Interest rates are rising, mortgage payments are going up and inflation is putting pressure on our purses. That’s our world at the moment, so you could hardly be blamed for looking at ways to cut your living costs.
For some, that might mean getting a little ‘creative’. And among those adopting that philosophy, ‘creative’ can mean sailing close to – if not crossing – the bounds of legality.
One example of this that’s generating a fair bit of comment relates to fresh fruit and vegetables.
And it’s the everyday customers who are coming under scrutiny. Some are allegedly getting more bang for their broccoli buck by snapping off the heads and leaving the stalks on the shelf.
Broccoli is, of course, sold by weight, so those who only rate the floret of the vegetable as worth eating can get more for their money by snapping them off at the stems and taking a floret-filled bag to the counter.
This has not pleased retailers. At least one has taken action by posting a warning on broccoli baskets. It reads, in part: “You must not break the stems of the broccoli. This is classed as theft.”
A photo of the warning was posted on social media, and it generated a flood of responses. Most fell into one of three categories:
- “This is a dirty tactic, and anyone employing it should feel ashamed.”
- “It’s not illegal. Customers have the right to pick and choose which (parts of) vegetables they want.”
- “Why are people even doing that? The stem is the best part of broccoli!”
One respondent even invoked ‘contract law’: “It’s not theft. That shop needs to understand contract law. The contract between customer and shop in agreeing on a) the item and b) the price.”
Putting aside the legal technicalities for a moment (we were unable to track down a copy of ‘Broccoli and the Law – Know Your Rights’), such behaviour does raise some moral questions, and it appears that society is split on that front. If the stalk is indeed of no use, should you be paying for it? Many argue you shouldn’t.
On the other hand, following that logic, greengrocers could remove the stalks themselves and sell only the florets, in which case the price of the florets would rise in any case to cover the loss of sales of the stalks.
However, with many claiming the stalk as the ‘best part’ of broccoli, from both a health and ingredient perspective, perhaps there’s a case for selling stalks and florets separately. Or perhaps even three options could be provided – stalks only, florets only and ‘full’ broccoli with stalks and florets intact.
Some consumers may approach this issue differently depending on whether they are shopping at their local fruit and veg shop or a supermarket behemoth.
In the absence of a definitive answer, perhaps the best thing to do is respect the wishes of the retailer rather than making broccoli stalks as the hill upon which you choose to die. And if you have trouble garnering respect for that retailer, choose another one.
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