Pricewatch: How SuperValu sugar turned into a €30 pork chop

Readers’ queries: Barcode problem; Eir’s upsetting emails; faulty Adidas shoes; Currys PC World laptop repair

The SuperValu store in  Deansgrange, south Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson

The SuperValu store in Deansgrange, south Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

From rogue pork chop prices that get confused with bags of sugar to dodgy runners and the runaround at Currys PC World, our readers have been getting a hard time of late.

A reader called Patricia Molony had a most peculiar experience when shopping in the SuperValu in Deansgrange, south Dublin, that she asked us to share with you. Towards the end of last month she went into the shop and bought a small basket of items.

To be precise, she bought one iceberg lettuce and a bag of rocket. She also bought two lemons, two mangos, a kilo of Daily Basics granulated sugar, a bottle of organic Kombucha and a pound of Kerrygold butter.

She handed over more than €47 for her shopping and off home she went. By the time she got there it had dawned on here that something was not right, so she looked at the receipt and realised that she had been charged for a single pork chop that she had not bought. Not only that but she was even more displeased that she had been charged a whopping €30 for the non-existent pork chop.

So she went back to the shop within the hour and brought back what she had bought and the receipt. “I approached the girl who had looked after the sale, who immediately said, ‘Ah yeah, that was the sugar, it’s happening all the time.’”

A supervisor was called, “who immediately and without question refunded my card by €30. I pointed out that one pork chop for €30 is very expensive and attempted to question what happens to the €30 if others don’t return. I was told, ‘It goes into our system.’ I asked for clarification on what system, she said ‘our system’. I was told, ‘It happens all the time, we know about it and it’s just a mix-up in the barcodes’.”

Molony again asked what happens to customers who overpay money if they don’t return for a refund, and again she was told that it “goes into our system”.

The following day she contacted SuperValu Deansgrange by phone and asked to speak with a manager. “I don’t recall his name, but as I began to tell him about my experience, he interrupted and said, ‘I know what you’re on about – it’s the pork chop and sugar.’ He advised me to contact Musgraves and said that they keep sending emails but are not getting anywhere, apparently, and according to SuperValu there is an issue with the barcode on the sugar.”

So then Molony contacted Musgrave Group, which owns SuperValu, and was told to contact Musgrave in Cork; they took her number in case “management wish to speak with me about the issue. At the time of writing I haven’t heard anything from either SuperValu or Musgraves”.

She said her concern is “for anyone who buys 1kg of Daily Basics granulated sugar as part of a big shop and doesn’t realise what’s being charged and may not return, also for people who may not challenge the bill if there is a large queue behind them, or for elderly people who may not wish to question it. Surely the checkout staff should be aware as it is such a regular occurrence and ensure it doesn’t happen in the first place, and secondly, if this is a barcode issue, is it happening in all SuperValu stores across the country?”

She also expresses amazement that one pork chop in SuperValu could cost €30.

“I hope you can do something with this as it is wrong that each time a bag of Daily Basics sugar is bought for €30 and not refunded, it goes into ‘our system’. I’d love to know how many 30 euros they are making each day in Deansgrange SuperValu, never mind the rest of the country. I would like to see that money added up and sent to Focus Ireland or Sr Stan to feed some of the homeless. It should not be just put into the system of SuperValu Deansgrange.”

We contacted SuperValu and received the following statement: “The barcode of the sugar product scanned incorrectly in a small number of instances due to a barcode printing error on the packaging. Once SuperValu was made aware of the incident it contacted the supplier and stores to immediately replace the barcode. The issue has since been rectified and any customer impacted was reimbursed.”

Upset over Eir emails to deceased customer

We got an upsetting email from a reader called Philip who said he was “writing in desperation, in the hope you might be able to help me”.

Last winter, his wife died at the age of just 65. “There were only the two of us – we didn’t have children. I miss Kate every day,” he says.

She had set up an Eir account in her name, using his email address. “In December, I received an email from Eir, addressed to Kate and saying our account could be viewed online. I also received a bill addressed to Kate. I wrote to Eir headquarters asking for the procedure to change the account to my name. Eir did not reply and at the time the next bill was due I received an email and bill addressed to Kate.”

So, our reader phoned Eir and managed to get the bill changed to his name but the notification emails addressed to Kate kept coming. “I phoned the company again and said that the emails were most upsetting. A woman to whom I spoke told me the website which sent the emails was operated by another company. Eventually, however, she told me she had managed to change the name on the emails and the next one would be addressed to me. It was still addressed to Kate. I phoned again and was told that the name had definitely been changed this time. It wasn’t.”

So Philip emailed the chief executive of Eir about his problem. He received a reply from an escalations executive who told him he could sort out the problem himself by going on to “my Eir” and changing the name on the profile. “I told him I had tried this and was unable to change the name. He replied by saying that, using my details, he had changed the name on the profile and future emails would be addressed to me. The next email arrived, again addressed to Kate.”

So Philip was forced to contact the escalations executive again. “He said he thought he had resolved the issue. He said he would delete Kate’s ‘my Eir’ profile and I could then set up one in my name. I asked him to let me know when he deleted the profile and he promised to do so. That was in July. He did not get back to me and I have received a further email addressed to Kate. As I am sure you will appreciate, this is most distressing and most frustrating for me. If I didn’t know better, I would think that Eir has never had a customer who died, as the company does not appear to have a system in place to address this situation.”

Now, as readers will know, Eir has featured on this page on many occasions in the past but whatever about failing to live up to the expectations of customers when it comes to service and billing, adding to the upset of a recently bereaved person seems particularly shocking. We can’t help but wonder why this issue was not resolved after the first contact Philip made with the company.

We made contact with Eir and it assured us the issue has now been resolved and it had made contact with our reader to explain what happened and to apologise. “Due to a technical error, agents’ updates were not recognised when the name was changed, as requested. We understand the upset this caused and we are truly sorry. The technical issue was fixed and we have made an online form available for customers to notify us in case of a bereavement on Eir.ie.”

Wrong-footed on Adidas runners

A reader called Alistair bought a pair of Adidas Astrarun shoes for his daughter six weeks ago, but she only started wearing them more recently than that. In fact, she wore them for a grand total of four hours before they started to fall apart.

“The sole is already separating from one shoe on one side. They still look new, yes, some marks as they have been used, but not in the area where they are separating,” he writes.

Understandably he went back to the shop – one he does not identify – last weekend to return the shoes. “But the staff, after a phone call with the manager, said they can’t accept them back as they have already been worn.”

When his wife asked to speak to the manager she was told they were unavailable and she was told she would have to come back at another time. Alistair contacted us to find out what his rights were. He was of the view that if the shoes were falling apart after four hours then they were “not fit for the job they were bought for”. He wondered if he should contact Adidas directly and he wanted to know would he be entitled to a refund.

First off, the staff he and his wife spoke to are completely wrong and it is ridiculous to suggest that a person can’t return shoes because they have been worn.

The bottom line is they are clearly faulty and Alistair has the right to redress. Under the law, he has the right to a refund, a repair or a replacement and under the law his contract is with the shop and not Adidas, and it is the shop which has to deal with his concerns.

We also pointed out to him that the shop staff are not equipped in law to determine what has gone wrong with the shoes – so they can’t say they were being worn wrongly or had been ripped to pieces by dogs. They can say they will have to send them off to Adidas to be checked, though.

So, Alistair went back to the shop. On the second occasion, the manager “agreed that the shoes were faulty and a refund was given, no questions. A totally opposite visit than my wife had last Saturday. I advised that he might need to have a chat with his staff on how to deal with customers with faulty goods and maybe not advise customers to follow up with the likes of Adidas [in this case]”.

Indeed.

A ‘bizarre experience’ with Currys PC World

Amy got in touch after having what she described as a “bizarre experience” with Currys PC World.

“I bought a laptop from them in March last year. I ordered it through their click-and-collect as it wasn’t available for delivery. It also wasn’t available in my local store, and it was during the 5km lockdown restriction,” her email begins.

Amy has a friend who lives within 5km of Currys Dundalk so she said she’d collect it. “I ordered it with all of my details, and gave her my card to complete the purchase in-store, but I put her name down on the click-and-collect form so there wouldn’t be any issues for her to get it.”

It was collected and all was well. So far so good.

Time passed and Amy had to send it in for repair under warranty. She brought it back to the Swords branch. “They took my name, address and phone number, and the number of the original receipt and told me it should be repaired within two weeks and I left the laptop with them. Then I started to get text messages from them saying that a service technician would be calling to my house.”

After two messages, she rang the helpline and they said they couldn’t find anything under that number or Amy’s name, then they asked was it a Toshiba TV she had left in as that was what was coming up.

“I went back to the store [they don’t have store phone numbers you can ring] to see if I could resolve it. They said to ignore the texts, it was on their system and the repair was ongoing. I got more texts about a week or two later saying it was to be redelivered having been repaired. I took these to mean it was in-store so I went back, only to be told the texts were incorrect.

“The manager spoke with me, saw how annoyed I was and offered me a discount on appliances that I could claim when my laptop was back, and they said they would phone me when the laptop was in. He said this issue with the texts was something he had seen before. He was adamant he would call me when it came back in.”

Another week or so later Amy actually needed an appliance so went back out, and while she was there asked about the laptop. “I didn’t have the docket with me but gave my name, address and phone number again. They asked could it be under any other name, and it occurred to me they could try my friend’s name since I had reserved it in her name, despite giving all of my own details when I left it in for repair. They had the laptop under her name. I asked when it came in, and the agent said it had come back two days earlier.”

Amy asked why they hadn’t called me and was told it was because of her friend’s name. “I reiterated that all the repair documentation had my contact details on it, to which he made no response.”

Amy was annoyed but decided she’d take him up on the offer of a discount. “I also had to return to the store because they neglected to give me my laptop charger when they gave back the laptop. I told them about the charger and they said it wasn’t listed as an accessory on the docket, but they rang the repair centre anyway at my insistence and the repair centre confirmed they had it and I was told I’d have to come back in that evening to collect it.”

She says she has since attempted to resolve the matter with the store’s customer services team online.

“They told me that for GDPR reasons they couldn’t discuss it with me as my friend is the purchaser and would need her permission to talk to me about it. I reiterated to them several times that her name was there to facilitate collection during lockdown only.”

Her friend even sent them an email stating the same, and that she wanted nothing to do with the laptop at all. “They emailed her saying they needed her address to verify her identity for GDPR, even though at no stage had her address been given to them for any reason. They insisted they couldn’t proceed without her address, so she gave it to them, as she said, ‘under duress’.

“They came back to me ultimately saying that I had caused the problems by putting her name on the collection, and furthermore that it is not possible for them to change the laptop into my name on their systems, and that they would not be offering me any kind of compensation or goodwill gesture for the bad customer service.”

She accepts that Currys have “no legal obligations to provide a goodwill gesture based on my awful experience with them”, but believes “the GDPR issue is worrying. I’m wondering now, firstly, do they have any right to ask my friend to give her address as a means of verifying her identity when she has disclaimed any association with the laptop, and secondly, do I, having proved my rights to the laptop, not have any entitlement to have the records changed in my name?”

In response to our query Currys PC World sent the following statement: “Whilst the customer service journey for this customer hasn’t been perfect, we have now investigated the data protection aspect further with the following findings. As the friend’s name has been put down on the order, then as per our records, the friend is the data subject and the one we have down on record. As such we would be remiss in our obligations under GDPR if we do not validate the identity of the friend before discussing any information about this order. This would include validating multiple bits of information depending on the sensitivity of the information being sought.”