Supermarket giant Tesco is in the news today, and given the nature of the story, its management may rather it were not: the retailer has been caught offering jobs that pay “JSA plus expenses”, the JSA being Job Seeker’s Allowance. Yes, Tesco is looking to fill jobs – night shift ones at that – with the unemployed while not actually paying them anything bar expenses.
Many have been outraged, and more and more voices are telling how they are boycotting Tesco until they cease this practice. My reaction was to ask what kept them: I kicked Tesco into touch years ago, following a number of examples of poor customer service, dishonest advertising, and a particularly unnecessary standoff in the foyer of the (now demolished and rebuilt) Crewe store.
The advertising was dishonest for one reason: flyers would be distributed with a number of special offers on them. Arriving at the store, there would be no sign of many of those offers. But you were in the store and therefore more likely to buy at least something. That was when the staff could be arsed to talk to you. At the Crewe store they were more likely to spend their time talking to one another.
So, what of the standoff? Well, back in early 2005 I needed a cheap portable TV, and Tesco had some on offer for around £43. This was not an onerous sum, and so I bought one. Sadly, later that year the device went zip, and so it was taken back to the store for a refund, given that it was less than twelve months old. This proved less than popular with the staff, who initially declined to make that refund.
The store manager was summoned. He too was most reluctant to refund the princely sum of £43. Excuses were deployed. Obstacles were placed in my way. After some time, and realising that I was not intending to run along and make their day marginally less inconvenient, the clinching excuse was given that I had to call a helpline (this is a popular Tesco blocking tactic).
After some further to and fro, the manager at least allowed the call to the helpline from a store telephone. And, following the wasting of another 20 minutes of my time, the call was answered, with the poor soul on the other end telling that the set was “not repairable” and that it was “manager’s discretion”. In other words, the manager could (and should) have made the call himself rather earlier.
This is not an isolated incident, as the experience of Peter Ward and his wife at Tesco’s Batley store (also over a broken TV) showed. At least I didn’t get the threat of forcible eviction from the store (which sounds like a security guard exceeding his authority). The contrast with Argos – where electrical goods are swapped out without fuss – could not be greater.
Yes, lowering prices is in the Tesco DNA. Especially the ones they have to pay.