Aldi, recently named by Which? as the cheapest supermarket in the UK, has now been declared the worst for online order substitutions by the consumer group.
A report on grocery deliveries, the demand for which has exploded over the past two years due to the COVID-19[female[feminine pandemic, also found that substitute foods across the industry did not always meet the dietary requirements or food intolerance needs of the customer.
Which? said its survey of online shoppers found that Aldiwhich only offers a click-and-collect online shopping service, was the most likely of the nine online supermarkets, by a small margin, to introduce substitutions into customer orders.
It revealed that 49% of Aldi customers had received a replacement item at their most recent store.
The chain was closely followed by Sainsbury’s at 48%, Asda at 45%, Morrisons at 43% and Ocado at 41%.
Tesco, the UK’s largest grocer by market share, had replaced at least one item in the most recent order for 39% of customers surveyed.
The report says a contender for the most unusual substitution for an Aldi customer was Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream instead of the breaded fish fillets they ordered.
Another Aldi customer said which one? they had been confused when they had been given cooking oil instead of milk.
A shopper said they ordered Sainsbury’s scouring sponges but received a Victoria sponge cake instead.
Another said he received beef broth instead of brandy butter.
In the Morrisons case, a customer said their order of Domestos cleaning product was swapped for a bottle of orange squash.
A Waitrose shopper received tampons instead of shaving cream, while a Tesco customer received duck paste instead of duct tape.
But not all replacements have been disastrous – one lucky Asda customer received three £60 bottles of whiskey to replace three £25 bottles that were out of stock.
Supermarket pickers – people who pick items for online shoppers from supermarket shelves or warehouses – often get automatic prompts on their handheld scanners about what to pick as a replacement if the desired item isn’t available, which ? noted.
His report added that some of the computer-generated ideas were clearly not suitable and had to be replaced manually, but sometimes pickers have to give up picking a sensible exchange due to time targets.
Which? said some of the exchanges were clearly inappropriate – meat being replaced by vegan products – and for reasons of food intolerance.
A shopper whose regular gluten-free flour was replaced with regular self-rising flour told Which? : “It is an allergenic food, not just any food.”
Which? Ele Clark, Retail Editor, said: “While product substitutions in your online shopping can sometimes be genuinely helpful, our research has shown that they can also be downright ridiculous.
“You have the right to refuse substitutions at the point of delivery, or you can refuse to receive substitutions – although this can cause a real headache if the key ingredient in your dinner that night is missing.
“If you end up with a substitution you don’t want, always contact the supermarket and ask for a refund.”