Waitrose customers 'disgusted' at voucher delays

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Waitrose store on high streetImage source, Getty Images

It can be hard to take away a perk – even temporarily – as Waitrose is finding to its cost.

Some members of the upmarket grocer’s loyalty card scheme have taken to social media in outrage, after not receiving their weekly money-off vouchers as usual.

Some said they were “disgusted” and planned to shop elsewhere.

Waitrose said it hadn’t changed the overall frequency of its money-off vouchers.

But some customers might find there were “brief windows” when the offers didn’t update.

The supermarket was keen to allay customer concerns, urging affected shoppers to “continue to swipe” their myWaitrose card, and that the vouchers should reappear within weeks.

Displeasing the nine million members of its loyalty scheme is the last thing the chain, part of the John Lewis Partnership, wants right now.

The battle for customers is as tough at the upper end of the market as it is between budget stores and Marks and Spencer is out to eat Waitrose’s lunch. Both have 3.8% of the market, after a rise in M&S’s share in recent months.

But shoppers online said despite complaining about their missing vouchers, they had not been given an adequate explanation for why the offers were missing.

They said the experience was “rubbish”, “frustrating” and “disgusting” and said it could persuade them to shop elsewhere.

One upset customer said Waitrose had just appeared to “halt” the offers so she was “off to Sainsbury’s”.

Each week Waitrose’s loyalty scheme offers its members the chance for money off two different products they usually buy, or items the scheme would like to market to them.

Waitrose said it was still issuing the personalised vouchers in the same way as before, but changes it made last autumn to the scheme’s terms and conditions, meant members would occasionally see a break in their offers, which would never last more than four weeks. The changes brought the scheme into line with “industry standards” it said.

“Just like all other supermarkets, our T&Cs simply reflect the fact that there may be brief windows when vouchers don’t update. These are very infrequent and only ever impact a very small number of customers, whose vouchers will return very soon,” a Waitrose spokesperson said.

Waitrose has run the gauntlet of disgruntled loyal customers before. When the myWaitrose loyalty scheme made changes to the free coffee and newspapers offer two years ago, there were angry complaints. But the chain said the changes were all about making more personalised offers to a wider range of members, since only 5% of them had taken up the free newspaper option.

Retail commentator, Kate Hardcastle, from Insight with Passion said she had concerns over Waitrose’s communications strategy, which could have a “broader impact on consumer trust which is vital for the brand”.

“It’s clear that while changes within a company might make sense in the boardroom, they are increasingly disengaging and disappointing consumers who feel let down,” she said.