September 16, 2016 stefivos

Ocado: how bad customer service can lose you a loyal customer

I have been a loyal Ocado customer for about a year. Whenever I wanted to do a big shopping, I placed it with them. Until this week.

A few days ago, I activated Smartpass, a paid Ocado service which gives you free deliveries from Tuesday to Thursday at a small cost. My intention was clearly to increase my shopping frequency. On the same day, I placed an order for Wednesday the 14th as I would be throwing a small party on Friday.

On the day, I received my receipt electronically and I was informed that I did not have any substitutions and that my driver would be arriving in a “Lemon van”. Everything sounded promising.

Just three hours before the delivery slot commenced, I received the following e-mail:

The order was cancelled because there’s an outstanding payment for a previous order that was placed using a linked account.

What??? I did not have a linked account, so I imagined this might have been my flatmate’s account. And it was. And he had an outstanding payment. And I was getting penalised for that.

To say I was utterly frustrated would be an understatement. My flatmate’s dealings with Ocado should in no way affect me or anyone else living at the same address.

I wrote them an angry but polite email and even took the feud onto twitter.

Among my points was that my flatmate with the outstanding payment enjoys a FREE Smartpass, while I had to pay for mine. I naively hoped that this would alert them as to why our accounts are not and should not be considered as “linked”. I ended my e-mail making it clear that “If you fail to do this simple thing, I will cancel the Smartpass and I will never order from you again.”

A few hours later, I received an e-mail saying that my Smartpass had been cancelled. I initially suspected a simple-minded bot, but Ocado’s later explanation was that this was done automatically when my order was cancelled. Of course, there was no hint of refunding the cost, although I had not used the service.

On top of all that, my account was now “inactive”. I successfully reset my password, but I was still advised to call customer services.

Ocado - inactive account

This was the last straw. After placing an order with Waitrose, I wrote them another e-mail making it clear that I no longer wished to receive the delivery, and I demanded a refund of the Smartpass cost.

The next day, Thursday, Ocado’s response finally landed in my inbox:

Unfortunately, as we have delivered shopping to your Flat and not been able to take payment for the goods we are unable to process any orders to the same address. As this is the business policy there is nothing I am able to do until that payment has cleared. Of course I am aware that this isn’t your own payment, but due to the way the system automatically works, there isn’t anything I can do to stop this. 

At that point, I was more astounded than frustrated. I simply could not comprehend how this policy works out for them. Especially in London, where 55% of professionals live in flatshares. How can a company refuse a service due to someone else’s arrears just because you share with them the same house?

With its irrational policy and its bad customer service, Ocado achieved something quite ironic: they kept a customer with an outstanding payment and a free Smartpass, and lost a paying customer who intended to become more frequent.

The cherry on the cake is that they wished me to enjoy my party tonight, hoping that I would be willing to forgive them. Well, I am not and I will never be.

Ocado's customer service on twitter

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