62

Ok, so it may looks like I'm making too much of a big deal of this situation, but, as a typical French guy, I'm taking this issue rather seriously.

The bakery I'm used to buying my bread from was taken over by another team, and now it seems that sometimes the bread they are selling is not always freshly baked that day.

This is especially the case early in the morning, where I have repeatedly found that the bread was not fresh, but looked more like it was baked the day before.

I could understand that they would like to empty their stocks before a new day starts, but I'd like to know about it, and not to pay the full price. Furthermore, I'm getting up early to buy my baguette for the day, and it doesn't seem it's worth the effort, as I could keep some bread for the next morning myself.

Is there any way to ask my baker, without offending him, if the bread sold early in the morning was really baked the same day?

I can't go to another bakery (this is too far from my location). Also, it is not an industrial bakery.

  • 26
    It's worth noting that a baguette bought from a typical French boulangerie is much better eaten the same day. It does not have the same shelf life as bread (including baguettes) sold in other countries. – thelem Jul 18 '18 at 14:04
  • @Mast I think OP meant: if he's going to end up with day-old bread, he should at least get a discount. – stannius Jul 19 '18 at 17:15
  • @stannius And if the baker disagrees, there's absolutely nothing you can do about it. – Mast Jul 19 '18 at 17:28

10 Answers 10

77

I don't think you should really complain directly. Some people, like me do not really mind if the bread is really fresh because I don't consume it right away. I think telling what you are looking for is not something that should offend your baker. But you might want to do it by asking with a positive attitude.

Instead of telling him you are unhappy about his bread, maybe tell him that you really enjoy eating fresh, warm and crispy baguette in the morning. If you find it a bit rude to ask for a fresh baguette right away, you can try to ask him at when you should come to have the bread just out of the oven. Stress the fact that you are ready to come early in the morning to enjoy a fresh baguette.

If after asking for a fresh baguette, he still gives you stale bread, then I guess you should complain and tell him that you don't find his bread fresh enough.

  • 43
    I don't really understand this idea of "some people are OK with it, so you shouldn't complain." Some people enjoy boxing but I'd still complain if the baker punched me. – David Richerby Jul 19 '18 at 14:14
  • 9
    @DavidRicherby This a poor comparison. The baker is not selling bad bread... It's normal that he tries to sell the older bread if its still good otherwise it's gonna go to waste. – guillau4 Jul 19 '18 at 14:28
  • 5
    My comparison with being punched is hyperbole, obviously. But I stand my my point: why should somebody refrain from complaining just because some people would be satisfied with lower standards than their own? Especially when the bakery used to meet their standards but no longer does? – David Richerby Jul 19 '18 at 16:44
  • 6
    @guillau4 if the baker is selling yesterdays bread, it should be made clear (and perhaps be on sale) – Deruijter Jul 20 '18 at 7:24
  • 3
    @DavidRicherby I believe that you complain only when you find someone is doing something wrong or out of the ordinary. The answer makes clear a nice way to ask for what you want. The fact that a person does not complain is not the same as that person just accepting something other than what they want. – Joe Jul 20 '18 at 13:19
76

If you got stale bread, you should complain! Any serious business owner is dependent on such feedback and should be happy that you did - rather than just leave a bad review and never come back again.

I´d avoid accusations like "you are selling yesterdays bread" - could also be other issues like baked too long etc. Just state that you are not happy with the quality - best when you just bought something so they can examine it. Let them figure out what´s wrong with it. If they are serious about their business they should apologize and offer you a refund or a better baguette in exchange.

If you want as soft an complaint as possible, start with the positive. Example:

I love your baguettes and I am getting up early to get fresh ones, every day! Unfortunately this one is not up to the usual standard. Will you have a look please?

If they decide to ignore your complaint or get offended you will know that they don´t care about the quality and can look for other sources.

  • That's a good idea to raise this satisfaction issue, I'd just like to find a way to bring this subject as "softly" as possible as he touts himself as a bread artisan and I'd like to stay in good terms with him. – Toine42 Jul 17 '18 at 12:02
  • 5
    For simply "not up to the usual standard", what if they can't notice the quality difference (which seems not-unlikely given that they regularly sell it)? Maybe they tried a new oven today, or some new seasoning, or had a new employee, or the weather was different, or they were a bit tired, or they tried baking it a bit hotter than usual, or they got the dough somewhere else or whatever else could be different. Wouldn't it require a lot of such complaints for them to actually narrow it down to what you already know the problem is (not to mention that may require extreme measures)? – NotThatGuy Jul 18 '18 at 12:37
  • 2
    @NotThatGuy: That concern seems really irrational to me. If they, as professional who deal with baked goods on a daily basis and have first hand insight on the origin of those goods can´t judge quality of an absolute standard product OP is truly screwed and in need of a real baker. – user6109 Jul 18 '18 at 12:44
  • @Daniel Is it more rational to believe someone will regularly choose to sell a product they know is low quality, or they don't know, but one random person giving some vague indication of that will suddenly give them the epiphany needed? – NotThatGuy Jul 18 '18 at 19:53
  • 2
    "complain directly, culprit in hand" yes - i agree; but if the pattern has been picked up by the OP then why hide it? Maybe it IS a different baker who does the early morning shift. Your complaint phrase that you're suggesting is that this specific loaf when compared to yesterdays or the one before, isn't as good... and it's not true; and the baker will be thinking what's changed in recent days, rather than "First batch comes out at 10am and has done every day for the last 5 years". – UKMonkey Jul 19 '18 at 9:16
37

Be specific. Instead of asking "is it fresh?", which sounds both accusatory and vague, ask:

  • What time did this batch come out of the oven?

Here, you are just asking for information. It's up to you to decide what you consider to be fresh enough.

  • What's the best time to come for fresh-out-of-the-oven bread?

That would be a way to strike up a conversation about how to get fresher bread. This is a question that conveys that freshness is important to you. It also communicates that you are willing to adjust your own buying habits to make a better purchase. (Hopefully, if you time it right, you can see them bringing out a fresh batch, or feel that the bread is still warm.)

  • Out of these kinds of bread, which one is the most recent batch?

If you can't adjust your shopping time, then you can adjust the kind of bread you choose to buy. Whichever kind they point to, you are going to buy something anyway, so they are likely to give you an honest answer.

If the bakery is serious about freshness, they should know the answers. None of these questions is a direct complaint about freshness, but they still get you important information for obtaining a fresh loaf. If it turns out that these questions don't lead you to a fresher loaf, then you would probably need to find another source of bread.

8

When you show up in the morning, simply ask:

Hey, is the bread for sale all baked fresh this morning?

Asking with a smile will of course come off as more polite and friendly than asking with a scour. It's also important to ask before you buy and taste the bread, as asking after will definitely come off as a reaction to the quality of the bread, unless you add in something like "this bread has a nice flavor, but..."

If the answer is "no" or "some of it is", explain that you really love fresh bread and you think there would be demand for fresh bread in the morning.

Edit to explain why this is a good idea, and why this will work:

  1. This answer will give OP exactly the information he desires in a direct yet civil, polite, and socially normative way.
  2. This answer advises that the solution is not simply about what to ask, but how to ask it in a way the ensures the directness will not be mistaken for being overly judgemental or rude.
  3. This answer gives advice for how to follow up with the baker in the event that the bread is not fresh, taking into account OPs information that he does not have an alternative bakery to buy from, and that he cannot alter his schedule. The suggested response to a negative answer (i.e. "the baguette is not fresh") succinctly articulates OPs desire for fresh bread in a polite way, and provides anecdotal evidence to the baker that fresh bread in the morning will be well received if the baker changes his baking schedule.

Please let me know if I should keep increasing the verbosity of this answer to address any other concerns.

  • Hey, thanks for the answer! Can you please explain exactly why you think that this is a good idea? Why do you say to take this course of action? What’s the thought process behind this answer? As this currently stands, this is essentially a “Try this!” answer. We require that answers provide some sort of explanation for why they are suggesting this solution, and unfortunately, at the moment this answer doesn't appear to do that. – Arwen Undómiel Jul 17 '18 at 18:51
  • 1
    This is the right answer. You are a customer, enquiring about salient facts about the product you are buying; there is no way for this to be inappropriate. – Jack Aidley Jul 21 '18 at 16:09
  • 1
    This is definitely the right answer. If I'm interested in buying a hybrid car, why should go circuitously about the seller asking him about petrol, and batteries, and renewable power sources, or about how much I actually enjoy hybrid cars? I'm just asking if car X is hybrid. I am Italian, and in Italy no customer would have a problem asking, and no seller answering, such a question. – DaG Jul 22 '18 at 17:00
6

You can sidestep the question and just ask "When did you bake that bread there?"

That question does only remotely touch the subject of "freshness", which is a very important quality in a bread. With a factual "When?", you can avoid insulting the baker by even thinking of asking the question whether the bread is fresh.

4

You already know that the bread isn't fresh, and that bad-tasting fresh bread is irrelevant, anyhow. Personally, I would find another bakery or bake my own, since there isn't much chance of them listening to any business advice, because any decent baker knows rule #1 is the bread must be freshly baked that morning. If they lose enough business, it should be obvious enough to them what is causing the problem. Selling day-old bread is dishonest in my book (as a former bakery manager of 10 years experience). And I always try to avoid doing business with either dishonest or completely clueless businesses.

But if you must try to reform your baker for the sake of convenience (say you don't have another good bakery nearby, for example), this is what I would advise:

Calmly walk into your bakery and ask to speak to the manager or owner. Then introduce yourself as a regular customer of the bakery and very politely inform him that you buy bread very often, but only if it is of the highest quality and freshly baked the same morning. If he assures you that their bread meets your standards, reply:

I'm sorry but I must disagree, because the bread I've been buying lately doesn't taste freshly baked and wholesome. In fact, it is so unappetizing I'm afraid I might have to buy it somewhere else.

This should illicit at least one of about three different reactions:

  1. He immediately becomes defensive and argumentative, rudely insisting that you don't know anything about bread, etc. You leave and find another bakery, because they're unwilling to improve themselves.

  2. He admits the bread is day-old and he didn't see anything wrong with that until you brought it to his attention. He says no one else ever complains about it, so he didn't think it was a big deal. At this point he should be forthcoming about his future plans for the bakery:

    • a. He's going to immediately stop selling day-old bread or at least sell it as "day-old", at a discounted price. (In either case, since he was honest, give him a reasonable chance to improve his business practices). Or,

    • b. He's not changing his business practices to please anybody. "It's unfeasible," etc. Find another bakery.

  3. He apologizes and explains that their policy has always been to serve freshly baked, wholesome bread. Offers you a sample and actually tastes it for himself. Now you can find out if you both share the same criteria for good bread:

    • If it is really bad but he thinks it is fine: find another bakery.

    • If it's really bad and he agrees with you, then his bakers need closer supervision, disciplinary actions, and replacements if all else fails. That is his job and he should be concerned. So, if you're confident that he will adequately solve the problem, then mentally give his shop a reasonable probationary period (not as an ultimatum for him, just a guideline for yourself).

Then thank him profusely for helping you with this problem, and let him know that you are looking forward to many more future visits to your favorite bakery. Also let him know that you would enjoy recommending their shop to your friends.

...But if the tasting sample turns out to be good this one time only, then they've got a problem with consistency. You should inform him that you only buy bread of reliably good quality. Again, that could be a serious personnel issue that must be properly managed. And again you have to decide whether or not to trust management to fix the problem quickly and correctly.

In many bakeries, free samples are always offered to customers so that they may judge the bread for themselves, before purchasing. Of course, the samples must represent the actual product sold. But any decent bakery would rather close than sell stale bread. So if that's what's happening, it's time to find another bakery.

  • 1
    I know personally backers that when they had their business, barely slept to have their customers happy with fresh bread in the morning. This should be the right answer. Those people are not taking their business seriously. – Rui F Ribeiro Jul 21 '18 at 4:58
3

I would go to this shop one day AFTERNOON and simply ask what is the best time to pop in and have fresh rolls or/and bread or/and baguette. Obviously you can specify that you are asking for morning bake off. This question should not offend anyone.

1

I had the same situation once... but the baker informed me that the bread was from the freezer... I asked if there was a discount, she said no... I looked at her as being surprised but bought it anyway...

In your case, where the baker would say nothing.... I would ask:

"One Baguette please. One that is baked today please."

if they can't or won't.. buy it anyways and say … "ohhh, I got up early especially for a fresh baguette..." and leave…

It's okay if you feel uncomfortable and it shows ... they should feel uncomfortable too if they are selling bread from the day before...

Next day you could repeat to increase the feeling of shame...

That's what I would consider doing in your case.

1

You'll probably find that they'll adjust their quantities & timings as they learn how their sales go. As a start-up, it seems they're making too much, or making it at the wrong times to optimise customer satisfaction & sales.

That can be customer-driven too - especially if they keep getting asked why the bread isn't fresh first thing in the morning, or if their morning sales drop off as people realise there's no point buying before lunch time.

The 'vote with your feet' variant saves you having to ask at all, if you really want to avoid the confrontation entirely.

Alternatively, you could just try buying at different times of the day, or even just walk past at different times - you can usually smell when the bread just came out of the oven.

My local baker, in the UK, makes a delicious Turkish bread which is similar to good French baguette, in as much as it really is only good when very fresh.
They used to buy it in - 10:30 am it would arrive from another bakery still warm. They now make their own, but have learned the local community prefers to buy it in the afternoon, so it's at it's best for 'tea time'... so that's when they now make it.

-1

It really shouldn't be a problem to just ask nicely, to avoid sounding confrontational. Don't be afraid to "ask for what you want". You can say "I'd like one of these, but can I get one fresh from the oven" (or "just out of the oven"). That way, your not being accusatory, insulting, or complaining.

But, if you'd rather not, because you'd feel uncomfortable, or because you're concerned it could effect future interactions with him, then just do it by phone. As others have suggested, ask: "When should I come in to get your bread fresh out of the oven", but do it by phone to be anonymous.

  • 3
    Hey, thanks for the answer! Can you please explain exactly why you think that this is a good idea? Why do you say to take this course of action? What’s the thought process behind this answer? As this currently stands, this is essentially a “Try this!” answer. We require that answers provide some sort of explanation for why they are suggesting this solution, and unfortunately, at the moment this answer doesn't appear to do that. – Arwen Undómiel Jul 22 '18 at 8:29
  • 2
    @ArwenUndómiel - I'm not sure why you singled me out with your request for more info. I don't see any of the other answers going out of their way to explain 1) why they think that theirs is a good idea. 2) Why they say to take their recommended course of action. 3) and especially NOT: What was their thought process. I'll try to edit this to address your concerns, but I also feel that parts are already addressed: "Why do you say to take this course of action?" because as stated, asking by phone will allow him to be anonymous and avoid possible face-to-face confrontation. And ... > – Kevin Fegan Jul 22 '18 at 8:50
  • 1
    ... > "I think it's a good idea" because it will help you avoid feeling uncomfortable or concerned it could effect future interactions. (Okay, I do see one other answer addressing this). – Kevin Fegan Jul 22 '18 at 8:53
  • 1
    @KevinFegan It seems you have explained why your answer is a good idea in your comments. I'd suggest you to embed it into the post. Thank you. – A J Aug 7 '18 at 5:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.