Fury with Woolworths may reach epidemic levels

When it comes to furious customers and Woolworths there was a fairly routine story about four and a half years ago.

What makes it different from the many other stories on furious customers and Woolworths is that this was a genuine story. Organised bulk buying of baby formula from both Coles and Woolworths had led to concerns of a nationwide baby formula shortage.

Opportunists were bulk buying certain brands of baby formula and shipping it to China where it could be sold at four times the price. Australians urged the two leading supermarkets to enforce purchase limits. Three parents with Asian sounding surnames had their online orders for baby formula cancelled by Woolworths. Korean-Australian mother Sarah Kong had her order for four tins cancelled, being told it was deemed “suspicious”. She had banded together with the other parents to lodge a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission. They also sought an apology from Woolworths.

It was clear Woolworths had slipped up with customer service standards. According to the opening paragraph of the story in the Sydney Morning Herald;

Three furious customers are demanding an apology from Woolworths for cancelling their online baby formula orders and suspending their accounts, accusing the supermarket giant of racial profiling.

Whilst this certainly wasn’t the first story of “furious customers” and supermarkets in an interesting coincidence such stories involving Woolworths (and Coles) steadily began to increase. Four months later news.com.au published Shoppers furious over milk shortage. Two telling aspects were the use of Facebook comments and the fact customers had published images to make their point.

COLES and Woolworths are facing a PR nightmare with shoppers furious that they have been unable to buy alternatives to supermarket milk brands.

The Facebook pages of both supermarkets have been flooded with photos of shelves empty of other brands of milk while bottles of Coles and Woolies-branded milk are fully stocked.

In December that year the Daily Mail Australia broke the riveting story of customers who were “cheesed off” to find they had bought pizzas with most of their toppings missing. It seems that with customers using Facebook to post images and complain about products there are stories for the taking. Customers were about to become frequently furious. In this case the Daily Mail headed the story, Woolworths customers furious after buying pizzas with most of their toppings missing.

On May 24th 2017 Australians learnt of “disc rage” which was due to Woolworths famed Marvel Discs collection of 42 free discs for kids being almost impossible to find in store but available on eBay for up to $800. On Facebook one father wrote;

My two kids are giving me grief over your stupid discs. If you want me to shop at Coles you’re doing a great job.

Ouch!

A week later came a social media campaign on Woolworths Facebook page started by a savvy shopper who wanted to know why Woolworths was locking up its pregnancy test kits. Woolies argued they were preventing theft, but received no sympathy. There were almost 750 comments. Yet these comments didn’t just comment. They complained. Even as complaints they didn’t just complain. These complaints raged. It was reported;

Complaints to the company’s Facebook page raged that it was unfair that women worried they could be pregnant were somehow forced to ask permission from store staff.

A few days later the same publication, B&T Magazine published, More strife for Woolies as customers vent sweet potato fury. It was reported that the fury was due to;

A pack of orangey spuds in a [plastic] tray and plastic wrapping!

7,200 comments vented fury at Woolies threat to the planet and rejected their defence of protecting produce through “the supply chain”. Nonetheless the article finished by noting that Woolworths did have one supporter who wrote;

People have nothing better to do with their time then to complain! We should be worried about the more pressing issues in the world!

Could this women have been immune to fury? In any case her sensible demeanor was not catching. B&T reported that she was “suitably roasted” for her comment.

In August 2017 we read Woolworths customers furious after they were charged twice for old purchases. Readers were informed by Yahoo;

Furious customers took to the Woolworth (sic) Facebook page to demand their money back after they noticed they were missing hundreds of dollars in duplicate payments from transactions made in March.

On October 24th that year we read of Mum’s fury after Woolworths product burns son, following a Halloween face-painting episode. Although mum had tested the $4 product on her son’s wrists with no problem it seems when it came to the face a furious burning followed, requiring treatment.

In April 2018 the fury epidemic in Australia had drawn attention across the ditch. The New Zealand Herald published Customers furious as 500 Woolworths stores unable to accept payment. A nasty IT glitch had stranded shoppers across our fair nation unable to pay for their goods. Again sufferers of this fury were driven to take pictures and post them on social media. In June 2018 there was more fury as Woolworths continued to use plastic to package produce in-store after they banned single use plastic bags for customers. You can read more in this piece predictably headed, Customers furious at use of plastic in Woolworths after bag ban.

Days later customers were furious at the amount of plastic being used in “bagless” home deliveries, taking to social media to post fury inducing pictures and taunt Woolworths about their “Crate to Bench” delivery option. The fury continued to be reported over 2018 and into 2019.

In July 2019 the Daily Mail offered the lengthy headline, Furious Woolworths customer unleashes on the supermarket after his groceries were left strewn outside his front door. In March 2019 police had to be called on a furious Woolworths customer who screamed so loudly at staff her unleashed fury could be heard from the car park.

In late November 2019 the fury epidemic had gone full circle when a “furious customer” took photos of shoppers breaching the two can limit on baby formula purchases and posted them on Woolworths Facebook page. This may have been a case of benign fury as anyone might angrily wonder just what Woolies had been doing to solve the baby formula problem in the four years since the initial ineffective attempt at cancelling online orders.

The incident was published by the Daily Mail under another long heading Furious shoppers slam Woolworths after photos emerge showing customers abusing the supermarket’s policy on baby formula. In a reckless move that breached the basics of emotional distancing we learnt the next month from the Daily Mercury, Woolies shrugs off baby formula fury. This was bad timing as we had only just discovered that shoppers were furious about the release of Woolworths Ooshies collectables.

With the start of 2020 there was no slowing of the Woolworths fury epidemic. In fact cases began to spike. In early Feburary we discovered that a furious Woolworths customer has taken to social media to blast the company over its meat “rip off”. She had paid for 500 grams of mince which her kitchen scales revealed to be a mere 262g. Woolies had sought to help those in isolation because of COVID-19 restrictions by providing an $80 “basic box”. At the beginning of April however one could predictably read, Fury over Woolies box “rip off”.

Between these two fury inducing “rip offs” Daily Mail Australia reported on yet more fury linked to baby formula purchases;

Furious shoppers have hit out at a group of women seen stripping baby formula from a supermarket’s shelves despite supposedly strict purchasing restrictions.

In May we found out shoppers were again furious as Woolworths imported prawns rather than selling Australian. This was of course backed up with photos on Facebook. Two days later a “furious shopper” from Launceston, Tasmania posted images on Woolworths Facebook page of her inedible grocery order. Dettol had been packed on top of her bananas and then promptly leaked. “What idiot packs poison with fruit?”, she demanded… er, furiously.

At the start of June Woolworths decided to bring back paper bags. Their mistake however was providing bags made in China. Daily Mail Australia most likely just stumbled across comments on Facebook. They reported;

But furious shoppers have vented their anger at the supermarket giant online, expressing their disappointment with the ‘Made in China’ label.

When Woolworths pulled the Aussie favourite Farmers Co Peanut Butter from shelves the only outcome possible was reported by the ever-vigilant Daily Mail;

Angry shoppers voiced their fury on social media, as the supermarket insisted the ‘difficult decision’ had been made after a period of slow sales.

On March 11th this year Woolworths announced it would not be honouring any rain check vouchers due to COVID-19. Nonetheless in mid June a Sydney man was “furious” because they would not honour his $12 rain check voucher. He wasted no time in hitting Facebook to “vent his anger”. He offered some compelling feedback;

Shame Woolworths!

At around the same time it was reported that there was video of a furious Woolworths customer who had hurled food, boxes, crates and foul racial language at staff, security and customers. The cause of this arguably furious fury was a request to check her bags. It’s been almost a year since a furious customer published a photo of his groceries delivered in scatter fashion outside his front door. Yet there was more fury when a Woolworths delivery driver left goods 30 metres from the front door of a customer with physical limitations.

In this case the customer “was left furious” after the driver indicated he would bring the groceries up to her door. Despite this he left them at a side entry gate in the rain. We know this because according to – yes you guessed it – the Daily Mail, the woman published a photo on social media. What I found rather jolly about this story was that it was picked up by The Armenian Reporter and published with unusual grammatical errors, suggesting it may have gone back and forth through an online translator.

On and on the fury goes. Of course I could have made this post twice as long by including articles about “furious Coles customers”. These also have been crafted from customer comments on the supermarket’s Facebook page. It would be longer, and rather mind numbing, if I had linked to even more articles on “furious Woolworths customers” in the time frame I searched.

What drew my attention to this was the number of these articles that were appearing in my phone’s Google app news feed. Fortunately one has the option of training the app to pull up less of any type of article.

Without that choice I just might get furious.