Saturday, 9 April 2011

TESCO: Worst.Customer service. EVER!

According to Tesco, one of Britain's number one supermarkets, "every little helps".

It seems, after my experience today, that every little bit of customer relations training helps should be the line instead.


There I was, casually mooching around my local High Street, grabbing the little bits and pieces for Mini's birthday tomorrow.I've been in a great mood, its the first birthday that Mini has actually been aware of, as well as excited about, and the excitement is infectious.

First stop was cards from an indie retailer, lovely guy, who was more than happy to find just the right colour birthday badge and balloons, even popping into the stock room for pink candles. 

Next was Marks, not a store I venture into often, but after being told that they sell some lovely birthday cakes I popped in and found the perfect Hello Kitty cake, and reasonably priced too. The queues, being a busy Saturday, were long, but the staff sorted the sales quickly, and were smiley, packing my delicate cake in a bag for me.

Last stop was Wilkinsons, which can be a nightmare on Saturday with queues. But just as I got to them, a new till was opened and I was served pretty quickly there too.

Ready to go home, I remembered Elder asking me to pick up his tobacco for him.

Now, I don't condone smoking, but I'm not a smoking Police annoying person either. I used to smoke myself, some eleven years ago, but I decided at 18 it was daft to smoke so I gave up. I would prefer it if Elder didn't smoke, but its a personal choice.

Anyway, I was walking past my local Tesco, which I visit at least 4 times a week and have done for the past 4 odd years, so popped in and waited in the long queue.

Finally, after several minutes I was at the front- which was annoying as there were several staff members walking aimlessly around when they could have "jumped on" the till next to the girl serving. I know myself from my Retail management era that Saturdays are always busy due to the Lottery, so all hands on tills is usually the approach, even if you jump on for a few minutes while you serve people and get rid of queues its necessary on a busy "Lotto Madness Saturday" as we used to call it in the shop I worked at.

I know I look passable(!) but seriously I have saggy boobs and wrinkles on my forehead, as well as crows feet. I do not look under 21. I wish. I have bags under my eyes thanks to the Bratlings tag team "no sleep" method. I look 40.

I am of course nearly 30.

Age is a number, it doesn't bother me if I look older, its a fact of having kids. And what Botox is invented for.

Yes, I digress. I got to the front, asked for the tobacco that Elder smokes, which buy all the time in the store. And was refused as I look "18". Of course I do.

I laughed and told her she had to be kidding. As I said, I've shopped here for many years and she's clearly a Saturday Newbie, I know most of the till assistants in the store, and they are generally a lovely helpful bunch.
I said to her my age, my date of birth, that I have two kids. She again said no, asked me for ID.

By this point, the store being busy, everyone was watching- I'm not one to back down if I'm in the right, and, well, you don't get much more in the right than knowing when you were born.

I said "of course I don't have ID, I'm near on 30"!

The lady behind me in the queue stepped in, and laughed at this shop assistant, saying "jeeze love anyone can see she's old enough". 

She then offered to get the tobacco for me, at which point this useless girl refused to serve her as well, and asked us both to leave.

Now, neither of us had been rude, aggressive or abusive. I had had enough though of being polite.

Going back to my history of retail, I explained (which all retail tobacco and alcohol sellers are told), most under age buyers will go for a well known brand of cigarette, such as B and H- I saw my fair share of under age buyers, and 9 times out of 10, that's what they asked for.

She told us to leave again.

By this time, the lady was fuming and demanded to see a manager to complain, and I quite agreed. Hoping for some sense from someone higher, we waited as the supervisor approached.

I tried to explain to her, yet she told me to shut up- using those exact words. She told the assistant to tell her side of the story first.

That's error numbers 1 and 2  in customer service. You always ask the customer what the issue or problem is, and you certainly never tell a customer to shut up. I wasn't loudly trying to explain, I turned my back on the useless shop assistant, and calmly tried to begin to explain. Her attitude immediately made me shocked.

After the shop assistant had lied through her teeth, accusing myself and the other customer of swearing at her (and other members of the queue spoke up saying that was rubbish), the supervisor, a frankly useless entity herself then turned to us and told us to leave again.

I refused and said she should hear our side of the story.

She said she didn't need to, and that I should find it a compliment that I was refused.

I told her that it was ridiculous as I shop in the store and have been sold tobacco and alcohol many, many times with no issue.

Clearly she wasn't listening, as she told me to "go get served in these other shops then". No attempt to diffuse the situation, but a continuation of rudeness.

I then told her that, as a Freelance journalist, I would be writing about my experience and telling people not to shop in Tesco, to which her reply was that I was a liar and obviously at school. So I gave her one of my cards with both the sites on, and then jokingly said "I suppose next you'll tell me the picture of my children in my wallet is fake too".

To which she delivered the final blow of "they may be your kids, maybe you had them really young". 

In other words, if she believed I was under 18, she was basically calling me a slapper or a very young teen mum. Shocking behavior.

I told her that was it- there were gasps from other customers as the whole shop was listening at that final comment from this "supervisor", that Tesco had just lost a customer.

Her parting shot, whilst grinning inanely? "I'm sure Tesco's profits wont care love".

This, people, is what we pay ever increasing prices for. Is it any wonder the younger member of staff was rude and happy to lie in front of witnesses to cover her tracks when the supervisor herself was worse than useless and rude beyond belief.

I will never shop with Tesco again, nor will I ever work with them for Family Panel- I wouldn't want my name linked to a shop which has no concept of good customer service.

Regardless of rules and regs on sales of tobacco, which I agree are there for a reason, you never ever have an excuse to speak to a customer in that way. There are ways of handling that kind of situation which I know well from my retail days, but clearly Tesco don't tell their staff that.

They have lost a regular customer.


  1. I've always preferred Sainsbury's! Their store brand is better than the Tesco's brand anyways. Shame that you've been shopping there for 4 years and now this!

  2. yeah I'm a Sainsbury's or Morrisons! x

  3. Another one for Sainsbury's here, much better customer service and I much prefer them as a retailer anyway. I am disgusted by how you were treated and have retweeted your link for you x

  4. Wow. That's absolutely shocking, sorry you had to go through it.

    I hope you're sending a link to your post to head office and that some sackings happen.

  5. You should send your blog to TESCO head office - it won't change anything but if I was you it would make me feel better. How dare they!!

  6. That is appalling. I do hope you write a strongly worded letter.....

  7. That is outrageous. The refusal of selling to you because of how old you look is fine as long as dealt with correctly!
    I have shopped in Tesco for years and to be honest they have always been helpful, but if this happened to me, they would loose my custom too and I definitely agree a complaint to head office is needed!

  8. I do find Tesco have an awful customer service. Sadly Tesco here is cheapest Nd or Morrisons is even worse. Asda is the next option but its a place where the rudest people in my town shop and find people slamming their trollies into my son. I hate all of them but not really any other options for us.

  9. I agree you should go to Tesco head office - I wouldn't let it lie.

  10. Disgusting - I cannot abide poor service.

  11. I know for a fact that if you send your letter direct to terry leahy he will respond personally. Do so. Its clearly an incident related to the individual and not company policy. They would be horrified to hear this.

  12. I cannot believe this, and I am not a commenter on blogs, but found this absolutely disgusting

  13. As a retail manager, (not for Tesco thank Christ) I unfortunately accept that things like this do happen sometimes and if a member of staff does not wish to serve someone he or she thinks is under-age, they have the right to refuse. Shop staff risk being fined thousands of pounds and just because you weren't buying a "typical" brand doesn't mean you definitely weren't a test purchaser. Having said that, it absolutely should have been dealt with delicately and in a calm manner, and the way you have been treated is absolutely disgusting. I would definitely write to Tesco Head Office. I got incredibly wound up just reading this, so god knows how you felt.

  14. That's awful! I can't believe they were both so rude and that the assistant lied like that! It's basic customer service. I'm working a bit for Tesco and you should definitely take it up with them - someone will listen and hopefully take action to improve their staff's manners! And the CEO is no longer Terry Leahy but Philip Clarke @clarkepatesco

  15. Oooh bad customer service makes my blood boil. This story is shocking - so, so rude and completely avoidable. I hope the "supervisor" is taken to task.

  16. Oh my comment never stuck! I commented saying just search 'Emma Sheppard teaspoons' to see what I think about tesco and its customer service!

  17. I agree with you Tesco has a very bad customer service. I went shopping last week at night as I didn't get any time during the day.
    It was awkward shopping around , but still I went along , But when I got to the tills I asked a member of staff which till should I go to , seen as all of them were closed ( the time was around 11 : 30 pm ) and the guy pointed at the self service tills , I then asked him 'what with all this trolley ? ' the trolley was full to the top , and he shucked his shoulders at me , so I walked of to the self service , there was another member of staff stood there , as soon as I got to the tills she walked off , so I started scanning the items . . .
    I was finding it so hard to keep on ducking down into the trolley and up again , because of bieng pregnant , but no - one came to help . when I looked behind me , the same lady who walked away from the tills was stood there chatting away with another member of staff , non of them could come forward and help me
    After abit the machine stopped working and I had , had enough , so I asked for the manager , the manager came and started helping me out , and at that time the lady came running and said 'it's oright I'll do it' she then scanned the rest and just walked of in a strop without saying a word .

    Thats my experience of shopping at Taunton's Tesco , it was very horrible and I'd never do it again and would recommend other friends and relatives not to aswell , I rather drive to more miles further and go to Asda and shop there . A very bad experience .

  18. i think that you have made a big deal out of this, the fact is that if you look around 25 or under, tesco employees have to ask for ID, they don't judge if you look 18 or not. And truth be told having children these days does not always mean you old enough, and they can not accept that as a form of ID. And the fact that you were not able to provide ID is not the stores fault. And I agree the actions of the person on the till were out of hand, however I expect you made quite a fuss about it making things worse, however she was probaly under alot of stress trying to serve customers as quickly as possible, and with a a lot of people behind you, the person probably just wanted to serve the next customer. And you shouldn't judge tesco's on the whole from this experience, the majority of tesco employees are friendly and helpful, however the people here are just focusing the few who are not.

    1. Firstly, thanks for coming and giving your viewpoint.
      I have to ask a few questions though.

      Why comment, anonymously, on a post of some vintage? Do you work for Tesco? Have you visited my blog before (I already know that's a no actually as I look up anon comments on my stat reader, so know you've been twice today and where you live too).

      Were you there? Do you know me? I suggest not. I did not make a fuss. I politely requested to be served in a shop I have been sold items to with no cause or reason for the kind of abuse I received from the two members of staff. Nor did the lady behind who was unknown to me who stepped in to question why the manager was being so disgustingly rude to me either.

      I've worked in retail on and off since I was 14, I know how shop work runs and I also know that no matter what, you never ever speak to customers the way I was spoken to. I would expect more of such a well known brand. I also know that, if you search for other posts on Tesco, you'll find both posts and even sites dedicated to questioning the behaviour of their staff. You should also, for your reference, read the follow up to this post where the same manager was verbally abusive to me on a second occasion after I was assured she'd been dealt with, and where I had an accident as a result of her negligence, to which her response was to laugh. And, yet again, on another baffled customer stepping in, she again was rude to them too.

      If you work for Tesco, then that's fair enough, but please do not quote as facts that I made a fuss or on how hard it must have been for the poor staff when you were probably not there. There is sticking up for the workplace and then there is clutching at straws and making excuses when they are wholly inappropriate.


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