Monday, 24 September 2012

Tesco Promise

Tesco promise to refund 20p to all Tesco Metro customers buying these onions today
Another very annoying trip to Tesco. 
I avoid their stores like the plague now. So many of the displayed prices just don't match the price Tesco charge at the checkout.

Today I needed onions.

Loose they were 99p per kg. 

The  bag above weighs 1.2kg and costs just 1p more - £1.00. So an extra 20% for 1p.

Or so I thought. But at the checkout they scanned at £1.20. The cashier refused to believe they were displayed at £1.00 and said I would have to go to customer services.

Other shops like Sainsbury's and Waitrose don't do this when they make mistakes. But then these supermarkets are gaining new customers. 

Tesco is losing customers, lots of them. They have just had the worst trading year in recent history. The Big Price Drop turned into the Big Price Flop. Shoppers simply don't trust Tesco prices any more.

So I went to see the deputy manager (Andrew, according to his badge) to complain that Tesco had stolen 20p from every single customer who bought from the large display of onions today.

I pointed out they use CCTV and a security guard on the door to catch customers who steal, but no one is protecting the customers when Tesco steals from them.

'What do you want me to do?' he asked. 

'You have the clubcard details of every single customer who bought the onions today, I would like you to write to them all and apologise for stealing from them, and refund the 20p'.

'I will facilitate that happening' he promised. 

Of course I have no way of telling whether Tesco will keep their promise.

A few years ago I bought wine - buy 6 save 25% - on promotion in Sainsbury's. In my local store a systems error meant the discount was incorrectly calculated in Sainsbury's favour. When I wrote to complain, Sainsbury's said they would write to all the other customers who had used Nectar cards and been over-charged. They sent me £30 in vouchers by way of apology. 

A few weeks later I received another £10 voucher and a letter of apology which had been sent to all the customers who had been over-charged. So yes Sainsbury's kept their promise and did trace all the affected customers (or they went to very elaborate lengths to make me believe they had, but I really doubt that).

So if you get a letter and a refund from Tesco because you were over-charged for onions please do let me know.

I'm not holding my breath.

Now I plan to facilitate doing my shopping elsewhere again. 

*I've emailed this post to Tesco Chief Executive Philip Clarke.  

To add further insult I entered the details from my receipt into the website. 17 hours later Tesco emailed to tell me my shopping would have been 68p cheaper if I'd gone to Morrisons instead. If I can be bothered I can even print out a voucher for the 68p - but then I'd actually have to shop in Tesco and I don't plan to do that anytime soon.

Update 3 October. In the last 7 days I've received 2 standard 'holding' emails from Tesco's Chief Executive's team saying they are 'investigating'. Today Tesco announced their first fall in profits for 18 years - a fall of 11.6%. A disastrous result for any company, especially one which continues to lose shoppers' trust so fast.

Just received this hilarious reply. No wonder Tesco is in such dire trouble - this is the 'official' response.

Dear sir,
It just came in my attention about the issue of the product you bought
from ealing tesco metro and there was price differance of 20p for the product.
  Thx for your recent information what happen on that day and we are inprocess
to send apology with the overcharge to all the customer who bought onion
on £1.20 on that day...
  Also the issue has resolved as it was system error.. as the team is working
on such kind of price errors, and making sure that it wont happen again.
as this is not tesco's normal standerd where we pride ourselves on customer service
and work hard to ensure our customers have a pleasant experince when shopping
with us, but on this occation it didnt happen.
    We do apologise on this matter to all effected customers. we appreciate the time
you have taken to let us know about the issue you had while shpping with Tesco's as
customer feedback helps us improve our service .
   Also if u can provide your address via email or
contacting the store will help us to send our apology and goodwill to you quicker.
   I hope you will feel able to give us another chance to serve you better in future.
Kind regards

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Nationwide Energy Services - Cold calling to keep you warm

Nationwide Energy Services are a call centre based in Swansea.

"Nationwide Energy Services believes that everyone should claim the government grants available for loft insulation and cavity wall insulation" source NES website

Nationwide Energy Services managed to convince the BBC Wales business correspondent that they are an important new employer. They're taking on 350 call centre staff in Swansea to alert home owners that they may be entitled to free govt grants for home insulation.

The money does exist - it comes from the CERT scheme (Carbon Emission Reduction Targets). 

You may be reading this because you are one of the thousands of people Nationwide Energy Services bother every week with their cold telephone calls. Oh the irony - they promise to help keep us warm, but they do it by cold calling!

Nationwide Energy Services phoned my mother yesterday. The salesman told her the 'government usually gives us bu**ger all'. Language like that still surprises my mother, especially when it comes from someone who's phoned her uninvited. She firmly told him she already has loft insulation and doesn't want cavity wall insulation, but somehow he managed to persuade her to reveal her address so a surveyor could call round today.

As soon as she got off the phone she realised she may be the victim of a scam. She knows I have already checked if she is eligible for energy saving grants (she isn't) so this free visit could only end up costing. So she tried to phone Nationwide Energy Services on 0800 408 9000 but after repeated attempts all she got was either music or an announcement saying there is a fault.

Then she spoke to me. I googled the company. Yes they are bonafide agents, who cold call mainly old people setting up appointments for insulation installers. The NES blog says they make 10,000 visits each week resulting in 7,000 installations.

So if Nationwide Energy Services are a bona-fide company ensuring homeowners get their share of govt cash why don't they ever answer their phones?

A web search shows that almost no-one can get through on this number, or any other number NES has phoned them from. This is no doubt because after investing all that time persuading people they need a visit they certainly don't want them to phone back and cancel. Nor would they want to actually have to pay operators to lose them business.

I decided I'd better go round to my mother's in time for the surveyor's visit - planned for between 12 and 3. I didn't make it. She phoned at 11am to say the surveyor had just been.

Fortunately she showed the shabbily turned out man the same respect Nationwide Energy Services showed her - she sent him away with a lecture about how she won't deal with companies that use inappropriate language and don't answer their phones.

The web is awash with tales of bodged jobs, and missed installations, but I'm sure they must have some satisfied customers among those 7,000 weekly installations. 

Some people have received free insulation and been very happy. So why operate the business like its a scam, giving a useful service the big hard sell and frightening pensioners in their homes?

Rather telling is the forum posting from a former tele-sales worker at NES. The ex-worker managed to fix up 4 successful visits a day - not enough for Nationwide Energy Services who require many more visits to earn their commission from the CERT fund. After being urged to push harder, this worker decided NES wasn't an employer they wanted to work for - even in recession hit Swansea.

The money for the CERT scheme comes from the energy companies, who of course collect it from us via our energy bills. It's a shame this government scheme wastes so much of our cash paying commission to middlemen who've spotted a business opportunity.

Apparently Nationwide Energy Services are planning to branch out into comparison selling insurance. How about PPI claims handling? Or accident victim compensation? These sound like suitable services for a company which never answers its phones and ignores the rules of the Telephone Preference Service when it comes to cold calling.

Update, June 2013. BBC Three are currently screening 'The Call Centre' an observational documentary soap in the style of comedy series The Office, showing what high jinks the happy Welsh workers at the company behind Nationwide Energy Services are. Nev, their cheery boss is portrayed as a loveable version of David Brent. The BBC rather gloss over the annoyance caused to millions of elderly people trapped at home all day, by all this cold calling activity, but hey why let the facts spoil the fun. 

18th June 2013 - Embarassment for the BBC today as the Information Commissioner has imposed fines totalling £225,000 on 2 of the companies featured in BBC Three's the Call Centre (one of which is Nationwide Energy Services, the other a ppi claim company - the first to be fined). The fines are for failing to make adequate checks the people they cold call are in fact registered with the Telephone Preference Service (and have therefore legally chosen not to receive unsolicited marketing calls). The Information Commissioner received more than 2,700 complaints about these companies between May and December 2012. I'm sure the BBC will be re-recording some of the voice over in future episodes to restore some editorial balance to the series. It may be hysterically funny to work there, but their antics inflict misery on millions of old people, stuck at home all day, who now are too scared to answer their own phones because they know it will be some numpty asking if they've been mis-sold payment protection insurance.