Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bed Bath and Beyond Goes Above and Beyond

My mom sent me a bunch of unused gift cards which I was naturally very excited about. I was especially eager to spend a $25 one at Bed Bath and Beyond in Selinsgrove.

Should I put that money towards a mandoline slicer or pasta machine or some canning supplies? I was giddy with possibilities. I decided to double check at customer service to see if indeed my mom had spent any money on the card. She had previously given me a Barnes and Noble gift card that was supposed to be unused, but only had $1.68 on it.

The sales lady ran the BBaB card through the machine and (gasp!) it told her that the card was invalid and should be discarded. She tried keying the number in by hand and again it told her to discard it. She was perplexed and I was so disappointed (all those cool kitchen gadgets staring me in the face and not a dime to buy them with). I asked her if there was a number on the card she could call just to make absolutely sure there wasn't any money on it. She ended up calling the manager and he made the call. I wandered away feeling disheartened because I was pretty sure I wasn't going to be making carrot chips with a new mandoline slicer. My daughter tried to comfort me by telling me that maybe Santa would bring me one for Christmas. (Honey, you're looking at Santa and in this economy Santa needs that $25 gift card.)

The manager tracked me down in front of the punch bowls and told me that he made a couple calls and  figured out that the card had been deactivated because it had not been used for a long time, but there was still $25 on it and that I could use it in 48 hours. Hooray!

The sales lady could have just told me I should throw the card away after she tried twice to run it, but instead she went the extra mile by calling the manager and getting him to help me. He went the extra mile by making some phone calls to try and get to the bottom of the problem. I have been in similar situations before where I could tell that the salespeople didn't care about the customer and just said there was nothing more they could do. Good job Bed Bath and Beyond, see you in 48 hours when I spend the heck out of that gift card. Two thumbs up.

Dick's Sporting Goods, Speedy Service with a Smile

A few months ago, my sister bought me a metal water bottle at Dick's Sporting Goods as a gift. It was beautifully designed with a flip top lid. Unfortunately, it leaked all over the contents of my purse. I returned it and upgraded to a purple Nathan brand water bottle with a silicone base, a flip up straw, and a clip to attach to a backpack. The second water bottle leaked on everything as well. The cup holder in my car always had a little puddle of water and my purse always had soggy spots in it. Strike two! I kept that Nathan water bottle for three months, leaking all the while, but didn't really like to use it.

I finally decided that enough was enough and walked into Dick's and explained that this was the second malfunctioning water bottle I had from their store in the past 3 months. The sales girl told me to pick out a new one and then looked up my Dick's reward card number because I didn't have a receipt. I found another water bottle and she let me exchange it. The best part was that since the new water bottle was $5 cheaper than the first one she gave me CASH BACK! I didn't even use my Dick's reward card when I bought the second water bottle. The sales girl was pleasant and did the exchange in a timely manner, plus I felt like she cared that I had been sold a defective product and really wanted to remedy the situation.

I will definitely return to Dick's Sporting Goods in Selingsgrove or Muncy in the future. I feel like there is trust between the salespeople and the customer (take a note Wal*mart). Two thumbs up for Dick's!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Mya's Cafe, a Mediocre Experience

One of my favorite places to get a bite to eat in Lewisburg is Mya's Cafe. They serve breakfast and lunch and have reasonable prices. I've probably been there 10 times in 3 years. I like the atmosphere, the tables outside, the locally-grown chemical-free produce, and the artwork for sale on the walls.   My favorite sandwich is the grilled turkey with cranberry chutney, sage mayo and brie on multigrain ciabatta. I substitute curly fries instead of the potato chips that come with it.

This past Tuesday I decided to meet three friends there for lunch, two of them have boys under the age of five.  Our waiter took a very long time to come over and take our order. It took him 15 minutes to bring back 8 glasses of water and 7 straws (there were only 6 of us at the table). Although they have a short children's menu with chicken fingers, grilled cheese and peanut butter and jelly on it. They didn't have juice or milk for my friend's son. We ordered and sat waiting for our food for a VERY LONG time, probably about 45 minutes. When our food finally arrived it was lukewarm and most of the orders had been mixed up. My friend had ordered a regular Reuben sandwich with potato chips and the waiter brought her a Portabello Reuben with curly fries. He brought me my usual turkey, cranberry and brie but with potato chips instead of curly fries. My other friend's caprese sandwich was cold and so soggy with balsamic dressing that she was practically wringing out the bread so it didn't get all over her. The waiter tried to fix things, but didn't give my friend any chips with her Reuben when it came out, but at least it was hot.

Someone told me that Mya's is under new management. The service before was mediocre, now it is plain awful. The waiter didn't seem to be too bothered that he had screwed up so much. I love that sandwich so much that I'll just have to start making it at home. I don't think I want to wait 45 minutes for a cold sandwich that is supposed to be served hot again. Two thumbs down for the service at Mya's Cafe.

Wal*mart-Get Shot Down, Leave Angry

All day long my kids have been asking me to take them to Wal*mart to exchange some items. My oldest son bought a pair of walkie-talkies that will not stay charged. He, of course, did not save the receipt (he's 11) nor the packaging and bought them using a gift card. We went to customer service to see if we could exchange them. One employee told us that it was fine and we went to get another pair. They were out of stock. Here is an account of the worst customer service I have ever experienced:

Me: There aren't any more of these in stock. Can we get store credit instead?
Employee: No. (said in curt manner)
Me: Can we get a raincheck for when they come in?
Employee: No. There's nothing I can do. (said in very annoyed voice)
Me: Can you tell me when you will be getting more walkie-talkies?
Employee: The delivery truck comes every day and no one knows what's on it. There's nothing I can do. (said with a load of attitude)
Me: If I have the gift card that my son bought it with, can you look up the exchange using that?
Employee: No. There's nothing I can do. You will have to just keep coming in and checking to see if they are in stock. (said in slow deliberate voice, implying that she thinks I'm an idiot)
Me: All right, I guess that's what we'll do then.

That employee was so rude to me. I would understood if I was trying to return dirty underwear or something, but it was not something unreturnable. What I strongly dislike about Wal*mart is that they have nearly everything all in one place so I am pretty much forced to go there on occasion unless I want to drive an extra half hour to Selinsgrove. I try to avoid going there unless I absolutely have to.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Susquehanna Valley Growers' Market

Every Friday from 2 pm-6 pm the Susquehanna Valley Growers Market is on at Ard's Farm Market from May to October. I had gone to the SVGM at its previous venue, downtown in the parking lot by Huffnagle Park and was unimpressed. Things have definitely been stepped up since the move to Ard's.

There were about 10 stalls to choose from offering breads, cheeses, salsas and sauces, produce, tea, meat, and treats. I tasted raw milk cheese from Stone Meadow Farm. The One-Eyed Pepper Jack was really bitter and I didn't care for it at all, but I love the sharp cheddar and bought some. It cost $5 for 1/2 lb. The young man there was VERY friendly and chatty. He asked me all about all the places I had ever lived and told me about all the jobs he'd ever had. He was also selling walking sticks. On to the fresh flowers and baked goods stall next door.  I bought a gorgeous fudgey brownie for $2.25, it was scrumptious. I wanted to buy all her baked goods, but by this point I was running out of cash.

I moved on to Haole Boy Salsas. The owner is a real character. The names of his salsas were really original and humorous. I purchased Sweet Mustard Chipotle Barbeque Sauce and tasted about 7 different kinds of salsa. He had me hold one of the salsa bottles to prove how fresh it was, he had just bottled it a couple of hours before coming to the market. He claimed to grow 26 different kinds of hot peppers in his garden. Next to the salsa stall was Three Belle Cheese, a goat cheese lover's paradise. I tried a sample of their garlic and herb goat cheese and it was superb. I bought 8 oz. of Honey Pecan and Date goat cheese and have been eating all week. It was $5. Their farm is located 3 miles from Ard's, I'd say that's pretty darn local. My son bought an oatmeal whoopee pie for 90 cents from the Amish guy selling baked goods and produce, it was yummy.

I skipped over the produce stalls, they didn't have much to offer last week, I think because it had been so dry. I smelled all the teas at the tea stall. I talked to Mike from Cow-a-Hen Farm which sells nitrate free hot dogs and everything from goose to pig to duck. He told me that pigs are actually omnivores, not herbivores.

Overall, I thought the prices were reasonable for locally grown, chemical free, minimally processed delicious food. All the vendors were very friendly and willing to talk about how the food they sell is grown or raised. I felt a real connection with everything I bought and enjoyed the fact that the ingredients list on the nitrate free hot dogs ($8/pound) only had 8 ingredients and all of them were recognizable. I will definitely go again, but bring more money next time. Check out their website for seasonal recipes using ingredients sold at the Susquehanna Valley Grower's Market.


This week there will be peaches, plums, eggplant, sweet corn, cucumbers, green beans, ripe tomatoes, zucchini and summer squash, Hungarian wax peppers and banana peppers, wheat berries, whole wheat flour, potatoes, multicolored beets, Swiss chard and beet greens, onions, garlic, fresh herbs, farm-fresh eggs, freshly baked artisan breads, sweets and baked goods, dried herbs, blends and teas, pasture-raised poultry, grass-fed beef, pasture-raised veal, farm-fresh pork, raw milk cheeses, fresh goat cheeses, and freshly cut flowers.

Wise Guys Pick Your Own Raspberries

I have been looking for a PYO Raspberry Farm for about 3 years and I finally found one! Hooray! It isn't super close to Lewisburg, but it is the only one I have found in our general area. It is located in Mc Clure, about an hour away from Lewisburg. The farm does not have an official name, but owners Linda and Donald Wise call it "Wise Guys Farm." They have been in operation for 10 years, but just opened up their raspberries for people to pick their own this year. I asked her why they had never done it before and they said that people within a 10 mile radius of the farm seemed to prefer black raspberries and didn't express interest in picking and eating the red variety. Most of the people who come to pick raspberries were like me and saw the sign from the road.

My children and I showed up around 4:30 pm and were greeted by a little blond three year old girl. I had barely opened the car door when she said, "Can those kids play?" Brooke was very friendly. Her job is to go get her one of her parents from the field when a car full of pickers shows up. I don't know if it was also her job to follow kids around and tell them not to eat the berries as they pick, but she did that as well. She also told us about the cow they used to have. When I asked her what happened to it, she said, "We killed her and ate her up. I love beef!" Linda and Donald had us start toward the top rows of the raspberry canes and work our way down. There were rows of delicious red raspberries growing on bushes that hardly had any thorns on them. I asked each of my children to pick a quart and I picked two. It took us about an hour to pick that many. The rows between the bushes were a little clogged with weeds and there were lots of bees and flies and other insects around, but we didn't get bitten by anything. I didn't mind sweating and swatting bugs too much since I was imagining all the freezer jam I was going to make.

The raspberries are $3.50/quart. Linda told me that they will have sweet corn in a few weeks for $3/dozen (not you pick). The currently have blueberries for $2/quart, maple syrup for $7/pint, snap peas for $1.50/quart, and tomatoes for $2/quart. You can call ahead and order any of these items and pick them up. In the spring they have asparagus and sugar peas too.

Directions from Lewisburg

Linda suggested that people call first before coming: (570) 658-6175 or her cellphone: (570) 541-0785. Wise Guys Farm is open on weekdays from 6 am all day, Saturday from 6 am to noon and closed Sundays.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bella's Gardens You Pick Peaches, Plums, Nectarines and Blackberries

Bella's Gardens located at 5041 Rt. 204 near Kratzerville opened their you pick scheme this weekend and will be open every weekend until all the fruit has been picked. This recently acquired orchard is committed to sustainable and environmentally friendly practices.  The orchard is about 20 minutes from Lewisburg by car.

Bella's gardens has several varieties of peaches and plums that are ripe and ready to be picked. They also have nectarines and apples, but they are not ready for picking yet. There were lots of blackberry bushes, some were even overtaking a couple of apricot trees. We picked 1/2 a bushel each of peaches and plums which cost us $9 total. The blackberries are all you can pick for free. The owner said he would pay someone to get rid of all the blackberry bushes if someone were willing.

I thought we would pick a lot more fruit than we did, but my kids got too hot and tired and so they went into the cashier building and sat in front of the fan while my husband and I picked fruit. It was a very hot day out. 

On weekdays the you pick scheme is open on weekdays from 1-4 pm and all day on weekends. The nectarines will be ready to pick in a week.

The management said they were thinking of putting in a gazebo and playground next year. I also suggested a drinking fountain. They would also probably score some points if they added a small freezer with cheap/free popsicles available.

Good points:
There was plenty of fruit to pick.
It was easy to reach.
The staff was friendly.
The blackberries were free.
They had buckets ready to use.

Needed Improvement:
The workers were quite new and couldn't remember all the varieties of fruit available to pick.
There was way too much spoiled fruit on the ground which made getting around very messy.

Overall, I give the orchard a 7 out of 10. We will definitely return next week when the nectarines are ripe and at a cooler time of day. My plans for the peaches are to slice and freeze them, make a pie and maybe a little jam. If I can find a dehydrator to borrow, I would love to make some prunes out of the sugarplums. I think we'll eat most of the plums as they are and maybe make a plum galette.