Wal-Mart to Refund Shoppers Dissatisfied With Produce

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., in an effort to sell more groceries, is reminding customers that it offers full refunds on fruits and vegetables.

Shoppers are required to present only receipts for full refunds, Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart said today in a statement. To ensure quality, the world’s largest retailer said independent auditors will conduct weekly store checks.

Wal-Mart wants to persuade customers their money is well-spent and that the produce is as good as it is elsewhere, said Eli Portnoy, chief executive officer of Miami-based retail consulting group CultureRanch LLC.

The company is putting “a stake in the ground,” he said.

While Wal-Mart has always accepted returns on produce, “we are so confident in the quality of produce that we want our customers to be aware of our money back guarantee –- no questions asked and no need to bring back the produce,” Danit Marquardt, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

Unlike the retailer’s “Ad Match Guarantee,” which takes place at the register, the produce returns must be completed at the customer service desk, Marquardt said.

Store-level implementation could prove challenging, Portnoy said.

“If something rots in the refrigerator before you eat it and all you have to do is prove that you bought it, there could be a temptation to abuse it,” he said.

Price-Conscious Shoppers

While only a fraction of shoppers use policies such as price-matching and quality refunds, Wal-Mart’s price-conscious shoppers are more apt to follow through than those who shop at higher-end competitors, Portnoy said.

Wal-Mart has no concerns with its produce-return policy, Marquardt said.

As part of its produce initiative, Wal-Mart, which aims to double its sales of locally grown produce by the end of 2015, said today it hired personnel to work with growers. The company is training 70,000 store workers how to handle fruits and vegetables.

Wal-Mart also said it would oversee “independent weekly checks” of the quality of its fruits and vegetables in its more than 3,400 produce-selling stores.

The shares rose 1.1 percent to $75.69 at the close in New York. Wal-Mart has advanced 11 percent this year compared with a 15 percent gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

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