No unbranded produce or meat is included.


The price comparison is not surprising. I have yet to see a price comparison with a sampling of at least 35 items that finds a significantly different result. Last year, the non-profit Checkbook  found that Wal-Mart Supercenters were the cheapest, followed by SuperTarget (about 5 percent higher than Wal-Mart), then Cub Foods (about 13 percent higher than Wal-Mart) and Rainbow Foods (about 15 percent higher than Wal-Mart). Overall, Wal-Mart is the low price leader unless a person is shopping store brands. Aldi's prices are even lower than Wal-Mart's.

During the recession, more shoppers began to focus on price, but there are many reasons why we choose a supermarket besides price, said Luke Friedrich, spokesman at Cubs Foods.


Friedrich did not deny Wal-Mart's lower prices, but focused on Cub's other advantages. He adds that Cub has been focused on delivering locally-sourced products, a full-service deli and bakery, customized selection and customer service. That focus also includes community investments such as supporting Second Harvest Heartland.  

If you're wondering why a behemoth such as Wal-Mart is taking on Cub, consider that Cub Foods is still the dominant leader in the Twin Cities grocery market, said John Dean, a Twin Cities supermarket analyst. Cub's market share is still 29 percent compared to Wal-Mart's 11 percent, he said. Ironically, Wal-Mart is trying to fight its way up the food chain, taking on the top dog, Cub. "Wal-Mart is trying to buy market share," said Karwoski.

The Twin Cities is not the first market where Wal-Mart has run price comparisons. The first was in Charlotte, NC and more cities will be added, said spokeswoman Tara Raddohl.

Is price your main reason for choosing a supermarket?


Aldi adds fresh chicken to its meat case (at a low price, natch)

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: August 11, 2010 - 3:43 PM

The only stores that can usually beat Aldi's frozen chicken prices are typically the wholesale clubs, but now Aldi ramps it up a bit by adding fresh chicken. The prices can hardly be beat: boneless, skinless chicken breasts for $2.49 per pound, wings for $1.89 per pound and thighs for $1.29 per pound.

If you're looking for frozen chicken breasts, a 48-ounce bag is only $4.99 at Aldi (regularly $5.49, Kirkwood brand), a deal that's hard to beat.

Coke & Pepsi don't get any cheaper than this

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: June 30, 2010 - 10:21 AM

A couple of years when Pepsi and Coke raised their prices to about $3.50 for a 12 pack and $7 or more for a case, I vowed I wasn't going to take it anymore. I started drinking refigerated water and reconstituted lemonade instead. (That's me--always willing to fall on my sword for an important cause.)

But on those rare occasions where pop went on sale for $2.50 or less for a 12 pack, I went back to my Coke habit. 

This week, both Coke and Pepsi have hit new lows. Rainbow has a 12-pack of Coke varieties for $1.48 if you buy 5 and spend $25 or more (not counting the pop) No coupon is required.

Cub has a $2.50 coupon for Pepsi in its Sunday flier (available in Sunday's Strib or in Cub stores) , which brings the price down to $1.48 per 12-pack. Cub also requires a $25 purchase.

Target won't match either Cub or Rainbow's price unless you find a less-than-informed cashier because of  the minimum purchase and store coupon restrictions,  But Target's price on Pepsi is also a winner--Pepsi for $1.99 per 12-pack (limit of 8).

Plenty of good deals on groceries for the week prior to July 4th weekend. Stock up.

Dealspotter likes the BOGO deal at Byerly's restaurants

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: June 10, 2010 - 10:26 AM

Dealspotter Robb, a frequent and much admired contributor to my blog, is probably not a regular shopeer at Byerly's or Lunds due to its higher prices, but during the BOGO (buy one, get one free) sale, he recommends the salad bar at any the Minnesota Grille restaurants in five Lunds/Byerly's stores.

It's an all-you-can-eat salad bar for $8, but during the BOGO sale through June 16, two can eat for $8. Robb thinks the St. Louis Park location rocks. 

Robb wondered if the salad bar could be done as a take-out. Sadly, no, but it's one of many good deals during the BOGO sale, including swordfish steaks. Check out the deals here.  


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