An Open Letter to Asda and Walmart

This is an open letter to Andy Bond, Chief Executive of Asda and to Mike Duke, CEO of Wal-Mart.
As a British citizen who travels a lot in the US I understand that the “customer service” ethos which is so prevalent in the US doesn’t travel or translate particularly well in the UK. I also understand that it’s almost naive to expect that since Asda was taken over by Wal-Mart in 1999 any type of US values would transfer to the UK arm. I also understand that the UK supermarket business is highly competitive and that through Asda, Wal-Mart is competing head-to-head with Tesco, Morrison’s and Sainsbury’s. I understand and accept all of this.
What I do not understand and what I do not accept is the sheer bloody-mindedness and rudeness of your staff, especially those of your online retailer business.
Let me explain.
As a family we tried out Asda, as their prices are extremely competitive compared to those of their competitors, so on the 19th of October we booked a delivery slot for an online shop; the order wasn’t particularly large or complex but it was still in excess of £100.00. The only delivery slot available was from 8.00 PM to 10.00 PM the following day.
October 20th. 10.05 PM. No shopping. So I look online for some insight.
We know how important it is that we deliver on time but occasionally we can run into difficulties. In the unlikely event that we will be late, we’ll always try to let you know.
I liked the answer to the question “My delivery hasn’t arrived yet?” … “If your shopping hasn’t arrived by the end of your delivery slot, please call our Helpline on 0844 8733333 (calls will be charged at a local rate, lines are open 8am-10pm, 7 days a week.)“.
Unless, of course, your shopping is due to arrive at 10.00 PM in which case if there is a problem, anyone at Asda has gone home for the night. But not my delivery driver it would seem, who rings me at 10.20 to tell me “we’re running slightly late” and that “your shopping will be there at 35 past latest“.
October 20th. 10.40 PM. No shopping.
October 20th. 10.45 PM. Shopping arrives with a giggle and a laugh; “We’re running a bit late tonight (hee hee hee)“. No apology, no contrition, no final bill so I know how much we’ve actually spent, it all seems one great big joke. Apart from the point where they knocked on the front door so hard it managed to wake both of my children up. A great joke, hilarious; only I’m the only one who doesn’t seem to find this particularly amusing.
So I look at my confirmation email … “If you have any queries about ASDA Online Shopping you can contact us on 0844 8733333“. Ah yes, this would be the helpline that closed at 10.00 PM.
So the following day at around 9.30 AM, we ring customer service; they’re open now. They promise to ring the store and the store manager would call us.
October 21st. 2.00 PM. No call. So we hold while customer services rings the store; the store manager “isn’t available and will call us back“.
October 21st. 5.00 PM. No call. So we call customer services who have, miraculously, been in touch with the store. They agree that this is appalling customer service, so appalling that as a token of their esteem they offer “Free delivery of your next order“. This assumes there will be a next order and it works out at the grand total of £4.25. Obviously not that appalling so we say that it’s not good enough.
Asda’s second, and final as it turns out, offer? £10.00 in e-vouchers, which again assumes that there will be a next order and which, by the way, needs to be redeemed in 2 months otherwise they’re invalidated. Still not that appalling so we say that it’s not good enough. So we’re put on hold … permanently as the call isn’t picked up again and after another 15 minutes we hang up in sheer frustration.
As an organisation, Asda may have had a consumer spend of almost £3.5B and a market share of 17% as of August 2008 but as of October 2009 my wallet won’t be contributing to that spend and Asda’s market share just dropped by one household’s worth, which has gone back to one of their rivals.
Photo credits: itsleftyjuliebee and Tico on Flickr

Posted via email from Gary’s Posterous

2 Comments

  • Very well said Gary! I recently shopped at the large ASDA store in Roehampton on a Saturday afternoon and it was a very unpleasant experience. Like you, I experience US customer service regularly and cannot see much evidence of that ethos on this side of the pond – I know it is more common for the cynical nature of the inhabitants of this island to mock the “have a nice day” approach of the US retail sector but I never thought the “have a sh1te day” approach would ever really be adopted but it appears some retailers allow their staff to practice this.
    On the visit I refer to above, ASDA car park staff were fooling around whilst collecting discarded trollies and one of the pushed a large stack of them into the side of my car causing £300 worth of paint damage. They were not aware I was approacing and when confronted they denied it at first and then said I must have reversed into them – a complete lie. The supervisor sent to investigate actually said: “sh1t happens mate!” Mate??!!! Mate???!!!
    I won’t bore you but it went from bad to worse, suffice to say ASDA shall not get anymore of my money and I’ll pat my backside on that!
    Customer service is very poor these days in all sectors and ‘good manners’ seem to be missing in all walks of life ( anybody queue at a bus stop anymore? ) and this makes the whole shopping experience a bit of a chore – I wish I knew how to fix it quickly but I think it will sadly take time and need to be introduced from the school playground up.
    ASDA – bad mojo but please, don’t get me started on the so called “experts” at PC World!

  • Hi, having lived 20 yrs in Canada, 5 apiece in TX and CA, USofA and now 3 in Cambridge UK, I can certainly empathise:
    1) Starbucks with the same products, same setup, same # employees and similar price, manages to offer coffee at ~ half the speed in UK than in US.
    2) That applies in N America too, where Safeway supplies were far superior in Dallas TX (head of the line?) than Calgary Canada (end of the line?)
    3) America is replete with cheap labor (students @ Macdonalds, people of colour @ carwashes) with virtually no labour laws c/w Europe,
    4) slowness and rudeness is the same in France anf Germany as England IMHO
    5) my conclusion then is that service is inversely proprotionate to job security behind the counter