Substitute one bottle of this beer with one bottle of that more-expensive beer, refund the difference, job done. Swap one pack of these pitta breads for one pack of those more-expensive ones, refund the difference, Bob’s your uncle.
Sounds good and seems fair – or even feels like a win – at first glance.
Except when the 660ml bottle of beer you ordered is swapped for a 620ml bottle. Or the pack of six pitta breads is swapped for a pack of five. My wife even had a pack of 20 sanitary towels substituted with a pack of 16.
In these instances, despite the refunds to match the price of your chosen product, we were paying more.
Man of steel vs man of steal
Ever seen Superman III from back in the 80s?
It’s not the best film, but a neat plot device is how Richard Pryor’s character, Gus Gorman, receives a pay cheque showing he owed $143.80½. There’s no such thing as half a cent so he can only bank the $143.80.
Intrigued, he hacks into his employer’s computer system and find thousands of other half-cents floating around, which he then channels into his next cheque, stealing over $85,000.
The point here is that tiny amounts add up to big amounts if left uncorrected.
Yes, with Tesco, you can reject the substition when it arrives if you’re not happy. But most often you’re pondering whether red wine vinegar rather than white wine vinegar will make do in the recipe you ordered it for.
You’re not dividing the price of the first bottle by its volume, then multiplying that figure by the volume of the substituted slightly smaller bottle to figure out what you should be paying for it!
However, if I can roughly do that calculation in my head, any online retailer will have the data and digital wherewithal to figure it out precisely. In other words, there’s no reason why these errors should exist.
Look after the pennies… and your brand looks after itself
Beyond mathmatical accuracy, this is ultimately about brand.
Any business making an overt promise such as ‘You won’t pay more’ asks for customers’ trust, and sets itself up to be judged (at least in part) by that promise.
While I expect Tesco’s approach to price matching on substitutions is generally well intentioned, they need to do a little more to make it equitable in every instance.
The negative reputational cost to their brand – or the brand of any company that inadvertently or intentionally short-changes their customers – is far greater than any financial gain.
In the meantime, the calculator in my head remains switched on and healthily wary of any figures put in front of me. Switch yours on too!