It can take less than a pound to kill a ton of trust.
Groceries on the Internet
Almost four percent of groceries sold in the UK last year were sold on-line. Shopping on-line has some drawbacks. You don’t get to check over your own produce, you miss in-store sales, and if there is something that you forgot to put on your list, you aren’t going to push your shopping trolley past it and say, ‘Oh, we needed to buy more pickles and I forgot to put that on the list’ (our family ALWAYS needs more pickles :)).
On the other hand, you save petrol and time, and if you can manage the basics of planning ahead enough to be able to wait until the next day for your order, it is very convenient. And if transportation or health problems makes it difficult to get out to the shops, it is really nice to let someone else do the running.
Internet grocery shopping relies on trust. You have to trust someone else to check that the punnet of six peaches doesn’t include two bad ones. You have to trust them to provide the things you ordered, at the price you ordered, to not leave things out that you really need, and to not extras you didn’t want. You understand that people make mistakes, and they may run out of things, but you expect them to do their best for you. If they don’t, you’ll go elsewhere — there are no captive customers in Internet shopping.
This Week’s Shop
Last year, for the first time, we did some Internet grocery shopping, but ended up going back to the shops. We could go with Internet shopping all the time, though — the time and petrol savings is appealing. The company that gets our business will find it profitable, because our family is large enough (and the
boys young men eat enough) that our weekly spend is pretty high.
We’ve been fighting some illness, so getting to the shops just hadn’t happened, and this week, we ordered our groceries from Sainsbury’s. We’d not used them in the past, so we wanted to see how they did with our first order.
When the delivery man showed up, he explained that sometimes they had to make a substitution, and we could either accept it or reject it. Attached to the receipt was a form showing the substitution they had made.
100 Grams of Strawberries
We had ordered 400 grams of strawberries at a price of £1.75. Apparently, they were out of the 400g packages, and so they had substituted a 300g package. The form very clearly listed the item we had ordered (400g) and the price (£1.75), and the item substituted (300g), but not the price of the substituted item. Foolishly, I assumed the price would be comparable, and accepted the substitution.
After the delivery man left, we looked at the receipt, and discovered they charged £2.00 for 300 grams of strawberries. So we were charged more, for fewer strawberries (44p instead of 67p per 100 grams) — and the price of the substituted item was not on the form (it says “see receipt”). Now, I could have (and should have) looked at the receipt, but I wasn’t well, and the delivery man was running late, so I didn’t want to delay him. I didn’t check the receipt.
Sainsbury’s’ system prints a form showing exactly what was substituted — but not the price. That looks like an intentional bait and switch. It probably wasn’t intentional — but how can I know it isn’t? If they can print the item, they can print the price. So they made a nice switch that netted them less than a pound of extra profit — and lost a chance at a long-term lucrative relationship for them.
After we discovered what happened, I called customer service. They said, “Unfortunately, we don’t price match, so you don’t get things at the same price.” When I objected that we were getting fewer strawberries at a higher price, they offered a 25p (£2.00 vs £1.75) e-voucher for our next shop at Sainsbury’s — but said in future, substitutions were final.
So, I accepted the e-voucher. But as I said, I wasn’t well, and so it wasn’t until I got off the phone that it struck me — so we’re getting the same price, but we are still getting fewer strawberries for that price.
Unfortunately, Sainsbury’s doesn’t price match, but unfortunately, they’ve lost a customer. I won’t use that e-voucher. I don’t trust them to be careful not to do a bait and switch. I don’t trust them to be sure they are making full disclosure on any substitutions. I don’t trust them to make things right when their customers, even a first time customer, isn’t treated well. And we won’t buy on the Internet from someone we can’t trust for those things. There are other Internet grocery providers.
Not About Sainsbury’s
To this point, you may wonder, ‘Since when did Jon’s blog become a consumer site?’ A lot of readers aren’t even in the UK, and won’t be shopping at Sainsbury’s anyway. But this isn’t really about Sainsbury’s — it is about trust.
If Sainsbury’s had done a true price match with what we ordered, the cost would have been £1.32. That failure cost me only £0.43 — but little things become big things when trust is involved. That is true whether we are talking about shopping, or marriage relationships, or work, or friendships.
It was stupid of Sainsbury’s to damage trust for less than half a pound of profit. But how often do we damage trust in little ways in our relationships with one another? It isn’t enough to be trustworthy in the big things, we need to show that we are trustworthy in the little things — or we will never be trusted with the big things.
Sainsbury’s can always go get new customers, and adopt policies that will win and hold their trust. Once you lose the trust of your family, how will you regain it? If your employer loses confidence in you (or your employees, if you are a supervisor), will you ever have a chance to get it back? If your friends don’t trust you, you’ll lose your friends — or at least, your relationships will suffer.
It is the little lies, the little things that are hidden, the things that should have been admitted and weren’t, the little commitments that you don’t keep, the little statements of gossip, that destroy trust. You don’t have to be horribly treacherous to destroy trust. If you aren’t trusted in the little things, you’ll usually never have a chance to be trustworthy with big things. If people don’t trust you, they just don’t trust you — usually, it is the little things that make the difference.
Related: Of Pencils and Blades of Grass