May 14, 2012

A personal take on Tesco bashing

Filed under: Business,Customer Service — by xrematon @ 9:25 pm

The media is having a field day working out ‘What’s the Matter with Tesco’ since it announced a drop in its profits for the first time in 20 years.  There’s lots of chatter about how the in-store experience is not great compared to other supermarkets who have upped their game, and that people are fed up with Tesco being the big bad bully. The most interesting comment I came across was from Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University, in a piece in the Guardian:

They’ve [Tesco] all gone for a ruthless exploitation of their gatekeeper role in the food system but they don’t produce food. They merely source and process and deliver to consumers. This is a high energy model and despite the much-wanted efficiencies of the retail markets this is actually a hugely inefficient and very risky corporate strategy of building mass markets around an oil-based food economy. Oil is literally driving people to the shop and all the wagons up and down the motorways. With oil prices being squeezed, the biggest company is now getting kebabed on the power of its own making.

I guess I had never really thought about what Tesco was doing in that way, but it makes sense. It is operating as a huge machine focused on improving efficiencies with lots of power but little real passion.

I should confess I am pretty loyal Tesco shopper. I am not bothered by any shortcomings in the stores as I order my groceries online and have found that to work well. My issues stem from a recent experience with Tesco Direct. All I wanted to do was buy a watch but several weeks later, and after many interactions with their staff instore and on the phone, I am still without a watch but a fiver better-off.

How did this happen? Firstly, I chose a watch, ordered it online and then picked it up some 24 hours later from a local store. All fine so far, but now I had my first problem – the watch didn’t actually work. It was a cheap watch (£7.50), but that doesn’t mean it is acceptable for it to fail to function from the outset!

Back at home, I rang up the call centre to complain. The agent apologised and quickly organised for me to have £5 credit, in addition to being refunded the amount the watch cost when I returned it at the store.

Once there, I thought I would try to order another one but the staff there couldn’t do this for me. So I went back home to ring up and order a new watch. Again, within 24 hours, I got an email to confirm the new watch was ready for pick up at the store. Full of hope, I cycled down the long hill to reach my local store to find that the watch wasn’t actually there. The email had been automatically generated and did not take into account no deliveries would happen on a bank holiday. I was very cross as I cycled back up the hill and got my husband to make a detour on his way home from work to pick up the watch when it did finally arrive.

I opened the second watch – to my astonishment, this one did not work either.

I rang the call centre full of fury. I am afraid the end of the story is an anti-climax but perhaps symptomatic of Tesco’s issues. The concession I obtained was that I would be refunded in full without having to return the dodgy watch to the store. I had already been given £5, and the watch itself only cost £7.50  – that’s the problem with having cheap goods – it limits how much you can invest in placating the customer when things go wrong.

End of the story: I can’t face trying to get another watch – it’s my phone clock for me now. Sorry if I’m late!

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