Sainsbury’s this afternoon – Ugh!

I had to go into town, earlier, so as I was passing I dashed into Sainsbury’s to get a few bits and pieces. I have to be opportunistic about supermarket visits, since I can’t go in when I have Piglet with me, which is most of the time.

While I was there I noticed a smartly-dressed young man lurking at the head of an aisle, and wearing some sort of badge. As I was passing somebody asked him where the Marmite was, and he explained that he couldn’t help because he was only there in relation to some sort of in-store promotion.

When I passed again a couple of minutes later I saw him cross-examining a rather shabbily dressed elderly woman about what seemed to be her gas bill. She seemed to be trying to politely brush him off, but nonetheless she’d stopped. “Do you get a bill?” he was asking. She replied in some way, and he went on, “Well, how much do you pay?”

Well call me over-sensitive (it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been called that recently), but I think it’s really disgraceful that Sainsbury’s allow salespeople to stop and cross-examine vulnerable people in that way about utility bills, presumably in the hope of persuading them to swap providers. I don’t know whether it was a Sainsbury’s product that he was pushing, but if it was then ISTM to be even worse. A quick Google on ‘Sainsbury’s’ +’gas’ brought this page up. A coincidence? Maybe. Or maybe not.

I went to the Customer Services desk and complained. The woman there acknowledged my complaint and said she’d pass it on, but I’ve no idea whether anything was/will be done about it.

A number of years ago my own father swapped gas providers (NB: Sainsbury’s weren’t involved), but having done so he continued to receive bills from the old lot, and then demands, and then final demands and threatening phone-calls and eventually a Summons. He spent hours on the phone to the old provider trying to speak to a human being who would/could sort it out, but he got absolutely nowhere, and spent a lot of money in phone bills that he couldn’t afford. In the end I had to go to the local Magistrates’ Court on his behalf to have the case that the old provider had ludicrously brought against him dismissed.

It was clear when we got there that the provider was in chaos, and they threw in their hand. That was no compensation, though, for the trauma that Daddy had been through in worrying about the whole horrible, threatening mess, and heaven help the defenceless people who don’t have family members or friends who can go along and speak on their behalf. Daddy certainly couldn’t have done it for himself.

Treating potentially vulnerable people in this way is simply *wrong*, IMO. Allowing it to happen constitutes a smear on what’s meant to be our evolved and civilised society. After what happened to Daddy, I feel strongly that elderly people shouldn’t be exposed to ‘hard sell’ tactics by utilities providers, and certainly not when they’ve just nipped out to buy a jar of coffee and a loaf of bread (or whatever it was that the elderly woman was after, this afternoon).

I won’t be returning to Sainsbury’s. They’re probably not alone in this sort of thing, but thus far I’ve not observed it anywhere else.

5 Responses to Sainsbury’s this afternoon – Ugh!

  1. alan.sloman says:

    I have been stopped in the street at Christmas with the intention of the person who stopped me trying to ‘sign me up’ for a charity that I have supported quite generously in the past.

    I politely declined, as as is usual for me I had left things all a bit late and just didn’t have the time right then.

    I subsequently found that the people who stop you get commission for signing you up; the more you sign as a D/D per month the more they get.

    I was quite taken aback at this as I thought he had told me he was a volunteer.

    It really is quite a ‘hard sell’ and this chap in Sainsbury’s seems to be taking advantage of vulnerable ‘targets.’ He didn’t try you, for example, just the old lady.

    It does seem to be a very murky area and I think you are quite right to ask Sainsbury’s what their criteria are for selecting their prospective ‘customers’. It would be interesting to hear what they say.

    • peewiglet says:


      I didn’t ask them how they selected customers. I simply told the Supervisor (I think she was) at the Customer Services desk what I’d observed and heard, and that I thought it was quite disgusting. I may drop them a line, though.

      I didn’t realise that charities are giving people commission for signing people up! I’d be interested to know which one was involved on the occasion you describe. Please drop me a line if you don’t want to name them on here ♥

  2. Phil W says:

    Re the charities who pay commission for signing up direct debits – there are loads of them at it! Just go through any major town centre. It’s usually young people – always wearing tabbards. They get paid for each person signing up. Google “chugging”.

  3. Laura says:

    Just not on, I couldn’t agree with you more!
    I once spent time with the local police complaining about a man who was knocking doors and asking to see any ‘old furniture or ornaments’ that the householder didn’t want any more. I noticed he was spending a lot of time with some of the more elderly residents in Ballater. And he had a car full of ‘booty’.
    This sort of thing makes my blood boil.

  4. baz carter says:

    All the supermarkets offer ultilities/loans/credit cards these days; all will have in store sales people trying to snag customers.

    I had someone knock on the door to tell me that I was paying too much for my gas and lecky. Funny that, I said, we’ve just swapped to a cheaper provider. Cheaper that is than what you were going to charge us!

    Then there’s the 700 quid bill that the previous suppler is trying to charge for an empty house that we didnt move into until the end of Nov. They’ve dropped it to 120 quid for less than a months usage… But that took time and money in phone calls and persistence.

    As you state Shirl, they more vunerable, less able would find the whole ordeal worrying and threatening.

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