Remember I bought some baby food nearly 4 months out of date from Tesco? Well, I phoned Trading Standards who put me on to Consumer Direct. They took great pains to stress the difference between Use By and Best Before dates (I know, I know, but thanks all the same), took my details and gave me a reference number in case I’d problems getting a refund.
I went back to Tesco on Friday and there was no-one at Customer Services. A uniformed woman with white hair saw me, I looked back at her expressionlessly, she looked away. Same woman swung past maybe 2 minutes later and pointedly ignored me. Maybe 3 minutes later, the Customer Services lady appeared. She was most apologetic and phoned the Duty Manager, giving him/her all the details. I was asked to hang on for the arrival of the DM. I waited. And waited. It got embarrassing. The Customer Services lady nipped round and got me some replacement pots. I still waited. She put in another phone call to the DM. I waited a bit more. Who swings by, but Woman With The White Hair. Her words were most apologetic, but her face was pretty disparaging and angry. She also explained the difference between Use By and Best Before dates (I know – I just explained myself that I’m aware of the difference, were you listening?) She assured me that “As we speak”, one of her staff was scouring the shelves for out of date food.
“Fine,” I explained, “My main concern was this happened back in November too – there’s perhaps a problem with stock rotation in that department”.
“Well, it’s being fixed now!” she said over her shoulder as she walked away.
I happened to spend a ridiculous amount of time dithering in the clothes department (sale. Fairly reasonable. Sales grab me in their tractor beam, I can’t help myself). So nearly an hour had passed (yeah, an hour. I’m embarrassed. But I spent lots of it cooing to Mini Minx in the sling, while she stuck her fingers up my nose if I stopped looking at her). I decided to take a wee spin past the baby food section…
Sure enough, a shelf-stacker was there, industriously chucking cardboard cartons off the shelf and facing the stock off, but not checking the dates. I couldn’t help myself, really. I had a quick look and spotted Mini’s favourite breakfast cereal. But it was 3 months out of date. The packets next to it were a month out of date. I quietly said to the shelf-stacker, “Sorry to disturb you, but there’s out of date stuff over there”. She was horrified and whipped it off. “I disturbed you, I’m sorry” I apologised pointlessly. “Oh no”, she replied, “I was only tidying up. Finding out of date stuff is far more important than tidying”.
I could have gone back to the DM With The White Hair and accused her of a serious communication problem in her store (did you specifically tell them to check the dates? Who interpreted: ‘check the dates’ to ‘just tidy it up’?) Instead I went back to Consumer Direct with the reference number they’d handily given me.
Consumer Direct explained again the difference between Use By and Best Before dates (I thanked them politely through gritted teeth) but said they’d refer it on. I got answerphone messages from both Trading Standards and Environmental Health, so called the latter back. A very nice man explained the difference between… oh I’m tired even typing it! But he said he’d swing past Tesco next week, and if there was any out of date stuff on the shelf he could take samples. Although an out-of-BB-date item would probably still be ok, if it wasn’t, he would ‘have more ammunition’. For what, I know not. However, he said he could go in now and give them ‘a right dressing down’. I prompted him that they either weren’t training their staff to rotate or check stock, and that there was a clear comms problem (not explaining to the staff/lying to the customer).
All I want is to not have to waste precious time in the store date-checking when I could be swiping Mini Minx’s fingers out my nose!
So: check your baby food dates, even if it came from a big store.