Saturday, 27 September 2008

All Tescos big and small

I’ve been away from this blog for some time now, so many things have happened, some good some not so good but as with everything else, life goes on.

Although there are so many things that I have in mind for possible blogs, I owe it so a number of people to return to my blog with this one. In summery this is a very big and long nag towards the largest supermarket chain in the UK made famous by it's motto “every little help”!!!

So to make a very long story a bit shorter, I will go on with telling my tale and try to keep my comments short.

Once upon a time, on a wet windy Saturday afternoon in the not so fair city of Coventry I walked into a Tesco Extra to get a last minute present for my brother's birthday which I completely forgot. Tesco's big sign and glass exterior were calling out to the masses searching for something and anything. At time when all were starting to feel the pinch of the credit crunch, Tesco's promise of lower prices was a big factor, alongside the convenience of a multi-branched entity and good customer service.

All that made me take the spare of the moment decision to buy a replacement cordless phone from that store. I was there, it was staring at me from the shelf and all I needed was to pick it up, swipe it on the self-service machines followed by my bank card, £99.99 poorer and I had a nice, sleek Philips cordless phone that promises superb quality for my long phone calls to my other half.

Sunday afternoon, I returned home after my weekend away cradling my new phone, I sat down and started to unpack the box, one handset, another handset, one stand, another stand and that was it! No cables, no phone connections no nothing. I knew that the technology has progressed so much but not the point of not needing cables to connect a phone to the wall! Bummer I have to find another Tesco to return my missing set and get a new one, I'm sure that they will be more than willing and more than apologetic for the error that happened and will send me on my way in 10 minutes.

Monday afternoon, guessing that this is a bigger task to handle for the small Tesco Metro near my work, I took a cab to the larger Tesco (large but not an Extra) near my house. Having the driver waiting for me outside I quickly went into the store, did a super speed shopping and then headed to the customer service desk where the following conversation took place:

Me (Customer): hello there, good evening. I was wondering if you can help me with returning an item.

Customer Service Staff member: sure madame, happy to be of service, do you have your receipt?

Me: yes, here it is, and here is the item.

Customer Service Staff member: Can I ask why you want to return it.

Me: Well I got from one of your stores and when I got home I found out that there were bits missing!!

Customer Service Staff member: oh that's not very good, let me check if we hold this item in stock and if we do I may be able to exchange it for you

Me: well If you don't I would prefer just to return it if that's OK

Customer Service Staff member: yes sure, no problem

Few minutes of checking around and scanning barcodes and checking her monitor, the staff member gave me a very grave look....

Customer Service Staff member: Sorry madame, we don't seem to sell this item in this store and I wont be able to be of assistance to you here

Me: ???? what does that mean

Customer Service Staff member: well, if we don't sell an item we can't accept a return of that item if it's not complete.

Me: ???????? what does that mean, I'm returning it because it's incomplete!

Customer Service Staff member: Well madame, we can take it here, you have to go to another Tesco Extra that stocks the phone. There is one in ***** or in ******

note (both places named were a healthy 20-30miles away from where I live)

Me: I can't understand, I bought this from a Tesco store, sure I should be able to return it to any Tesco store?!!

Customer Service Staff member: madame, if we don't have it you can't return it here!!

Me: but surely this is in violation of your return policy!

Customer Service Staff member: Sorry madame I can't do anything else



15 minutes later and 2 other staff members I decided to go for the top and asked to see the store manager...

Me: blah blah blah blah, same story for the 500th time!

Assumed Store Manager: Well madam I just spoke to my manager (your manager! I thought I was speaking to the store manager already!) and I can help you with this (yes at last something), this is the number for the electrical help line (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) if you call them they will be able to send you out the missing parts.


Not Store Manager: well madam if we take if from you and we don't stock it then the cost of the phone will be deducted from the store revenue

Me: you mean to tell me that Tesco's profit will be damaged by a returned item that you will be able to return to the manufacturer!

Not Store Manager: Sorry madam. Nothing can be done other than that.

At that time, I realized that I was just wasting my time and I was not about to argue profitability, proper customer service and consumer rights with someone clearly unable to see the big picture.

45 minutes later and £23 less for the taxi who felt sorry for me and didn't charge me the full fare I was home trying to stay calm.


Ring ring, Electrical Helpline (10p/m) and after some delay I managed to get through to an operator.

Me: Blah blah blah, the whole story again

Electrical helpline operator: but madam, that is not true, they should be able to take the phone of you and give you a full refund.

Me: well they said otherwise and now I'm £122 short and still no phone and I'm paying 10p/m just to tell you the story all over again.

Electrical helpline operator: Well madam, I used to work in a store and I know that they can. What you need to do is to call customer services tomorrow and they should be able to sort things out and offer you a suitable compensation.

Me: Well let see, you know that this will make an interesting topic for my next blog

Electrical helpline operator: oh madam, of course you're entitled to do so but can I ask you to reconsider your decision to do so, there maybe some not-so-good staff within Tesco but we are all very hard working and strive to serve our customers. Please here is my direct number and name and please tell me what happens with you.

My faith in the largest supermarket chain in the UK was regained a bit and I looked forward for the following day events.


Customer service helpline (free phone): hello madam how can I help?

Me: blah blah blah (tell the whole story yet again added to it what happened at the other store and what the Electrical helpline told me)

Customer service helpline: well madam, no you wont be able to return it to that store (f****, $%&*, beep, beep, beep)

Then she proceeded to provide me a list of possible other stores were I can return the God forsaken phone all of which were miles away from where I live or work.

At that time I completely lost it, blasting over the phone demanding a solution, the customer service lady excused herself and advised me that she will check with her manager (beep, beep, beep) and call me back.

15 minutes later:

Customer service helpline: Madam I managed to sort something out

Me: about bloody time

Customer service helpline: well if you can return to the store near your house (the one I went to the day before) then they will take the phone from you and refund you fully.

Me: and what about the cost of the taxi last night and what I will have to pay today because of your incompetence?

Customer service helpline: Sorry madam, I can't help you with that, the local store can choose to offer you suitable compensation if they chose to. Tesco don't have a compensation policy (??????!!!!!!!)

To keep a very long story not that long, I went that evening and returned the phone, the lady at the story of course refused to offer any kind of compensation and was as cold as an ice cube. I was down another £10 for the cab but by then I would have gladly thrown that phone through a Tesco store window.

I returned home grateful that I managed to get my £99.99 back although it cost me £33 to do so. On my way back I went into the electrical appliances store near me (God bless Comet) and enjoyed some decent customer service with a specialist helping me to chose a phone and explaining their return policy in full.

Why have I filled 3 pages of ranting regarding this matter? Well it's simple, at a time when all are concerned about their finances. When the pennies matter as much as the pounds and consumers are more wary of how they spend their hard earned cash, at times like this, a large supermarket chain that would refuse to return defaulted items, not to have a clear return policy and appalling customer service standard and lake of consistency across the board is shameful, disgusting and even worrying. We may have been more forgiving before and hence allowing for Tesco to grow so big with not that good of a service to offer but are we paying for that now when we can't ignore such things?

PS: I was almost finished writing this blog when I came across something relevant:

Two friends shared their experiences with Tesco, one made an online grocery order for a dinner party he was holding 2 days later. After booking an evening delivery slot between 9 and 11pm and paying for it, 11pm came and went and there was no sign on the delivery. Phoning the help desk, he was advised that the driver was running late (they couldn't be bothered to call) 11:30 and 12 came and went and the delivery didn't show up and by that time the not-so-helpful help desk was closed. Phoning the store the following day, they coldly ignored his complaint and simply advised him that they will arrange for another delivery. When he tried to cancel the order he was advised that he can’t! So now he has to keep his fingers crossed that his delivery will arrive in time for him to feed his guests.

The 2nd issue related to Tesco's confirmation that if there are more than 3 people at the till they will open up 3 tills! My friend was standing in a queue of 6 with only 2 tills open, when he asked why wont they open another till he was given the all knowing look and told him “that's just a TV AD”!

Well “Every little help” is Tesco's Motto. Wonder what kind of help they're talking about?

PS 2: a friend of mine have pointed me to this site:

have a nice read


Mariyah said...

Helping themselves to your money, maybe? How frustrating!! I think you handled it well...I would have lost it at the store at the first return attempt. I'll remember not to shop there should I ever be in London. :)

Ram the Syrian Scots said...

I think you should write a written complaint to their head office.. Mention that you have a blog and that you published your frustration. They are obliged to answer and you never know you might get something out of it..

Syrian in London said...

salaam mariyah
who said i didn't lose it at the store, i just tried not to go on and on as the blog had already gone to the 4th page! If you're every in london there are far nicer stores to go to.

hello Ram, I've sent a link to this blog to customer service over the weekend but yet to hear anything from them!

poshlemon said...

I am not surprised. These tesco people are very uncanny. Yet, all this said, I prefer them to Sainsbury's and others.

Good job what you did.

That Girl said...

you're follies are funny :)

Juan Villarino said...


I enjoyed too much the Tesco story, probably more than you suffering it...

I am Argentinian, but used to live in the Uk as well... I remember someone refusing to change my bike tyre because I couldn t remember my postcode, which seems to be more important than your ID in that country.

I invite you to read my travel blog. I have been hitch-hiking around the world (Syria included) for 3 years now...

God luck with the next phone,

Syrian in London said...

Hello poshlemon, I know what you mean, and Sainsbury has the best bakery among the lot

Dear that girl
I'm glad that you enjoyed the read; I was told that my tall is not funny enough! And it seems that Tesco is just the place for gaffs like the one I talked about.

Dear Juan,
You’re post code is the measure of who you are and how well off you're viewed by others. It’s so weird here that the 2nd question after what's your name is what's your post code. If you're living in London the weather is different depending on your post code!! Strange...
I'm happy with my new phone and things are going well between us :-)
I will be very interested in reading your blog and if you're not already on Syria Plant I suggest that get there (follow the link on the side bar of my blog as I’m sure you'll find a lot of interesting topics and they will be happy to add your blog to their list
good luck with your hiking

Gabriela García Calderón said...

Hello Syrian in London:
I was amazed by the reading of your post. As Mariyah commented above, I'd had lost it in a not so nice way.
Even though this whole 'adventure' costed had a cost for you, I guess Tesco lost the most: they have lost a costumer. Not a good confort, I know.
Best regards from Peru.