Tesco attracts the most criticism, but it's actually Waitrose that's the worst offender when comes to coupon misredemption, a mystery shopping survey has revealed.

Waitrose pledged last January to "eradicate" misredemption, but shoppers were able to misredeem coupons in half the Waitrose stores visited inthe survey, which was carried out by Storecheck for the Institute of Promotional Marketing.

The shoppers attempted to redeem a coupon offering 50p off a branded tub of seeds against a different product. Of the five chains surveyed, Waitrose fared the worst, 50% of stores allowing the shopper to misdredeem the coupon, followed by Tesco, which was caught out in 35% of stores. Morrisons had the best record, allowing misredemption in just 15%, while Asda allowed it in 25% and Sainsbury's in 24%.

"Supermarkets tell us that they take this issue very seriously," said an IPM spokesman. "We actually have a statement issued by Waitrose dated 14 January 2010, stating that it will 'eradicate all coupon mal-redemption' but this clearly hasn't happened."

Waitrose promised to look into the issue. "This error should not have happened and we're investigating it as a matter of urgency," said a spokeswoman.

Coupon specialist Mando warned that suppliers were essentially footing the bill for money off other suppliers' products.

"If coupons are being misredeemed, brands are effectively printing cash," added marketing director Chris Baldwin. "It is important that retailers always use coupons according to the T&Cs, otherwise it just ends up costing brands money for no benefit."

There was no excuse for the misredemptions, said Storecheck MD Colin Harper. "Shoppers only had one item in their basket so the argument staff may have missed the correct product won't stand up."

However, the survey also showed overall levels were falling. Only 28% of the stores surveyed allowed misredemption, compared with 40% a few years ago.

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