from Brian Longstaff, membership administrator, Vegetarian Society

Sir; Concerning the coverage of online shopping in last week’s edition: online shopping can be an excellent option for buying vegetarian food if you use specialist websites such as or

Members of The Vegetarian Society have however reported problems in using the big supermarkets’ online facilities.

The main complaint surrounds the issue of substitutions. Imagine being housebound and vegetarian, online shopping seems to solve all your shopping dilemmas.

You order online or by phone. The order includes vegetarian pies, veggie sausage rolls and veggie burgers. You are thanked for your order and it is confirmed that it will be delivered on certain date at a certain time. Then it arrives and the problems start.

You ordered vegetarian pies, and they’re out of stock. They send you steak and kidney instead! You reject them, to be returned and the money refunded. Your sausage rolls weren’t in stock, so they’ve been replaced by vegetarian sausages - you already have a box of them in. The burgers are missing. Will they be re-delivered? No, not just for one item, you are told. So out of three items - covering six meals - you could end up with just one, and that not of your choosing.

People are vegetarian for many reasons - including religion and health - so when things like this happen, it can cause deep offence and practical problems.

Our members tell us that online stores of this type rarely inform the customer immediately if an item is out of stock and an alternative is needed and they rarely take notice of special diets when offering alternatives.

In addition they seldom offer to re-deliver missing items despite the fact that it is the service’s fault that it is missing in the first place.