‘I’ve made £8,670 off Asda in four weeks’

Posted: September 25, 2012 in Uncategorized
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 Shoppers exploit computer glitch by cashing in on supermarket’s price guarantee
Asda Price Guarantee scheme offers vouchers to customers if supermarket competitors prove to be cheaper
Glitch in system means price comparisons have been calculated wrongly
Blunder could have cost Asda hundreds of thousands of pounds

Voucher limit of £15 now in place to stop customers making thousands
A shopper has claimed more than £8,600 worth of free goods through a loophole in a supermarket’s money back scheme.
The 34-year-old cashed in on Asda’s promise to refund the difference in cost if customers bought items cheaper from a rival.
But its computer system grossly undervalued products at other supermarkets, allowing canny shoppers to claim money-off vouchers worth up to £40 after every trip to the store.
Under the Asda Price Guarantee, customers enter their receipt details into a website and print off coupons if the goods cost less at a comparative shop elsewhere. As well as the refund, they claim a bonus of ten per cent.

Shoppers were supposed to be limited to a maximum of ten vouchers of any value worth a total of £100 a month.

But they could circumvent this by using a different computer and email address to generate more coupons.

The customer, who lives in Hampshire, claimed to have bought £8,670 worth of groceries in just four weeks with the coupons. The man, who did not wish to be named, said he was stockpiling goods in his attic, even selling some on.

‘I am making anything from £5 to £600 a day,’ he said. ‘My attic is full of a stockpile of stuff. If you can get something for near enough free then you might as well do it.

‘There are trigger items such as rice pudding, hair gel and cereal. I will buy them all for £40 then get a voucher for £37 so effectively I get them for free.

‘I go back to the store three hours later and do it all again. I sell a few of the items so I’m making a profit, but generally I stockpile the products for the family.’

The system used for the scheme is operated by the price comparison website MySupermarket on behalf of Asda.

TRICKS THAT BUST VOUCHER LIMITS

Asda limits customers to ten vouchers a month and those ten vouchers cannot exceed £100.

But savvy shoppers have found a way to exploit the system.

They have found that using a new email address with each voucher request and entering made-up addresses with random postcodes, they can avoid the cap on vouchers.

Shoppers on consumer site moneysavingexpert.com have pooled receipts which identify products triggering higher value money-off vouchers.

Retail magazine The Grocer highlighted the ruse in a trial where the system mistakenly calculated Asda’s rivals to be much cheaper on certain products.

It correctly identified that Asda’s basket of goods cost £25.30 but calculated that Waitrose’s identical items cost only £8.57 instead of £30.87. This led to a voucher for £17.59 when none should have been issued as the Waitrose goods cost more.

An Asda spokesman said: ‘A very small number of our savviest customers have been able to beat the system and claim a few, larger than normal vouchers.’

It has been making school boy errors, but as often happens with technology there has been no easy fix.

The supermarket promises to be 10 per cent cheaper than rivals Morrisons, Sainsburys, Tesco and Waitrose on a comparable basket of shopping. 

Customers enter their Asda till receipt into the Asda Price Guarantee website which compares Asda prices to competitors and issues a money-off voucher for the difference plus 10 per cent if Asda is more expensive.

But Asda’s software has been doing the opposite to what the supermarket intends.

Instead of reflecting the generally held view that Asda is the cheapest of the big supermarkets, thus delivering a few low value vouchers by comparing its prices to more expensive rivals, it has been giving customers buying a basket of certain items, vouchers of £30, £40 and more.

As lists of what products to buy to cash-in have become available on the internet, the supermarket has stemmed its losses by capping vouchers at £15.00 while it tries to correct its maths.

The software running the Asda Price Guarantee is provided by Isreali-based price comparison website mysupermarket.co.uk.

It collects prices for Asda stores, connecting directly with the Walmart web service located in the USA that collects data from all Walmart operations around the globe, including Asda in the UK.

For Asda online, it collects prices off Asda’s website overnight along with all the prices that appear on websites for Sainsburys, Tesco and Waitrose.

Tesco has 400 regional sets of price data so each of these variations is collected overnight and price comparisons are accurate to where you live. Morrisons does not make its prices available online so these are collected twice a week in-store.

As in life what can go wrong does go wrong. The simplest of variations can set off an incorrect calculation for a customer’s money off voucher. 

Supermarkets discontinue hundreds of lines and use an accounting practice of reducing prices to a few pence to cover the last few bits of stock left somewhere on  a top shelf. mysupermarket captures these 1p and 2p prices as it captures all prices.

A Tesco out-of-stock price of 3p captured for three weeks on mysupermarket for Don Simon orange juice meant that Asda gave customers buying it for £1 a money-off voucher for 94p, so it was 10 per cent cheaper than Tesco even though Don Simon was not actually available in Tesco for 3p.

James Foord, VP Business Development for mysupermarket said: ‘We have an agreed policy with Asda that if a product is out-of-stock at any of the retailers for a period of more than 7 days then it comes off the system and therefore the comparison.   

‘This of course means that on rare occasions these low priced products might exist on the system for a few days or less enabling the more observant shoppers to take advantage and work the system.’

Asda has taken action to separate its own accounting 1p type prices into a separate file so they cannot be picked up on mysupermarket.

A spokesperson said: ‘To ensure compliance with our own strict procedures, we have appointed an independent audit team to monitor the prices displayed on our website, with the authority to remove content if they uncover any pricing errors.’

The current glitch that Asda has been unable to resolve for four weeks understates the price of a few products that the supermarket’s competitors have on 3-for-2 offer.

Mr Ford said the level of interest being generated online by the glitch was good publicity for the supermarket. ‘The thousands of messages on forums is a PR coup for Asda,’ he said.

Mr Foord said there was no question the software company would refund Asda for the cost of errors. ‘This of course is an irrelevant question since it is not us that is setting the prices.  In addition, the APG system is wholly owned and operated by Asda.’

Tesco had a similar experience to Asda with money-off vouchers last year.

The supermarket had to change their voucher offer after shoppers exploited a promotion.

Their changes included a cap to the value in which customers could redeem in vouchers, requiring shoppers to use a Clubcard and also implementing unique barcodes.

Tesco called in the police as it suspected its vouchers were being obtained fraudulently.

In one case, Thames Valley Police arrested a shopper in Tesco’s Milton Keynes store who was charged with fraud and the case set for Crown Court.

However, the CPS withdrew the case when the police were unable to produce a vital exhibit.

A spokesperson for the police said: ‘Thames Valley Police was unable to provide the vouchers in question in relation to this case and therefore it was deemed that there was insufficient evidence to proceed.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2207905/Shoppers-8-600-Asda-spree-free-Loophole-price-guarantee-scheme.html#ixzz27UOzl1yJ
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Now I am a fairly cynical person – if staff are letting one man visit the store 80 times in a few weeks and issued him with a voucher every single visit for 97% of the cost of his shopping
then surely it is not simply a computer error.
Too many times I have got to the till and the staff , rather than consult their supervisor , simply did what the computer told them to.
It is nice to see that their own highly tuned computer systems are being used against them : )
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