tesco store

Tesco has been on the up recently, but Inside Out London (BBC1, 13 February, 7.30pm) revealed systemic problems remain.

Methodical investigative work by Jonathan Gibson found Tesco has been overcharging customers by failing to remove expired promo tickets. Many shoppers snapping up a two for one deal got charged for both instead. And it wasn’t just one or two stores. Of 50 visited, 33 were riddled with errors.

Why? Because promotions change so frequently that staff tasked with switching the labels got in a “right muddle”. Another checked one out-of-date label but didn’t remove it. It was still there a month later.

Tesco’s initial response was lame. It refused to offer anyone up for interview, instead issuing a statement that said it “took great care to deliver clear and accurate price labels for our customers”. A bold claim, given the extraordinary sloppiness on display. Some labels were weeks out of date. “Too long,” said Martin Fisher from Trading Standards. “Very, very worrying.”

Apologists will suggest mistakes will always occur due to the complexities of running so many promotions across so many lines in so many stores. I don’t buy that. Just don’t run them. Any promo strategy that routinely rips off customers is fundamentally flawed.

Tesco has now vowed to investigate, “double-checking” promotional paper tickets across 3,500 stores. Which sounds like as much fun as painting the Forth Bridge. And it’s probably also having (another) chat about switching to relatively expensive NFC/LED labelling instead.