Every little over-charging helps

Put it down to chance perhaps, but three times in as many weeks I have been over-charged by Tesco. And managed to notice they were doing it.  How many times has it gone unnoticed, either by me or all the other customers?

They have a reasonable system at Tesco, which is that they refund twice the amount, presumably by way of compensating the customer for the raised blood pressure and general inconvenience engendered by their (Tesco’s) slap-dash attitude.

Thus in incident 1, I had bought six 8-packs of “stubbies” (the little French bottles of Imported Premium Bière Spéciale, always jocularly referred to as “Alsatian piss” by Jenny’s dad).  I should perhaps add that I bought them as supplies for a “beer-sip” stop for the running club.  Anyway they were clearly labelled “new price £2.49” but I was charged the even newer price of £2.99. So I was entitled to a refund of twice the difference of 50p per pack, or £6.00. (Actually I noticed later that my card had been credited with somewhat more, because subtraction was obviously not the strong-point of the customer services that day – I’ve checked, and £2.99 minus £2.49 is definitely not 60p. But, although tempted by the thought of an endless doubling of the amounts concerned, I decided to let the matter rest.)

In incident 2, I bought some anti-bacterial cleaning wipes which were supposed to cost 79p but were charged at £2.00.  So I was refunded £2.42.

This time, I tried to get to the bottom of what was going on and was given an explanation which could best be paraphrased as “it’s all head office’s fault”.  I also quizzed them on whether they would be doing anything to correct the error (more a case of “we’ll be looking into the matter” than “yes”) and so I then asked whether I could go on buying packets of wipes for £2 and be given back £2.42 each time (answer “no”).

I won’t bore you further with the story of incident 3, as I’m sure that by now you’ve got the idea.

As a customer, I am reasonably happy that the double refund policy penalises them for their own “carelessness”. But it is perhaps significant that all the errors, if unnoticed, worked in Tesco’s favour? Are pricing errors a “one-way street”, as they say?  I shall continue my monitoring. I also shop regularly at Asda and Sainsbury’s who have rarely, to my knowledge, put a foot wrong.

But given that I am also a Tesco shareholder, maybe it is cause for some alarm, if we suppose for a moment that all the prices in the computer database are correct and the shelf prices are wrong.  (In practice, I don’t think Tesco really knows what the definitive price of anything is, hence the need to give the customer the benefit of the doubt.) But I have come away with goods which should have been sold for around £20 but, as I have been refunded over £7, I have actually paid less than £13 for them.

It’s a moot point whether it is me or Tesco who is the main beneficiary of all this attrition, and where the high ground lies in such a foggy scenario. Further research will be needed to discover whether the unsuspecting customer is systematically treated as a soft target.  Cock-up or conspiracy?  Or am I, and others who spot such anomalies, putting the once-mighty Tesco in danger of being unable to pay its shareholders a dividend next time, on account of the substantial compensation payments I receive from them each week?


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