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

Gary Gale

I'm Gary ... a Husband, Father, CTO at Kamma, geotechnologist, map geek, coffee addict, Sci-fi fan, UNIX and Mac user