Sunday, 9 August 2009

M&S Wine Watch Day 9

4 of the misleading '10%' signs still on Display in M&S Stirling.
Note the different wording and type-face.
'Save 10%' and '10% off'

The story so far: When I pointed out the above signage was misleading at the M&S Glasgow store, the staff turned hostile. I wrote to Chairman Stuart Rose to complain. M&S's Director of Food said he agreed the ticket was misleading and they would 'immediately... remove and destroy' the above tickets from all stores. That was 10 days ago.

M&S has 600 stores. So there is a good chance some of these misleading signs may have been missed when they were 'immediately' removed. But what are the chances of my visiting the only store in the whole of the UK that still has 4 of them on display?

Let's also assume that that if this was a food safety recall (rather than just misleading the customers into buying lots of wine) that M&S would be less sloppy in implementing its 'immediate remove and destroy' policy.

Now let's look at why the 'Save 10%' sign I saw in Glasgow was misleading.

The Director of Food wrote; 'unfortunately it appears that in this instance the terms and conditions of the case discount were missed off when printed.'

Have another look at the signs I photographed in the Stirling Store on Sunday. Exhibit 1 and 2 appear to be from the same batch as I first saw. Exhibits 3 and 4 are each entirely different. They look as though they pre-date the version where the 'T&C of the case discount were missed off'. The word 'buy' is absent and 'off' replaces 'save'. Exhibit 4 also has a wine glass line drawing not shown on any of the other versions. But crucially none of these earlier versions carries any terms and conditions describing how the offer is applied.

The Director of Food continues 'I would like to personally reassure you that we have not intentionally tried to mislead anybody and that we go to great lengths to ensure this situation does not arise.'

It's going to be a bad week in the M&S promotions copy-checking department. This situation appears to have happened not once, not twice, but on three separate printings. Oh dear.

I was amazed to discover I am not the only UK consumer who has had a spot of bother recently trying to get a leading food retailer to honour it's advertised promotion. A contributor to the Flyertalk British Airways forum reports how his local Tesco tried to tell him an 800 clubcard points promotion had never existed on Champagne. When he removed the shelf ticket and said he would send it to head office as proof, staff had him surrounded by security and said police would be on the way and arrest him for theft. When he took a photograph of the label he was told photography isn't allowed.Why are high street retailers so reluctant to be held accountable? They are more than happy to follow customers around the store with CCTV and security guards.

M&S have now written to me to reassure me that surrounding unhappy customers with security guards isn't in the staff training manual. Apparently what should have happened was if staff are unable to give the correct information they should refer the query to Head Office and promise a response later. M&S say I remain a valued customer and do hope I will be happy shopping with them in future.

But, despite two separate requests M&S have remained completely silent on their policy towards customers taking photos of promotions and products in store. So I can at least assure readers there has been NO attempt to ban the above photos (unlike the first one)

So if you see the misleading 'Save 10%' sign still on display at your local store feel free to send me a photograph. Mr Dixon at M&S might appreciate a copy too. They're probably proof-reading the 'No Photography Allowed' signs now.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Tesco - 'Not Real' Baskets TV Ad 'Misleading'

Tesco's 'Real Baskets' TV and Newspaper Ad campaign.
The Advertising Standards Authority rules it did mislead shoppers.

Since successfully complaining to M&S about their misleading 'Save 10%' wine discount, I'm reminded about another food retailer's advertising.

I've highlighted Tesco's nonsense price comparison ads before. They are so desperate to claim they are the cheapest supermarket they will use almost any daft data to try and prove it. In their 'Britain's Biggest Discounter' campaign (a claim also criticised as 'ambiguous' by the ASA) they compared £100 worth of weekly shopping against Asda prices. £10 of the comparison was spent on hair dye. Please, how stupid do Tesco think we are!

Anyway it didn't stop Tesco dreaming up the 'Real Baskets' ad. You might think, looking at the reproduction above, that 1,124,000 real baskets were cheaper at Tesco than the same 705,000 baskets at Asda. In fact, in the tiny print you can't easily read, it says they actually only counted a sample of baskets and then projected the rest. There are plenty of other opaque technical exclusions too (read them from Tesco here)

This week the Advertising Standards Authority ruled the ads were misleading. They said if Tesco says 'Real Baskets' and shows a huge number piled up that's what people will expect they counted, not the tiny number hidden in the text underneath. The ASA also said the exclusion of a number of items in the baskets made it impossible for shoppers to calculate whether it was really cheaper to shop at Tesco as claimed.

Looking at some online comments (the Daily Mail ran the report this week) shoppers said they weren't fooled by Tesco's nonsense. But can this really be true? Would Tesco spend hundreds of thousands of pounds trying to create an impression no one would believe? Tesco must hope their campaigns do build belief - even if only among their own customers, who might be tempted to go and find out if Asda really is cheaper.

TV advertisers do have to jump considerable approval (Clearcast clearance) and legal hurdles (defamation etc) before they can run a TV ad. But if they do manage to get a nonsense ad like Tesco's on the air there is no punishment when it is later ruled misleading. By then the campaign is over and the message is out there.

Perhaps advertisers should be fined a proportion of their ad spend when their ads are ruled misleading, instead of simply banned from re-running them?

Saturday, 1 August 2009

M&S Wine Watch Day 1

"As a result of your email we have immediately instructed all stores to remove and destroy the ticketand issued a revised version clearly stating our terms" John Dixon, Director of Food, M&S

Perhaps I'm misunderstanding M&S's use of the term 'immediately' now?

I went into M&S Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow this Saturday afternoon (the busiest trading day of the week). The wine tickets are still prominently on display.

But I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. Afterall, last Saturday the management there could see no problem with their tickets.

Go on Mr Dixon, get Glasgow into line.