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Grocery shopping online: has your supermarket ever delivered out-of-date food?

In our recent supermarket satisfaction survey, many people told us they prefer instore over online shopping because they get to check the ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates of food products before they buy. One person even voiced the suspicion that online shopping is a way for supermarkets to sell short-dated products.

Our UK counterpart, Which?, recently reported that dozens of shoppers had been sent food that needed to be used on the date of delivery, while some had even been sent items that were out of date, which made us wonder if people had experienced the same issue with packaged food products here.

If you do your grocery shopping online, we’d love to hear from you. We’d like to know:

  • Has this ever happened to you? (and how recently)
  • Which supermarket?
  • What was the product?
  • Was it past its use by or best before date? Or too close to being out of date for your liking?
  • How did this impact you, if at all? (eg Did it muck up your meal planning? Did you need to rush out and buy a replacement? Did it ruin a special occasion? Would you have chosen a much longer dated option if you were shopping instore?)

Thanks in advance for your feedback!

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@rclemons There has been such feedback on the site in other topics. Sorry I can’t pull it together for you but I’m sure some searching would provide you hits on those points.

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Thanks! Yes I’ve searched through posts here and found a couple dating back to 2016 that mention this topic, and a few more recently that talk about returning items bought in store. We decided to create a new post to collate commentary in one spot, specifically about online ordering, and hopefully capture more recent experiences (and even some that are yet to happen!).

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I think @SueW may have had some issues with these problems.

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The first time I ordered veggies from Woolworths i received an elderly, rubbery cauli. A few weeks back it was old, woody carrots. Now I have shopper notes everywhere and with the exception of one delivery, its all been good. On that occasion nothing was actually out of date, but it was borderline.

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I have find this description confusing. I am assuming we are talking about standard broccoli not some hybrid. I grow broccoli every year and see it from undersized to ready cut to overblown. When it is time to cut the florets should be small and tight and firm to the touch, the colour is bluish green to dark green. As it ages on the bush the florets expand and then open to give yellow flowers. Other than the colour of the flowers the colour of the floret gets a little lighter but stays green.

After cutting as it ages the florets get looser and softer and change colour to paler green and then to yellow-green. The yellow shade is in the floret not the flower. They will not open when cut unless it was cut when overblown and ready to flower. If you have purple broccoli either it is blue-green to my eyes and fresh or a cultivar I have not seen in the shop or garden.

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Just wondering if this was instore shopping, or online?

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It was online, 2nd para in the post:

Another few links

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Fantastic - thanks for pulling out all of these :slight_smile:

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For some time now, out of curiosity, as I shop I have been watching the staff at Woolies pushing their special trollies around gathering food for orders.

They scuttle around working their way down isles as fast as possible pulling items out for various orders & placing them into the appropriate bag on their trolley. Speed seems to be the key driver, and to me it lools like they grab the handiest package/piece without any attempt to select based on quality or use-by/best-before dates.

I therefore wonder if the delivey of out-of-date or near out-of-date products merely reflects the stock held by a particular supermarket rather than any deliberate ploy to divest dodgy/second rate products.

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Not out of date food but meat on a regular basis with only 3 days left before expiry. This does not make sense to me as a customer if I plan to do a weekly shop the meat should last the week. I have returned packaged meat and fresh pasta that was off even though within expiry period, I have never had these problems when I have shopped instore, makes me wonder how the deliveries are being stored/transported.
For fresh veges, generally they are not very fresh, and some items are charged per piece eg. sweet potato, the smallest one you ever did see, very annoying if you need for a recipe. Ice cream has been delivered melted. They credit you the value of the goods, they even have a bot rather than a person do it, this indicates to me it happens so often they can afford to employ staff to process the volume. This annoys me, I don’t want the credit i want the item i ordered, no ice cream until the next week!
Also very annoying they tell you just before delivery if they do not have an item so you do not have a chance to substitute with another item, leaving you short of an ingredient to make a particular recipe, forcing you to run down to the local IGA so you can make dinner that night.
But if you need online shopping, disability, newborn child etc you don’t have a choice, I have tried both Woolies and Coles neither are perfect.

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too true. I’ve avoided some of the issues with Woolies by adding a note to each item which needs specificity… anything which expires, I add a note asking for long expiry (cream particularly, its what I use in coffee but I’m not drinking much coffee of late so I dont want it going off before whenever), cauliflowers are noted “Fresh as you can and fresh always beats large” (because for some reason they assume you want the biggest and thats not always the way to go). Note to self: ask for medium sized sweet potato… the last one was a giant…

I shop in person at Coles, but won’t do online again, you can’t get that specific with them and just have to rely on the personal shopper… and I have seen how they choose fresh food… grab grab grab… no real thought, just gotta rush through as fast as you can.

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Coles, Woolies and our local Supa IGA all date their instore packed meat with a 5 day “life” and when I buy any, I always look at the rear of the display for the longest dated product.

However, the online order pickers naturally pick from the front of the display so a 3 day “life” would be common.

They do not mark the meat down until the second last or the last day.

The pickers just grab the nearest ones on the display without any vestige of a quality inspection.

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I used woolies online for 3 years. Anytime I have had something unsatisfactory or close to use by date I have sent them a chat note. Absolutely every time they have refunded the money. Without fail.

I don’t use Coles online for the simple reason that you can’t use gift cards for payment this it is more complicated expensive.

What I am saying here is take control. If you can order online, you can also contact them online. They listen. They refund. The more you do that the less likely it is you will get shoddy or close to use-by products

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I have been having my groceries delivered by Coles for approx a year.
Several times, the last one being approx 2 months ago, the best be fore date has been the date of delivery. There has been no problem in obtaining a credit or replacement but it is annoying at times when you have to be so vigilant. But then again, the same applies when shopping in store.

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Welcome to the Community @Juliej

In store it is under the consumers control to pick and make a decision. When working through a delivery picked by a random employee assigned to the task it is not under one’s control save for the trouble of claiming refunds plus the impact it might have on ‘what is for dinner tomorrow’ so perhaps not quite the same.

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Hi @rclemons, I wonder if a question about refrigerated goods is also worth asking…whether goods which are to be kept chilled (e.g. dairy, meats etc) arrived chilled. These may be just as important as those approaching ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates…as warmed ‘chilled’ foods can pose a significant health risk or reduce their ‘use by’ life.

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We have had only 2 home deliveries, the first and the last.

I once ordered from Coles including ice cream which arrived partially thawed.

When the truck arived, it took an unbelievable period of time for the driver to rummage through the truck to extract our order, and if this happens at every stop, then caveat emptor.

Never again.

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