99p none the richer


It’s my monthly team meeting for work today, so I have to get up at Stupid o’Clock, get 3 trains to Harrogate, prove that I’ve actually done some work in the last month, then get 3 trains home and collapse into bed.

I pitched up at the mainline station at about 0650 for the 0715 train forward. At this time of a morning, I can barely focus without help, so I’m not at my best. I popped into WHSmith, seeking a taurine-based beverage to prevent me sleeping past Leeds again and perhaps something breakfasty-sandwichy. Sadly, WHSmith couldn’t help with the sandwich, but they did have something called “Monster” that promised, almost, to be speed in liquid form. They also had an offer on Walkers crisps: 99p each and buy one, get one free (BOGOF is the trade jargon).

I grabbed two big bags of Quavers and a Monster and queued to pay. When I got to the head of the queue, the woman at the till said “If you get two Walkers bags, one of them’s free, like”.

Yeah, I said, these are Walkers, pointing to the Walkers logo. “No, it’s just them Grab Bags” she said. Uh huh, I said, pointing to the words “Grab Bag!” emblazoned on the front. “No”, she said, clearly now a woman on the edge, “them’s big bags. The offer’s on the others, like”. Clearly, we were at an impasse. The shelf with the Quavers was clearly labelled with the offer, I offered, and with that she catapulted out from the tills and on to the shop floor.

I scurried after her, surprised at the speed she was making. I arrived at the Quavers shelf just as she finished removing the offer label. “See?” she said triumphantly, crumpling the label in her left hand, “Those bags aren’t included”.

I was clearly being outplayed here, if such an obvious and painful lie could be told to my face without shame. She watched as I put the Quavers back and selected two, lesser, packets I didn’t really want instead.

I paid and left. I’m sure she felt she’d done the right thing by her store. I’m sure the store also would feel the right thing had been done. The sanctity of the offer was maintained, WHSmith didn’t lose money, Walkers got what it wanted from the marketing support they must be offering. Capitalism did really well.

Of course, now the WHSmith brand is damaged in my mind, with collateral damage to the Walkers brand. And I’ve spread this damage to my friends on Twitter and Facebook and now this blog. It won’t bankrupt either brand, but perhaps 40 or 50 people will spend the day feeling a bit negative about WHSmith. Some will be tipped over into not shopping there today. Others will forget this exchange but remember “wasn’t there something dodgy about Smiths’s special offers?” and stand a bit back next time they’re tempted by one, looking for the scam. The total damage to WHSmiths revenue will probably be less than ??100 so it’s nothing they will worry about, which is a shame. As for me, I’ll deprive them of profit for a few weeks (I’m out of Smints, but I’ll buy them at a locally-owned store at Harrogate station rather than Smiths at Leeds) then forget this incident and go back to shopping there. But I’ll join those who’ll never trust their special offers again.


  1. Not that I needed any encouragement to feel negative about WHSmith. I’ve been doing that for many a decade. "Shameless" and "crooks" and "overpriced" are the three words that first spring to mind. Trouble is, as far as the immediately walkable vicinity is concerned, they have a bit of a monopoly on quite a few things one needs from time to time.

  2. I’ve never understood shop assistants like that. What exactly do they get out of it, apart from a pissed-off customer who isn’t likely to return? I had a row with Evans over some boots which I felt were defective two years ago, and the woman behind the counter was so arsey, that I haven’t been back since! I should have taken the matter further, but I’d only just moved to London and had a job and house purchase to sort out at the same time.

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