Thursday, September 03, 2009

Tesco, The Nadir Of Good Customer Service

A few weeks ago I had gone up to Tesco to get some staples for the kitchen, bread and milk and a few salad bits, I didn't have any cash but I had my cards so no problem. I didn't have any customers booked in for breakfast, but I'd put a "back by 8.30" notice on the door just in case.

At the check out I presented my business card, typed in the pin number, and the machine said that I had entered the wrong number. I very carefully typed in the number a second time, again it was refused, and a third time, really carefully now, making sure I could not possibly get the number wrong, and the card machine cancelled my business card.

Slightly annoyed now I tried my personal bank card, with the same result, after entering the number the machine said I had entered the wrong number. I was asked to go and see the manageress at 'Customer Services' where I explained that the store PDQ machines were wrongly refusing my attempts to type in my pin numbers. The manageress said that I had typed in the wrong numbers, I said that this was not so, she said it must be so because the till said so, I said that the till was wrong and possibly malfunctioning. The manageress denied this and I had to go back into Ilkley to wait for the bank to open.

At the bank I explained my problem and they checked my cancelled business card and my personal card, on their system it showed I had entered my pin number correctly three times in a row. Just to be safe they wiped my pin number and re-entered it, then we tested both cards in the cash point, but I didn't withdraw any cash thinking that now my cards were fine I could go and pay at Tesco.

Back at Tesco, and now three quarters of an hour after my own business should have been open, the tills declined to accept my card, so back to the store manageress. The tills are not working I said, it is your cards she replied, no said I, I have been to the bank and they have checked my cards it is your machines, no said she, it is your cards.

I was a bit annoyed now, I had wasted almost an hour on a ten minute shopping run, and the store manageress was telling me I was wrong even when I had verified that I was right. Perhaps, I said, as everyone here knows me, and I'm in the store spending good amounts of money three or four times every week and have been doing so for years and I am known to many of the staff as a local businessman, you could let me take the shopping away (there was less than £50 in the trolley) and I can come back later and pay.

This is the bit that really got to me, the manageress seemed to take great pleasure in telling me that she would not even trust her stuff to take goods away unpaid. Three or four other Tesco staff had been watching this exchange, I said I would trust any of my staff and perhaps if she treated people a little better she would get more trust in return. Her supercilious facade slipped for just a moment and then she offered to let me sign and override the pin number, which could have been done in the first place.

I really don't understand the lengths that Tesco will go to to be unhelpful, and let me be straight about this, the floor workers and till staff are on the whole very friendly and helpful, it is the management that seem to go out of their way to spoil your day.

As Tesco has pursued a policy of price undercutting which has contributed to the decline in the numbers of other small traders, many local business' who require low cost goods (nursing homes, guest houses, off licences, golf clubs, hotels etc.) now get their basics at Tesco. To help and facilitate our shopping, Ilkley Tesco has placed a ban on anyone buying more than 8 of any item in any one trip, the reasoning for this (as explained by the manageress) was that "we put offers on and sometimes the local traders come in and buy everything".

Sorry, you put goods on offer, they sell out and you think that it a bad thing ? If I put something on the specials board and it sells out I call that a good result, the desired result in fact. This rule is posted on the rear wall of Ilkley Tesco beyond the check outs, so that if you are unaware of the rule before taking your trolley load you will suffer the embarrassment of having it removed from you. I saw this happen at Easter when a lady who was trying to purchase Easter Eggs for each child at her school was told she could buy no more than 8 eggs a day, she said that the school had bought Easter Eggs every year at Tesco to give to the children, but she was refused. That's right, a shop refused to sell its goods to a paying customer.

This is the perverse situation of power that Tesco have made for themselves, they have spent years developing a pricing strategy that now undercuts wholesale suppliers, then they refuse to sell goods to you. Now, you can reserve goods in advance (three days in advance is the booking time I think) if you want more than 8 items, but this isn't advertised either, and as I have tried to explain, my business is very much tied to the weather. Looking out the office window right now, I can see that I won't need much stock today, the wind is blowing hard and rain is lashing across the roof in front of me, but had it been a dry, sunny and hot day we would require more bread / milk / salad.

Ilkley is still a nice place with a number of great independent shops, but the giant corporate monster that is Tesco would like to build a huge new store which it admits will drain millions of pounds annually from the local economy and will replace good personal service with the sort of impersonal corporate bullshit that I have detailed above. Keep voting no folks, Tesco are trying to become a single shop that contains everything, it could reach the point where the only place you ever shop is Tesco, for food, clothing, electrical goods, books, cd and dvd's, car and home insurance, dental and medical insurance, pet cover, mobile phones, holidays. Think carefully, do you really want your town to clear its shopping areas for the Big Brotherish Tesco Hyper Conglomerate ?


  1. This problem of ‘The machine says it’s right, so it’s right’ is fuelled by ignorance. By trusting implicitly any piece of equipment we instil some none – existent superiority to their logical processes. Many things can and do go wrong. The chip and Pin card reader, for example. There are several moving parts which see continuous use everyday, there is the networked confirmation system and there’s always room for duff programming.

    Obviously a conglomerate like Tesco or even TK Max wouldn’t unleash an untested, badly programmed and insecure data structure on the general public would they? Oh, hang on TK Max did, nationally!

    As for this Manageress stating that she wouldn’t trust any of here staff in a similar position, well the store deserves to be stripped clean by every member of staff and let the Manageress explain to her area manager why such a thing might have occurred.

  2. You should shop at Booths Sir, the customer service there is excellent!

  3. The Lurker1:40 pm

    I went a couple of months ago with a mate I play football with. He bought a bag of crisps whilst I picked up a crate of ale. I went to pay for the beer and was refused. Bearing in mind I'm 28 I initially thought it funny so I asked why... 'because you might be buying it for your friend'. (Ben was 17 at the time) But I',m not said I, its for me! 'Yes, but we don't know that'. Err, yes you do because I'm telling you!!!

    I asked to see the manager and over she came - I politely explained I would like to buy these 12 beers please but I have been refused. She said Tesco policy was not to serve anyone alcohol who was with a minor.

    I begged her pardon and asked if I was to come in with my 5 year old nephew would this still be the case. No it wouldn't, we would let you buy the beers! At this point I was completely bamboozled and gave up!

    TESCO - absolute plonkers!

  4. You should shop somewhere else

  5. Paddy8:33 pm

    My kids pick the wine and carry the bottles to the checkout at Morrisons declaring, loudly in K's case, that it's theirs.


  6. Ha ha, that's ace, must borrow some small children and try that.

  7. They cancelled the card of someone I know today, even after I told them about this they tried for third time lucky.

  8. Ah, Every little helps. I find the attitude of the manageress to the trustworthyness of her own staff terrible.
    You are so right about the creeping takeover of the UKs shopping by these too large supermarkets. They are changing the face of our towns and cities by sucking the life out of the independent shops. Then where will we be. Oh yes we will have a choice, tescos or Asda what kind of choice is that.

    I did have a positive experience with Tesco, Skipton though. Some months back I visited Skipton, was low on petrol, drove into the Tesco put about £20 in my car and walked into the shop. Ooops, no cards and around £5 in change in my pockets. I said I am sorry forgot my cards and not enough cash, straight away they said no problem. I left my details with them on a promise to call in within the next 2 weeks. I had never filled up there before, so they did not know me.

  9. Squirt1:14 pm

    Why, YS, do you still shop there?!
    If you're so incensed by the conglomorate, use the local small shops. It would take you only a couple of minutes more to go to the lovely baker's on Brook Street, milk across the road, veggies at that super grocers round the back.
    It may be a few pence more, but it would certainly be good for your blood pressure & your heart!

  10. I hope you've drawn your post and the comments on it to the attention of the manageress and, why not, to the Tesc Manging Director/Chief Executive. Otherwise, things continue in their own complacent way.