September 3, 2019

How to Navigate a Subjective Buyer

I shipped my customer a full truckload and upon arrival, they want to keep a portion of the load and reject the rest based off their in-house quality control inspector findings. Are they able to do that?

No, and it is important to understand your duties and obligations as well as your rights as a shipper. Even though you hear rumbles of it occurring within the shipping community, a buyer is not legally entitled when entering into a contractual agreement with a shipper to meet Good Delivery on a commercial unit and to subjectively “cherry pick” or “score” what they deem as acceptable vs unacceptable product, keeping only what they want and rejecting the balance. This is blasphemy and a technique used at times with large retailers or big box stores during times of oversupply or a declining market, to name a few.

Regardless of the buyer’s own subjectivity, the burden is on the buyer to prove that there has been a breach of contract on the entire truckload, or commercial unit, that was shipped which can only be validated by requesting a USDA inspection. That requested USDA inspection’s results provides a snapshot in time of the condition of the full load (or what is available for inspection) and determines the validity of said buyer’s claim.

As ethical, good-faith operators in the fresh produce industry, Buyers are not given carte blanche to arbitrarily do as they see fit and are bounded by the same fair trade rules and practices set forth by the USDA to ensure an equitable playing field.

Have any questions, comments or concerns that you would like guidance on? Please feel free to contact Western Growers Trade Practices Department’s Bryan Nickerson at 949-885-2392 or by email at [email protected].