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Live event: ask your questions about supermarkets – 2pm 16/7/21

We were live on 16 July 2021 with Which? expert Marianne Calnan answering your questions about supermarkets. Check the comments for he responses.

The second in our series of live Which? Conversation events took place on 16 July 2021. Your questions and Marianne’s answers can be found in the comments below.

📄 Live supermarkets Q&A

🗓 2pm Friday 16 July 2021

Supermarkets have had to change and adapt since the pandemic again, but not everything has gone smoothly. Marianne was answering your questions on:

🗨 Online orders/deliveries

🗨 Refunds, substitutions and pricing tactics

🗨 Stock levels/product shortages

🗨 What supermarkets should be doing more/less of

Do you feel that Sainsbury's closing its deli counters is an environmental step backwards?
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Comments

I’ve stopped using supermarkets altogether now because they’ve become intolerable because far too many insist on playing some absolutely EXCRUCIATING noise that passes for “music”, which these days is full of skull piercing shrieking whistling and absolutely insane clicking fingers which have both become absolutely insane obsessions with producers making such music absolute TORTURE and totally IMpossible to listen to and therefore making supermarkets totally INACCESSIBLE for anyone severely disabled like me and stupid useless earphones are hopelessly ineffective at protection, and this kind of disability is never recognised anywhere, not even by disability groups which infuriates me, and in supermarkets and shops which play such infernal rackets it’s so bad that you can’t even stand there and talk to any staff about it and in the smaller shops if I complain I just get treated with outrageous contempt, yet of course they wouldn’t dare mistreat anyone in a wheelchair, would they, oh no! And even in the german supermarkets who don’t play any music there’s still far too much excruciating cackling fits at the checkouts which is also totally INtolerable. And the online service for supermarkets is full of appalling barriers, to start with the terms are FAR too long and complex, and they insist on saving your card details which are none of their business, and they keep delivering stuff which is out of date before it even reaches your home. And some have far too high a minimum online order value, which is ok for families but no good for single folk like me with no freezer. So now I live out of the local Indian corner shop, who is not a member of any symbol group like premier or londis, or bestway etc. , and therefore sells far better quality food, albeit with a limited range, but at least it’s usually very quiet when I go there in the mornings, and most other customers who use the place do so in the afternoons, so I go in the mornings when they first open before anything I need sells out. And the people running it are very civilised and very helpful and they often stock stuff specially for me if it’s something they don’t normally stock. And if I was a member of any review site I’d give them five stars definitely, or six if I could.

Em says:
10 July 2021

All stores have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments, so that someone with a stated disability (which does not have to be physical) is able to access the same services, as far as is practical, as someone who is not disabled. Otherwise it is classed as discrimination.

The duty to make reasonable adjustments recognises that smaller establishments may not have the facilities or resources to make these changes, although asking the corner shop to turn down the music whilst you are shopping would be a reasonable adjustment, in my view. That is certainly not a cause for contempt and would be evidence of wilful discrimination, which is an offence.

But I think you might have more luck in finding a solution (or enforcing your rights) with a larger supermarket chain, although there is very little they can do about the operational background noises.

Have you approached the manager of your least unfavourite supermarket, explained the issue and asked them what solution they could propose? Maybe they could allow you 10 minutes shopping time before the store officially opens? Maybe a store assistant could pick up your groceries from a list, whilst you enjoy a tea in the cafe? I think it is important not to be too prescriptive in how the store could meet your needs, as long as their proposals are “reasonable”. The onus is on them to come up with a solution, and it may not be the one you first thought of.

Failing that, have you tried contacting the Citizens Advice Bureau? You don’t need to find a special interest group to help fight your corner – it is your legal right under the Equality Act.

But maybe the answer is to get a small freezer, so that you can meet the minimum spend level for either Click and Collect or Home Delivery services – £40 in the case of Ocado and Waitrose.

I have never read the terms and conditions for Ocado, Waitrose or Asda. There is no need to unless you are in dispute and, anyway, what would be the point? You can’t change them. Ocado shows the minimum shelf-life for their products on their website. You can put instructions to the shopper on Waitrose, e.g. “green bananas” or “minimum date stamp Tuesday”. Neither Ocado nor Waitrose quibble about refunds for products that are not as described or of poor quality. And you can reject substitutes or anything else you are unhappy with, even if it takes you below the minimum spend level.

Asda, I’ve had less success with, but good luck with your shopping.

Em says:
10 July 2021

You could still meet the minimum spend level with Ocado, by doing what I do. I sometimes struggle to find £40 worth of food I want from Ocado every week, especially since they started partnering with M&S. So the orders are bulked up with dry stores – tea, sugar, flour, pasta, soft drinks, cooking oil, soap, when on offer.

So the occasional order from one of the online delivery supermarkets might give you some respite from the daily grind of food shopping, but you would still need to go out to supplement the less frequent home deliveries.

Thanks for your comments, I’m well familiar with section 20 of the 2010 so-called “equality” act, and how it supposedly defines disability as “ANY long term condition which adversely affects a person’s ability to carry out everyday tasks”, but when it comes to enforcing it in my long hard and all too often brutal experience it only ever gets applied to the wheelchair crowd, and for anyone like me it’s all going the wrong way, i.e., gigantic steps BACKWARDS with stupid full length skylights on buses and stupid new trains which are all open all the way through etc. as well as stupid insane shrieking and click routine blasting out every opening minute, and turning it down is no good, it has to go OFF completely, BEFORE I go inside anywhere, which is why we need people like me and their needs to be far more well known and their rights under the act properly enforced. And of course the “equality” act also states that “barriers does not just mean physical barriers” but once again no-one, either public or private, ever wants to know, and neither do the media, either local, regional or national and neither do any of the disability groups or the excuse for an mp in my area who won’t even answer my letters or messages etc. no matter how polite and civilised I try to be. And the “equality” act states that “service providers must anticipate IN ADVANCE what disabled folk will need, NOT wait until it’s too late and they get EXcluded. Well that clause is being openly and arrogantly flouted all the time all over the place by shops and supermarkets and transport operators etc. and if I ever complain no-one ever wants to know, it’s always two FAT fingers, STUFF you JACK! despite all the laws. And with the trains the rail ombudsman couldn’t help, so I turned to transport focus who tried to help but only failed miserably, so it looks like the disability law service is the next and possibly the only option left and I’ll need to try and take the government to court as it’s their responsibility to enforce the act, especially as my local mp has made it clear by her actions, or rather total lack of such that she only cares about the normal successful crowd and their issues. So as you can see there is a whole culture of S-D you jack! when it comes to anyone like me with brutally severe hidden disorders which they were BORN with and can’t help, but there’s always all manner of fuss and publicity about those who CHOOSE to screw up their OWN lives by getting themselves needlessly hooked on drink or drugs or gambling or filthy disgusting porn etc. But no-one will even try and give ME a voice oh no! Not only is no-one raising any awareness anywhere about anyone remotely like me, but instead just about everything is being done to only suppress all such essential awareness which absolutely infuriates me.

Em says:
10 July 2021

Thanks for your reply Cruisader. I have no doubt you are already well informed on the subject, from previous posts of yours I have read.

My response addressed to “you” in the second person, was as much intended to be some friendly advice to others in the same general situation as yourself. I’m sorry if I have been unable to offer anything of value or for possible consideration applicable to your specific situation.

When I get frustrated about things, I try to tell myself that it is much easier to change how I feel about things, than to try to change other people. Not always easy or even possible, but it works where i do manage to adapt my thoughts.

I also received some wise advice and perspective from an unlikely source, who had come to terms with her own situation in life. “There is only one person in the world who feels exactly the way you do. You won’t convince the other six billion that there is a problem.”

Kind regards, Em

The after effects of long term isolation during Covid-19 have caused some people to develop acute hyperacusis.

During long periods of isolation and quietude the brain will adjust accordingly, so that when returning back to normal it will take time for the brain to readjust to the sounds you tuned out to before. It can cause anxiety, apprehension and fear in people who have been affected by it. I know someone who is suffering from this at the moment, and there’s no immediate remedy to help them overcome it. Shutting yourself away will only prolong the problem, and the only recommendation is to try to gradually reintroduce quieter sounds back a little at a time, giving the brain time to readjust.

Thanks for your thoughts, but unfortunately the way I feel doesn’t make any difference whatsoever, because I have several brutal torturing disorders forced on me which I have absolutely no control over and none of them are treatable with any man-made treatments, so emotions don’t make any difference at all, I could be feeling fine and then go into a supermarket only to find myself under sustained brutal attack and be instantly enraged. What needs to change is the appalling two-faced double standards where there is all manner of respect for the white stick and wheelchair users and anyone similar but then only a total U-turn of attitude when it comes to anyone remotely like me, they’re just seen as an easy target for all manner of appalling abuse and the various vendors and service providers etc. are just the same, they all know they mustn’t DARE exclude anyone with a wheelchair, or a walking frame or crutches etc. as there’ll be outrage all over the mass media just like there was against northern rail when they excluded a woman on a scooter at blackpool, but they also know that no-one gives a STUFF about anyone like me so they think they can just casually urinate all over the law and gluttonously FAT-gloat and sneer etc. as far too many do. It’s just like the yobs in school who treat so many staff with outrageous contempt and come out with stuff like “come on, make me”, etc. And it’s no good complaining to the operators as there’s far too many of them, this problem is the government’s responsibility, I don’t know why they bother bringing out all these new laws and then take such a totally blase attitude and just casually shirk their duty. And we’ve now had at LEAST 26 YEARS of anti-discrimination laws here in England and yet we’ve still got this appalling situation. And by the way I don’t suffer with hyperacusis, that is something very different, but no doubt just as dreadful. What I have is selective, and I know there are lots of others out there who also have major problems with places like supermarkets as I’ve chatted to them when I was on facebook a few years back. Some disorders absolutely RUIN entire lives and it’s always those who absolutely least need it who are made to suffer the most and are EXcluded the most, but the media just keep painting a totally false picture of disability by only showing those who have such rip-roaring joyride lives while completely ignoring anyone like me which only breeds further discrimination.

Hi, sorry to hear about the and experiences you’ve had with music at the supermarkets.

Have you ever heard of a ‘quiet hour’ that some supermarkets, such as Asda, Lidl, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s offer at some of their larger stores? They tend to be at the weekends before the stores officially open and involve no music playing, no checkouts beeping and no PA announcements. M&S stopped pipping music into its shops a few years ago too.

However, if you’re enjoying the service and quality of groceries you can get at your local independent food store, ‘quiet hours’ if you may be happiest sticking with that store.

Crusader says:
17 July 2021

Thank you both for your comments about “quiet hours”. There is several serious problems with this idea, which was reportedly started by a store manager at an asda store in north manchester some years ago, I first read about it on the bbc red button service, and that is that it needs to be done everyday, not just at weekends which is when the stores are FAR too busy which is absolute extreme hell, right from early morning. So it needs to be done in the first hour during the week when lots of other customers are away at work, at least in areas where there’s public transport available to get to the stores at that time in the morning, which there is where I live, but that’s not the case everywhere, so the “quiet” times might need some local adjustment in timing depending on local conditions. And another major problem is that it’s not been made compulsory anywhere, which is only leading to all manner of absolutely major EXclusion of people with severe life ruining hidden disorders which need recognising by authorities and not just so arrogantly and casually dismissed as they are at the moment which is outrageous, why should a whole section of society be so outrageously excluded from such essential supplies and services just because of a totally outdated culture of gross contempt and condescension? Believe me there is still far too many out there, both public and private, who still blindly think, and insist, that disability stops at white sticks and wheelchairs and that no other kind exists or matters, and it’s that outrageously bigoted culture which needs dealing with. So much has changed for the better for the white stick and wheelchair users but for anyone like me nothing has improved, but is only going fast backwards which must change asap. And another serious major problem, and this might be seen by some as going too far, a possible breach of liberties etc. is that “quiet” during that hour must mean just that, quiet, i.e. no raucous hysterics from either customers or staff during that time as that too is absolute torture for some like myself, especially as it would become far more audible when other noise is stopped, I bet no-one’s thought about that, have they? Well they need to. And it’s always those like me who absolutely least need it who are made to suffer the most and that needs recognising and as much done as practically possible to deal with it. So as you can see there is still a lot more to be done in this area before it will become anything like sufficiently effective. And the same also of course applies to things like trains, far too many of which now have all open plan construction and all side facing seats which also cause major EXclusion which is totally unacceptable in 21st century Britain.

I have been very impressed how well our local Morrisons, Tesco and Waitrose have coped with the greatly increased demand for deliveries and click & collect services.

I am concerned that supermarkets in general are not displaying unit prices for goods sold in multi-buy offers, even though unit prices for individual items are almost always provided. Unit pricing can help us make informed choices and I had hoped that the 2015 Which? super-complaint on misleading pricing practices might have helped extend their use to multi-buys.

This will be an interesting topic for the next live event — so long as it doesn’t become just another “bash the grocers” opportunity.

As Wavechange wrote above, the major supermarkets have adapted their operations on a massive scale to cope with the changes brought about by the coronavirus emergency and the complete upset of the food supply chain. Apart from a few niggles and hiccups at the beginning things seem to have settled down reasonably smoothly without the need for rationing, price control, centralised allocation of customers to outlets, or the general withdrawal of specified products. This didn’t come about by accident and wasn’t helped by some anti-social customer and supplier behaviour at times including hoarding and price-ramping [or ‘gouging’ as some call it rather inelegantly].

My Ocado delivery this week was missing all the frozen food I ordered, and the local village store freezers were all empty, which leaves me wondering are people returning to hoarding again or are supplies dwindling? I was under the impression that now we have retained ownership of our own fishing grounds, fish would become more plentiful and cheaper. Is it all being exported, and if so who are its new beneficiaries?

I agree John, there are even special offers on bread flour again.

Beryl, since M&S took over from Waitrose there have been consistent shortages in many products especially ready meals that I get for my parents. We used to have the choice of multiple branded or own-brand products but many branded products have been replaced by M&S products and they can’t keep up with the demand.

Em says:
10 July 2021

I don’t know what is going wrong at Ocado. The pandemic and switch to M&S seems to have left them in a different place to where they were, but is is nearly a year now that they’ve had to sort themselves out. I wonder if Waitrose had a hand in quality control at Ocado and wouldn’t tollerate any slippage from their own high standards.

Dalesford meat, expensive, but which used to be beautifully trimmed, has been refunded as it was 30% fat by weight, after I had cleaned it up. Other reviews indicate a similar problem with the quality of this product. Never again.

The current gripe is with ready meals, chucked in the bag on their side or upside-down. The creamy/cheesy toppings come stuck to the plastic film and anything that is supposed to be layered, like potato gratin is spoilt. Charlie Bighams are a complete waste of time, as the paper liner is a soggy mess with the contents leaking into the wooden baking tray.

The only good thing I can find currently (apart from the basics they can’t mess up), is Annabelle’s strawberries.

I feel impelled to comment on the Ocado situation but realise it is not the function of this particular Conversation to have this sort of discussion here – there are other relevant Conversations aplenty . . . except I cannot readily find one [because there are no specific links at the end of the Intro], and even if I could my thoughts would be disconnected from the preceding contributions.

It seems to me that the Ocado/M&S tie-up should have been a marriage made in heaven: a grocery delivery company lacking the ballast of a network of stores with warehouses, and a popular high-quality retailer with an extensive retail infrastructure but lacking a home delivery operation.

Ocado needed to push out from under Waitrose’s apron and their strangling over-specification of details. M&S had tight floorspaces and store layouts with limited facilities, a narrow range of product lines, and few car parks, all combining to prevent a complete weekly shop. So how on earth did it all go wrong?

Was it the website? Was it the pricing? Was it the logistics? – Perhaps they just couldn’t get it together on the day to the scale required to make the impact necessary to capture the market they needed for success.

Without the volume they wouldn’t get the discounts or the priority from suppliers, and sustaining the M&S quality standard seemed especially difficult, the more so as the market became more competitive and margins had to be cut. Perhaps the main lesson is that neither Ocado nor M&S are grocers by trade and tradition whereas they are up against some of the most experienced and well-invested grocers in the world who also have demonstrated a massive amount of agility in responding to changes in shopping behaviour and demands. An epidemic cropping up during the changeover certainly didn’t help.

M&S are good at creating new product ideas and stimulating demand for upmarket foodstuffs and seasonal foods, but they dislike having to organise all the little things or odds and ends that everyone wants from time to time but all the time. Ocado are a stockholding and delivery operation used to having Waitrose dictate the supplies and handle their procurement. Waitrose are good on availability of the more unusual and obscure lines that the Waitrose shopper wants, and the Waitrose shopper doesn’t want to have to go out to Iceland or Savers for the remainder of their shopping list – nor pay a higher price for them either. With Waitrose absent, Ocado was left struggling and with their new partner not really up to speed from day one.

It could all work out alright in the long run, but the market is highly competitive and also rather volatile at present with major expansion by the “German discounters” [Aldi and Lidl] who are rapidly becoming the housewives’ favourites and are belatedly experimenting with home deliveries. There are also uncertainties over the future direction of Morrisons. The squeeze will be on the Co-operative stores, and on Farm Foods and Iceland and similar outlets — although they seem to have a niche position. The “pound stores” are still in the game even though they are now experiencing problems with their chosen price points and have a narrow range, and also under pressure, the corner stores, the shops of last resort but clinging on due to their convenience. And then there’s Amazon coming up on the rails with a particular metropolitan appeal.

What I like about looking at retail is that it doesn’t stand still for long, and whereas I can say what’s happened I can’t say what’s going to happen next.

Where has it all gone wrong? Greed on the part of M&S and ignoring Ocado customers.

M&S promised to price-match Waitrose but put the prices up 5% after a month. They have got rid of many branded products and replaced them with M&S products that are too often inferior according to the reviews, and far too often out-of-stock.

I am cancelling one of my orders (2 households) and getting a Waitrose delivery next week. Ocado no longer stock my branded body wash, but Waitrose do.

I can now get deliveries from every supermarket except Iceland, so by no longer stocking my favourite brands, Ocado are now losing my business as I am buying them elsewhere along with a weekly shop.

I didn’t actually buy that many Waitrose products but they were available when required and fitted nicely alongside the rest of the offerings. Now we are forced into buying M&S as they have got rid of alternatives and I really resent that. I don’t exactly cut my nose to spite my face, but I won’t buy M&S if alternatives that are acceptable to me are available because they have ruined my favourite food supplier.

I was not happy with Ocado for another reason. I registered for home delivery before the first lockdown but they never let me place an order with them until months later. Thankfully three other supermarkets were more helpful and have seen my continued custom.

I’m glad you have voted with your feet and explored other supermarkets, Alfa.

If I remember correctly they did not have the resources to take on new customers so just looked after their existing ones. If so, seems the right thing to do until their resources increased. Existing customers would have been miffed if newcomers had taken their slots.

We all have to eat. Other supermarkets did well at accommodating the increased demand in various ways.

They were the ones to use, perhaps. Loyalty to existing customers is sometimes mentioned here. Perhaps that was what they were doing. It works both ways. They also lost their Andover warehouse in a fire.

Other companies made compromises to meet demand, even though this meant a more restricted service for existing customers.

I’m thankful to Alfa who pointed me in the direction of a flower retailer that temporarily supplied fruit & veg when it was difficult to book supermarket online orders. It’s amazing how many companies have done their best under very difficult circumstances.

I tried to help by opting for click & collect services to free-up delivery vehicles and staff for those who did not drive. In an ’emergency’ it’s helpful if everyone does their bit.

Would you have been happy as a long standing customer to have lost your delivery slot to someone who had never patronised Ocado? I am not clear what compromise Ocado should have made, particularly when they were already compromised with the loss if a warehouse.
I, too, as an outsider tried Ocado but there were no slots available. I shared family deliveries for a short while and soon sorted out my shopping. I held nothing against Ocado.
Anyway, it is in the past now.

It was touch and go for a while last year as even though I paid for Ocado Smart Pass, we were not a priority and had no access to food deliveries for a while. When I did get a weekly slot, I shared it with my parents so food had to last 2 weeks and they were introduced to new ways of eating. In the middle of July, we were able to have a weekly delivery each that made life a lot easier.

Since M&S have been involved with Ocado, my feelings towards them as a company have changed. I would go in their food hall once in a while and pick up some fresh fruit and veg as it was always good quality but the rest of their offerings were not usually suitable for a diabetic with a dairy allergy plus I thought them expensive for what you got. I rarely get that good quality M&S fresh fruit and veg now from Ocado and they seem to have created a whole range of cheap and inferior stuff for home deliveries.

When M&S joined Ocado, every Waitrose product in my favourites was replaced by an equivalent M&S product that stated the last time I bought it that was ridiculous and annoying when it was prior to their joining date. What they have now done is remove the date last bought if you remove the item from your favourites. Ocado keep adding products to favourites they think you might like and mine had over 1400 items in it making it basically unusable. I had to cut it down, so now you don’t know whether you bought an item before or not meaning you can’t find something you buy rarely and want to buy again, or you might have removed it because you didn’t like it only to buy it again without realising and it makes shopping for 2 households a whole lot harder. I have requested the dates be put back but they have ignored my request.

M&S was always expensive, but now their products undercut branded products either by price or a slightly larger size for the same money that no doubt justifies their removal. Most weeks I fill in the product request form to have products returned to sale. Others must do the same as Baxter’s soup and Marriage’s flour is on sale again.

I don’t buy that much in the way of M&S clothes, usually just underwear, t-shirts and leggings, but for a long time I have wondered why women’s clothes are never the same size. I usually have to buy the size I think I am plus a size smaller and a size larger. Even then, sometimes they are too small or too large. Is it just about shifting stock and hoping half of it doesn’t make it’s way back? If so, that is not exactly eco-friendly. It is also not fair to the customer when they issue a gift card instead of a refund as they sometimes do.

But since M&S have been involved with Ocado, I just see the negative impact they have created and see them as mercenary and greedy with everything they do for their benefit not for the customer. In the future I see them taking over Ocado completely and what was once a fantastic place to shop with amazing choice will be gone forever.

Em says:
11 July 2021

I had a similar experience with Ocado. Due to a serious injury that left me housebound, I signed up for Smartpass in October 1999, well before anyone in the UK had heard of Covid-19. I was spending over £100 per week with Ocado, regular as clockwork.

I could see where we were heading at the beginning of March 2020 with all the home delivery slots suddenly getting booked up (I posted on Which? about it at the time), so signed up for Ocado Reserved – which was supposed to guarantee a rolling weekly delivery slot. I also encouraged my sister to sign up, so she could continue to source groceries for my elderly mother.

By the middle of March, it was becoming impossible to log onto the Ocado website to change my Ocado Reserved trolley – automatically filled with “favourites” based on previous orders, or book additional top-up deliveries.

Ocado announced on 13 March that they were temporarily closing to new customers. But by now the damage was well and truly done with all the Johnny-come-lately and existing dormant customers flooding the system, after deciding that home deliveries were perhaps a good thing after all. Ocado then had the cheek to say that they could not longer find slots for the Ocado Reserved service, and so my existing reserved slots ended in April 2020.

By now, I was able to do some shopping in a supermarket with the aid of crutches and a trolley for support, which was just as well. Ocado were only giving delivery slots to “priority” customers (I guess that means those in urgent need of toilet paper, as it was always sold out). So I joined literally thousands of others in a queue to log into the website and then enter into the scramble to find another delivery in 2-3 weeks time, as slots were being released at random times on a daily basis.

I’m not saying mine was the worst case going, but since Ocado’s entire shopping model is controlled by sophisticated computer systems, this was gross incompetence by Ocado management, to let it get so out of control and on such a grand scale. If I could see what was going on two weeks earlier, why could they not?

Ocada no longer have any trust or credibility with me, but I’ll continue to use them as a top up to other suppliers for as long as it suits. Let’s hope they can survive on delivering milk and bottled water; heavy, low-margin goods.

Em says:
11 July 2021

@malcolm – Yes, I was miffed!

Em says:
11 July 2021

I also asked Ocado if it would be possible for a group of us to arrange for a bulk order collection from a nearby Ocado distribution depot, to reduce the pressure on the home delivery drivers, i.e. what other supermarket chains now operate as “Click and Collect”.

No – that would not be possible!

Maybe they should think again – before the next crisis hits.

I hope so. Other supermarkets have extended or introduced click & collect services.

I had also joined Ocado Reserved well before Covid kicked off so I was also miffed when it stopped. My parents now have the weekly slot so they can maintain a routine.

I am also miffed at them putting up the cost of Smart Pass, now £8.99 a month. As I am shopping for 2 households it is acceptable, but not when I go back to one shop a week that is likely to be less in the future as I will have to shop elsewhere.

Most still mineral water (except the expensive ones) has been out of stock for weeks now. I was worried our non-dairy milks would suffer, but as they have very long use-by dates I have always kept a couple of months supply in reserve and Ocado have managed to keep them in stock most of the time.

Having been a very happy customer with them since 2007, my trust in Ocado was partly restored when regular deliveries started up again, but no longer since M&S annihilated them.

Darren says:
15 July 2021

I’ve been an Ocado customer for 17/18 months and I’ve had absolutely no problems with the Waitrose to M&S changeover. I think some of the issues are linked to where you live, I’m in London and food is delivered well packaged and 95% of items I order arrive without substitutions. I also love the range of food stocked at Ocado, as an Amazon Prime customer I often consider shopping with them but their range and choice is disastrous. Granted, during the height of lockdown trying to find a delivery slot was misson impossible, but I’m sure it was the same with all supermarkets. Things are much easier now.

What is it about Amazon Fresh’s range that you find disastrous? Is it the lack of range available?

Expensive?

It seems that Ocado have suffered another major fire at one of their distribution hubs where product-picking robots went out of control on the grid, collided, and set fire to the warehouse. There will be stock shortages, substitutions and delivery rescheduling.

Did someone, somewhere, refer to the curse of M&S? Ocado have not had a happy start with their new partners [plus the competition feeds the media with bad news at every opportunity].

Three robots collided apparently but they only expect a week off disruption.

This reminds me – I haven’t heard much about driverless cars lately…………

I have just completed an Ocado order, soonest delivery now Friday.

I expect some delivery routes will be more seriously affected than others.

The fire was at Ocado’s enormous Erith facility [in south east London] where, the company claims, the damage is limited to less than 1% of the grid, the fire having been contained by planned fire attenuation measures.

There is a fascinating explanation of how an Ocado customer fulfilment centre [CFC] functions here —
https://www.ocadogroup.com/automated-ocado-customer-fulfilment-centre-explained

The company’s latest [and fifth] CFC will open in Andover in Autumn 2021. It will cover 217,000 square feet and fulfil 60,000 customer orders per week at its full capacity.

With investments on this scale, Ocado are clearly planning to take serious market share from other stores. Tesco are currently the leaders with approximately 27%, Sainsbury’s and ASDA are roughly level pegging on about 15%, while Morrisons comes fourth with around 10%. Then it’s Aldi [8%], The Cooperative [6.2%], Lidl [6%] and Waitrose [5%]. After that come Iceland [2.3%], the symbols and independents, other multiples, and, at the bottom, Ocado with 1.8%. The “symbols” include Costcutter, Landmark, Londis, Nisa, Premier and Spar. [Data from Statista].

It is interesting to look at the change in the market share of these companies over time: https://www.statista.com/statistics/280208/grocery-market-share-in-the-united-kingdom-uk/

The pandemic has certainly increased the demand for shopping online, but most of the major supermarkets have expanded their delivery services. Whereas many people choose where to shop according to what is nearby, delivery services can provide a wider choice.

The schemes used to pay for delivery services help to tie customers to using a single supermarket rather than say using one supermarket this week and another the next.

A really interesting set of comments here, John and a perceptive look at M&S, Waitrose and Occado. I would question whether Aldi and Lidl are as successful as you paint them. I get the impression that they have peaked and their cheap appeal has been countered somewhat by other supermarkets taking them head on. Coop is what it is, and survives because of its slightly larger convenience stores and the ability -just – to supply most of the weekly staples. It also has real estate in sensible places. You are absolutely right about the volatility of the food market. Thankyou for your considered contribution which is much appreciated.

The Statista figures show that Aldi and Lidl that have substantially increased their market share in the past few years, Vynor. They have missed out on the popularity of online shopping during the pandemic.

I am not intending to have home delivery of my normal grocery shopping. I much prefer to browse a store and decide what I need and would like and stick it in my trolley. Hermitage is not for me either.

However, at the beginning of lockdown I was introduced to Cook frozen ready meals and had bought a new Beko freezer for the garage. Initially my family combined our orders but now I keep a stock that I order occasionally online, delivered in an extremely well insulated box with freeze packs. I do think the effective and necessary packaging is a bit wasteful but it is all card or recyclable. And yes, they are a more expensive way of buying food, but I would be unlikely to make such decent coq au vin, beef bourguignon, hoisin duck noodles, pork dijon……… I think beef in brandy tonight, with broad beans and charlotte potatoes fresh from the garden. 🙂

Statista figures are not always right. When examining the toilet roll issue I seem to remember that working their figures gave us each using 7 rolls a day. You do have to look at “statistics” with an enquiring eye.

Perhaps there is a difference between buying and using toilet rolls. Recall what happened at the start of the pandemic. 🙂 Maybe there are other figures.

With no car at the moment I look forward to a ‘free’ delivery from Waitrose this evening rather than using click & collect at a local supermarket.

No, that was not the basis of the data. It was a mistake, since corrected.

“To err is human, but to really foul things up you need a computer.”

Setting aside overall market share, Ocado is now the third largest on-line grocer. Whether that is by value, volume or weekly mileage I do not know.

It has been predicted that Lidl’s market share will probably overtake The Cooperative later this year. Having been in two of Lidl’s newest stores recently I would say they are succeeding very satisfactorily. Maybe some of their earlier stores need a refresh to bring them up to their latest standards.

The big advantage of the major supermarkets is that they can almost provide a one-stop shop with pharmacy, motor fuel, clothing, and some homewares and hardware plus other facilities like recycling bins, cobblers, drycleaners and bureaux de change.

Malcolm – There could well be discrepancies in the Statista figures but there is not much other information to go on.

I’m afraid I desisted from examining the toilet tissue issue so it was good of you to take the trouble and go the extra mile. Again, there is not much to go on.

Aldi and Lidl did not have a local presence until Aldi opened a new supermarket on the other side of town a few years ago. A few months before the first lockdown a very large Lidl store opened and this has proved very popular. It even has a toilet and car charging facilities.

I’m not keen on supporting foreign-owned supermarkets (it’s a pity about Morrisons) but noticed that Lidl is promoting British meat and vegetables and I’ve been told that Aldi does the same.

As John has said there is not much choice of toilet roll statistics. Very little to go on.

You are more likely to foul things up if a ready meal coq au vin is on the menu 🙂

Ocado’s Andover CFC is a replacement for the one on the same site that was destroyed by fire 2 years ago.

Although Ocado might rule online shopping, they have no bricks & mortar stores. I predict in a few years time M&S will take over completely.

There are quite a few videos that show the washing-machine sized robots in action – quite amazing really. Just google ocado cfc video.

Is there any reason why any questions posed in advance of the live event cannot be answered here during the morning before it starts?

This would allow more time for questions arising during the session and for supplementary questions, and it would possibly avoid repetition and duplication while at the same time allowing common themes to be composited for a comprehensive response.

I felt that some questions that were put before the live event on the banks were not addressed during the session.

Are these ‘live events’ a cop-out? Seems to me that instead of producing and monitoring a convo, they will spend just one hour on it. My question at one minute past 3 on the previous ‘live’ event was ignored.

Thank you, Jon.

I don’t have an advance question for this week, but Em has banked two and there could be others within the comments already posted.

Em says:
10 July 2021

I agree with the above. Britain is currently very well served by the supermarket retailers. Whilst it has damaged or forced the closure of many independents, food is cheaper than ever, and certainly relative to many other western economies who compete with us for food supplies on the world market. The distribution chains are efficient, and I doubt we would have coped so well during the pandemic without the current infrastructures.

What I particulary like is that there are supermarkets for most budgets and tastes. They are also innovative and provide various options from microwave-ready meals through to the fresh meat and fish counters.

I think a lot of the critisisms should be leveled at the way the large food manufacturers formulate their products, based on cheap salt, sugars, fats and mechanically recovered yuck that I wouldn’t feed to my dog. They then work with supermarkets to promote these with heavy “discounting” and other promotional trickery.

There is also too much pressure on farmers on price, particularly dairy, and the need to produce “perfect” fruits and vegetables, or risk having it rejected and dumped.

Finally, I would like to see alcohol sales contolled, as it is in Scotland. Alcohol promotions should not be the means to attract customers into a food store, nor featured at the entrance and the end of every aisle. No multi-buy promotions. And alcohol sales need to stop by 10pm. No popping back for unplanned drinks when the pubs close. What are they thinking?

From Ocado, I haven’t seen much in the way of ‘perfect’ in some fruit and veg recently. Some products are consistently OK but others such as cabbages and bananas have been compost heap quality that you would never have bought if seen on the shelf. Perhaps it is the rejected stuff as I wouldn’t put it past the unscrupulous methods of M&S. I have never seen the bad quality in an M&S store that has been delivered to me lately, so why do they think they can sell it to you online?

I recently ordered a large cucumber but it was unavailable for delivery and no substitute was provided although they had 11 different cucumbers on the website. I phoned Ocado just to mention they had ruined my salads for the next week and ask why they hadn’t given me a substitute and was told they only order enough cucumbers to complete customer orders. Sounds wrong to me when you can order the day before delivery and definitely doesn’t apply to bananas that are covered in black spots.

I have been wondering if Ocado have different grades because if I haven’t bought something for a while or complain I then get a good one followed by inferior ones. Is there a mindset – they can supply good quality, it must be an off week, I’ll try again next week?

I agree with you on product formulation and the reason nearly everything we eat is created from scratch with raw ingredients.

No mention of excessive packaging.

Instead of a pack that I struggle to get through before they go off, I am buying just 3 carrots from Waitrose next week. It will be interesting to see how they arrive.

Our loose carrots from Sainsbury’s come in a polythene bag. We transfer the carrots into a paper bag for storage and re-use the polythene bags for other purposes. I would would prefer it if Sainsbury’s would put the vegetables in a paper bag in the first place — then they could write the name and quantity of the contents on the bag instead of having to put a sticky label on it. A good greengrocer would put all the loose fruit and veg in a cardboard box for delivery, but no, they’re all over the place, under the cans and the cartons. No wonder some come running!

In yesterday’s Sainsbury’s delivery the carrots came loose in the crate with an adhesive label affixed to one of them. It would seem the use of a polythene bag has been stopped which I am pleased about. We didn’t order loose potatoes this time so I don’t know the policy there now; perhaps they will also be loose in future.

In store, my local Sainsbury’s has stopped giving out single use plastic bags for vegetables. instead, they sell reusable mesh bags. The idea is that customers will remember to take them to the store each time they go shopping for loose vegetables.

That seems like a good idea. It’s a long time since I have actually been in a supermarket so I am out of touch.

I would like to know why some supermarkets have been so inconsistent about social distancing. At my local Tesco click & collect, the instructions are to wait in your car. Some staff will fill the bags that you have provided whereas others will stand over you while you do the packing. In contrast, another branch of Tesco places the crates beside your car and let you pack your car, so no possibility of close contact. At the local Waitrose, staff will either load your car or stand over you.

Friends who have good reasons for avoiding infection have reported similar variability in procedures.

It seems the rules let people more or less return to normal. Those who feel uncomfortable should continue wearing masks and avoiding places where social distancing is lax. My supermarket checkout still has social distancing, although this is not the case when browsing the aisles. Life has to return to near-normal at some point.

Hi Malcolm, I find social distancing inconsistent at different supermarkets too. Which supermarket do you shop at where you find the social distancing rules to be different at the checkouts and in the aisles?

@mcalnan, hello Marianne. I usually shop at M&S Simply Food. Trolley and hand sanitizer at the entrance.There are distance markers at the tills. People observe distancing there. There is no distance control in the aisles and I do not see how you ca; easily control this. Shoppers were more careful when the epidemic was seen as more serious – pre vaccinations. Now we seem more relaxed.

A recent visit to Tesco. The sanitisers were empty and I was not aware of any social distancing at the tills, but I may have overlooked it.

Since plentiful supplies of toilet roll have returned to the shelves, I have been very very happy with all of my local supermarkets. At the start of the pandemic, when some goods were hard to find due to panic buying and we all though that just keeping our hand cleans and strict 2m social distancing were going to win our fight against covid, I thought my Morrisons and Co-op supermarkets did the best job of adapting and looking after us.

As the latest “Johnson” variant rips through the UK, I’ll probably continue to wear face masks in crowded shops, even if that is no longer a legal requirement in England. News this morning suggests that Wales is less keen on a mid summer bonfire of covid regulations and is like to retain some mask rules (not least on public transport) for the time being.

While we have acute competition between supermarkets, I expect them to be very open to our wishes as consumers. Firstly, we can vote with our wallets, by buying products we approve of (where we can find them) and refusing to buy products that we do not approve of. But where the kind of products that we want to buy are not anywhere to be found, then perhaps Which? can help with communicating our wishes and desires.

Perhaps we should be thinking along the lines of:

Things supermarkets should stop selling – and why.

Things supermarkets should start selling – and why.

Especially since the first lockdown, I have become very grateful for all the supermarket staff whose long hours and hard work keep us all fed and watered.

When I moved and was no longer near a supermarket I started to buy extra non-perishable goods and keep my cupboards well stocked, taking advantage of price promotions. That proved useful when there were shortages. Even under normal circumstances the price of some goods can vary by a factor of two, so if you have the space, can afford it and are organised enough to use goods in rotation it’s easy to save money and cope with any shortages.

I had hoped that the cycle of high prices one week and low prices the next could have been suspended during the pandemic, but that was not to be.

The cycle of high prices one week and low the next was not something I have encountered where I shop. Just stable prices. However, you were at least able to take advantage of that cycle by “taking advantage of price promotions”.

Many of the price promotions are at the instigation of food manufacturers, hence the price fluctuations.

Some price promotions might be instigated by food manufacturers such as when promoting a new product, but after a few conversations with manufacturers and Ocado, it is the mainly the supermarkets who run them.

You will notice there are usually only 1 or 2 promotions in any given product type and I took part in an Ocado survey a while back where I was asked my opinion on their promotions.

I wrote to one manufacturer and asked what was the point of running a promotion if it was permanently out of stock. They replied and said it wasn’t up to them.

* * * Question * * *

Why are supermarkets allowed to make bagless food deliveries?

We all want to use less plastic, but if all supermarkets followed Ocado’s example and took back all our plastic carrier bags for recycling then problem partly solved.

Several supermarkets have delivered groceries bagless and it is so unhygienic.

Most grass verges serve as the local dogs loo followed by other animals marking their scent and many crates end up on this ground where they are either placed by the driver or fall over. Faeces are going to spread to other crates when they are stacked together. Tesco pull crates out from a shelf, put them on the ground then replace them if it is not their time for delivery.

Some time ago on the convos, a driver gave a very graphic description of why his hands were unclean. They touch many things in the course of a day including their own body parts and there are no hand washing facilities behind a bush. They have to open gates and doors, deal with broken eggs, spilt ready meals, broken bottles, etc.

Do you then want the driver handling every item of your food order?

Does any supermarket wash every crate thoroughly before it is filled for the next customer? Crate washing is not going to remove all dirt especially if it has had time to dry.

Alfa – I once asked that question of the Sainsbury’s driver and was informed that the totes were steam-cleaned daily [i.e. not between each service]. How diligent this routine is I don’t know.

There certainly are obvious contamination risks but there might not be many serious cases identified. It would be interesting to know whether many have been recorded by the public health services.

Our deliveries are not entirely bagless. All loose [unprotected] produce is enclosed in a one-trip plastic bag — we keep and re-use them because they will no longer take them back for recycling. All cleaning materials are also put in plastic bags as well as, but inconsistently, things that might leak. For everything else we have to inspect and occasionally clean the product before putting it away.

Shopping in person also carried hygiene risks so care is always required. The big disadvantage of a delivery service is that you cannot select your own goods or adjust your order at the time to avoid poorer quality items — in fact, because of anonymity, that is likely what you’ll get.

Great question! Putting groceries directly into crates to deliver them to customers is arguably less hygienic than placing customer after customer’s food into the same crate. But there are a lot of shoppers who would rather have their items delivered without bags due to environmental concerns. Even these shoppers, however, have to have some items delivered in bags, such as meat and fresh fruit or veg, in any case to prevent contamination through spillages.

Surely it’s more economical in terms of bag use if the the things that might leak or spill are put in bags. That’s what our Sainsbury’s delivery people do. They can get a large number of cleaning products in one polythene bag and they usually hand it over separately so it doesn’t get mixed up with food products.

In some ways it’s overkill because cleaning products and other liquid goods are so tightly capped these days and have tamper-proof closures that any spill or leakage is a rarity unless the container itself bursts.

They also tend to put the eggs and other runny things on the top of the crates so they are visible and unlikely to get crushed.

With the best will in the world we are unlikely to eliminate plastic packaging but minimising it is possible and then reusing any whole bags or wrappings.

I understand the environmental concerns but don’t see why all supermarkets can’t accept bags back for recycling like Ocado who also take back other supermarkets bags as well as their own.

I asked the same question of the FCA who replied that is unlikely that you can catch coronavirus from food (I didn’t mention the virus at all so they didn’t read my email properly). They also informed me local authorities perform inspections and enforce food law.

I do think customers should be given a choice especially when it comes to items like flour in paper packaging.

I was pleased when the supermarkets I used for online orders cut down their use of plastic bags. I was a little surprised to find broccoli loose in a crate with a price label attached but then it occurred to me that the vegetable would have been growing in an environment full of bugs.

Our bodies are capable of protecting us against small numbers of bacteria and in food poisoning our defences are overwhelmed by ingesting large numbers. Babies and young children put their hands and other objects in their mouths and they survive, and this process helps to make them better able to fight disease.

Although it may be unpleasant to think of food in contact with unsanitised surfaces rather that in bags, maybe there is not really a risk.

Em says:
11 July 2021

A question for the Live Q&A please:

Earlier this year, I ordered 10 bottles of Villa Maria Pinot Gris from Asda for home delivery at an exceptionally low price, just over £5 per bottle. It was being advertised nationally – “subject to availability” of course.

My order was accepted, and Asda delivered a few days later – a mixed selection of Sauvignon Blanc from different vineyards. I rejected that, as would any serious wine drinker.

I re-ordered, this time being careful to specify “no substitutions”, although for branded alcohol I would have thought that should be obvious. The order was again accepted for delivery within a few days. On the morning of delivery, the order was cancelled as “out of stock”.

At what point does (or should) the acceptance of an order become binding on the retailer?

Should I have insisted on Asda fulfilling the bargain? Or sought compensation for buying the same wine at a higher price from another retailer who had it in stock?

Should legislation be introduced to prevent large retailers hiding behind “subject to availability” clauses for online orders? They know what stock they have available in their warehouses and supermarkets on a minute-by-minute basis.

Amazon is clear in their terms and conditions that an invitation to treat is only accepted once the goods are actually dispatched, but supermarket online deliveries are bit of a grey area.

Once they have decided to provide a substitute – which may not be fit for purpose – there must be acceptance of the contract on their part?

I hope your question gets an answer, Em. I have been fed up with supermarkets relying on “no substitute supplied at your request”.

My primary request was to fulfil my order placed some days in advance of the delivery date from a catalogue that showed availability and had been confirmed in print. Notice of unavailability tends to arrive just after the last time to amend the order although recently, in the case of general product shortages, early notice has sometimes been given.

My early battles on this were with Waitrose in 2015 to the point that we switched to Sainsbury’s and haven’t used Waitrose since.

This is a major problem for home deliveries that are picked from supermarket shelves rather that a warehouse as stock cannot be guaranteed.

If they accept your order on a special offer and cannot then fulfil it, then I believe you should be given a voucher for the discount to use against that product at a future date.

Maybe the contract should be fulfilled once payment has been taken?
A good deal has been written about supermarket wine deals. Often, the wine is only worth around what you pay, not the “before” price. However, buying inexpensive wine at the inexpensive price is fine if you enjoy it.
I buy my wine generally from the Wine Society and, although they have a good range at under £7 the average I pay, with a large choice, is around £8-9. I do not drink a lot so I suppose I could splash out on the odd £15-£20 bottle but my palate is not that refined to appreciate such wines – if indeed they really do deserve, from an enjoyment point of view, being twice the price. As for Petrus 2015 I will never know how nice a £700 glass might taste.

After having a problem with wine being too acidic since the virus I had back in 2016 and disliking champagne and fizzy drinks all my life, I seem to have recently developed a liking for champagne-type drinks. I was given a bottle of prosecco to review and much to my surprise actually liked it.

We have quite a few bottles that have been given to us over the years so I will gradually be trying them and a 1997 Tesco Vintage Cava is currently chilling in the fridge.

I can only sip them slowly, but am actually enjoying them (only tried 2 so far !!!) and will see how it goes.

And it will free up some space in the bottom of the cupboard.

Em says:
11 July 2021

Payment was certainly taken for the first rejected order. In fact it was not even refunded. I had to ring up and complain to get my money back. Did the driver “forget”?

Great question Em – the short answer is I’m not 100% sure on this one. But I’ve already reached out to a couple of colleagues in our Consumer Rights team who should be able to shed some light on this matter.
In my view, the acceptance of an order should become binding on the part of the retailer once it has been placed by the customer and accepted by that retailer. When I come across issues like this experienced by shoppers on social media constantly, and it’s incredibly frustrating to see.

Hi Em, our Consumer Rights team have let me know this is all dependant on how the retailer responds to the order being placed.
Common practise is for them to acknowledge that you’ve made an order but not actually confirm it until they’ve dispatched it, which means a contract is only formed with the customer at dispatch.
Interestingly, Law Commission actually launched a consultation last year to try and get his very issue straightened out.

Hi Em, our Consumer Rights team have let me know this is all dependant on how the retailer responds to the order being placed.
Common practice is for them to acknowledge that you’ve made an order but not actually confirm it until they’ve dispatched it, which means a contract is only formed with the customer at dispatch.
Interestingly, Law Commission actually launched a consultation last year to try and get his very issue straightened out.

Tesco take payment before delivery as I had to wait for a refund when they failed to deliver.

Sainsbury’s don’t calculate the final price until all the shopping is put through the till immediately after picking. Any refund credits are made by way of vouchers which does not seem right to me although that does make sense for substitutions and other items rejected on delivery.

Em says:
16 July 2021

Thanks Marianne.

I’m certainly used to suppliers like Amazon cancelling an order due to non-availability – at least they tried.

But sitting on an order and then being fobbed off at the last minute with something else is really no better than being sent a pair of fake Ray-Bans when you want a breadmaker. Why do scammers get a bad rap, when high-street supermarkets try to get away with it as though it is normal business practice? We return your money (after you complain) is a poor excuse.

Em says:
16 July 2021

Remember these retailers are continuing to advertise the promotion after my order has been rejected. I could complain to the ASA, but they are toothless. And it still leaves me £30 worse off if I buy the same items elsewhere.

Alfa wrote: “Tesco take payment before delivery ….” I’ve only used click & collect and the charge shows up as a pending payment, giving time for corrections. Different branches may have other procedures.

I cannot understand why Sainsbury provide refunds as vouchers but it will be good for their cash flow.

Darren says:
15 July 2021

How do you see companies like Gorillas, Weezy, Gettir and Jiffy changing how supermarkets deliver food to us in the future. Here in London I’ve been taking advantage of some very generous vouchers sent to be by all four companies. Ordering to delivery sometimes takes less then ten minutes to my door which is outstanding, whilst the next available slot for Ocado, is usually 48 hours away. I can only see these companies getting more and more popular as their delivery radius expands and more people sign up.

While Sainsbury’s and the Co-op may have teamed up with Deliveroo, I see rapid grocery delivery services like Weezy, Jiffy etc forcing supermarkets to step up their game big time. These companies are all about speed and if supermarkets can’t match their efficiency when it comes to delivering orders, they’re going to miss out on custom.

The Grocer quotes Weezy as 25% more expensive than Sainsbuy’s. Maybe these services ar OK for emergencies or for those who are not money conscious. But you could be paying a lot more than you need, as with Deliveroo and the like for cooked meals.
The trend seems to be for everything to be delivered immediately, but at a cost many may not be prepared to pay. It is also inefficient. I generally do a (physical) shop weekly and find no problem doing that.
Perhaps Which? could do a price comparison on the basis of their regular supermarket trolley.

Darren Rose says:
21 July 2021

You’re quite right, they are expense however i only order with them when they send me large money off vouchers. I ordered £20 of products on Monday with Jiffy and got £10 off my order. So the £5.00 tub of Halo Top only cost me £2.50 etc.

Hi all,
With so-called ‘Freedom Day’ just around the corner, will you still be wearing a face mask in the supermarket from next week? What do you make of Sainsbury’s and Tesco still encouraging shoppers to wear face coverings in their stores?

[Moderator: we’ve edited this comment to correct a typo]

I’ll continue wearing a real (not fake) face mask in shops for the forseeable future. I find no problem wearing one but those with spectacles suffer misting up.

It’s going to be a while yet until we go into a supermarket again.

Encouraging is not enough, it needs to be mandatory and I hope they are real masks not fake ones. 🙃

You can also pick up a pair of shoes made from recycled materials from Mountain Warehouse for a very reasonable price.

Products made from recycled fabrics, divert waste from land-fill – protecting our oceans, safeguarding the Earths resources and preventing waste.”

I had trouble logging into The Lobby again today, and the only way in was through Community and Jon, which took me straight into Live Event, and The Lobby comment ended up in Live Event. It’s an enduring problem that doesn’t go away.

I seem to able to log-in to read comments alright but as soon as I want to post a comment the ‘sign-in/register’ tab comes up and it then takes a few attempts to get back in again. I think this problem has to be the priority for making the site accessible and enabling people to participate with ease at their convenience.

Kevin says:
17 July 2021

On the subject of stock levels, I use Sainsbury regularly, but since it’s a trek to my nearest store I like to check their stock online first; it’s specific items I’m after which aren’t as good or are unavailable elsewhere.

This is the response when attempting to check stock online for at least the last week:
“We’ve removed our online Stock Checker at the moment, but please be aware that our stock levels do change every day, so it’s always best to check in store for the stock of any items you’re looking for”

I’m not quite sure what to make of this, apart from the inconvenience, it seems quite insulting. Basically they seem to be saying that they recognise how useful the feature is, but they can’t be bothered explaining when or if it will be reinstated, and anyway and it’s our fault for not checking with the store directly if they’re out of stock.

I would complain directly to them, but their contact options are via Facebook of other ‘social’ media (thanks, but no thanks), or telephone them. There’s no online form or email address, which seems to emphasise the contempt they appear to have for their customers.