Trouble at till …Tesco’s pricing problems are a lesson to us all!


Something’s wrong at Tesco when the offers you see on the shelves don’t show up on your bill. The BBC went shopping and  in 33 of 50 stores visited, multi-buy promotions were marked on the shelf, but the time-limited discounts were not applied at tills.

Listening to the feedback from Five Live listeners working for Tesco, the problem is with staffing and especially the burdens placed on duty managers.

Too many unaccountable untrained staff , not enough experience.

I worry when the finger is being pointed at shop floor staff, I’m a boss and I know it’s my job to make sure that either the work they’re asked to do can be done, or that my staff’s skills improve.

It seems self-evident-store problems on this scale result from senior management failure. Trouble at till’s triggered by decisions taken in Cheshunt!

Wake up shoppers – you win!

It seems that if you get offered an out of date promotion that doesn’t appear on your bill, you can claim twice the difference at the customer service till. This sounds great till you remember till pressure. Please don’t check your bill at the till – it really annoys those behind you!

In practice, most of us have to get out of the store due to kids/partner or general time pressure and don’t have the time to check. We trust our supermarket brand and if it turns out they’re selling you short , you won’t return. My missus is currently boycotting co-ops for repeatedly failing to scan yellow labels (charging full price for short-dated items).

In my experience, self-service is the way forward, though I am so ham fisted with bar-codes , I often stand in line at the fag counter rather than see that little red light flash above my head.

So what’s with all this?

When we’re at the till, we’re spending a few pounds, when we buy financial services, we’re spending thousands. We see a rate and believe we’re getting it. There is no till receipt telling us what we’ve actually paid. We only find out what’s come out , years later, and then the cost of sale is lost in a miasma of gains and losses.

As with Supermarkets, the more fancy the marketing promotions, the more that can go wrong. What we as consumers crave is value for money, but our products are so complex, even the experts can’t read the till receipts.

As with the supermarkets, this is not one that can be blamed on the shop floor staff, the problem lies with the failure of those designing the products and managing the sales enterprise.

The issues are exactly the same. In time, customers will turn to financial services that do what they say on the packet, rather than the fancy-priced promotions that fail to deliver.

I would love to see fund managers who promise one thing and deliver less, refunding twice the difference to customers. There might even be an ongoing role for the financial consultant in doing the checking for the retail customer!

I would enjoy seeing lists of managers who displayed one price and charged another on generally available websites, so that I could either claim that refund or take my business elsewhere.

And I’d love to hear customers using financial products complaining about the challenges of over-complex pricing on national radio shows!

All this is possible!

The shift to transparent pricing which can be monitored by trustees and IGCs is already afoot. We have ways of finding the true costs of the products we invest in and ways to display that information. What we need now is consistency of approach.

Over the next few weeks, we hope to satisfy the calls of the DCIF who are asking for the quality gap between master trusts to be properly exposed. On Wednesday, MPs will debate an amendment to the Pension Schemes Bill prompted by this blog and the work of

Of course we want more than basic checks. But what we’re calling for is the equivalent of checking your bill.

What is needed (beyond this) is the provision of information that allow employers, their advisers and the super fiduciaries who act for the consumers of these workplace pensions, to ensure that what comes off the shelf – does what it says on the packet!

A duty of care

We don’t expect our bosses to help us with the supermarket run, but we do expect them to choose a workplace pension wisely. We pay advisers to help us to choose the right retail  funds, they are our personal shoppers, we expect them to pay for themselves in time.

But if they can’t trust the labels, should we? If financial services can’t tell us what we’re buying and what we’re paying for, can we really expect to trust financial services.

Ultimately, I’m impressed by supermarkets like Tesco that accept the blame and promise to put things right

 “We take great care to deliver clear and accurate price labels for our customers so they can make informed decisions on the products they buy.

“We are disappointed that errors occurred and will be working with the stores involved to reinforce our responsibilities to our customers.”

Oh for such contrition from fund managers and investment consultants!

You can read the article on Tesco on the BBC website here;

You can’t read the DCIF’s call for better reporting of value for money as there website is under reconstruction, but you can read about the report here;


About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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4 Responses to Trouble at till …Tesco’s pricing problems are a lesson to us all!

  1. TRCRC says:

    “Too many unaccountable untrained staff , not enough experience”.

    Dear Henry – Sounds like GB Inc. potential downfall.

  2. ancientllm says:

    Henry, you can argue that there is something amiss at Tesco, but under the Sale of Goods Act, there is no “offer to sell” until you take the item to the checkout. If it rings up more than you think you should pay, then don’t buy it. The same applies in all fields, even finance and certainly in the field of “expert” advisers. If you don’t like the price, don’t but it! The problem is that in the fields of finance and advisers, we often don’t have the expertise to differentiate, that’s why we employ “expert advisers”. The trouble is, how do we know they are experts?



  3. henry tapper says:

    You know they are experts because they are over 50, male and extremely arrogant!

  4. Pingback: Trouble at till …Tesco’s pricing problems are a lesson to us all! | The Vision of the Pension Playpen : Pricing News

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