UK Supermarkets discriminate against the poor

Having been contacted by a friend who found they couldn’t afford the minimum payment for an online shop, I’ve decided to look into the supermarket policies that are discriminating against the poor and disadvantaged in the UK.

This article has come about as the result of a friend. They contacted me after they had tried to order an online shop from Walmart owned supermarket Asda, but found they were only half way to the minimum order value.

They are on Universal Credit and simply cannot afford big shops. They managed to get a total of 44 items that came to a grand total of £20.46. When they went to checkout, they were met with the message, seen above, that in order to proceed they needed to spend £40.

To put in context why this matters to me I’ll explain. As you know I am disabled, and often I am unable to leave my house. I live 15 miles from the nearest supermarket and can’t get a bus either. My friend is in a similar situation except they are 30 miles from the nearest big supermarket.

There are thousands of disabled people across the UK who rely on online shopping to get their day to day supplies. There are also millions of people on benefits and in low income jobs. £40 as a minimum is simply too much for many of these people to afford.

Jack Monroe a well known blogger and budget cookbook author, frequently puts out tips on how to survive on a low budget. One of these tips is to buy supermarket own brand products. You can really get a lot for your money doing this. You just can’t get it delivered it seems.

Asda’s poor response

I contacted Asda via Twitter for a response last night, and today received a response from the Asda Service Team. Their response not only lacking in any detail whatsoever, it raises more questions than answers.

The link enclosed in their reply directs you to a very short page and here’s what it says;

“Minimum order value

Our minimum order amount varies depending on your delivery address.

The majority of postcodes have a minimum spend of £25; however some areas have a minimum order value of £40. Your minimum order amount will be visible in your trolley once you select a delivery slot.

We are constantly reviewing our proposition in line with the market and minimum order values are subject to change in order to keep our prices low for everyone.”

Yes that’s it. No explanation as to why it varies or why it is so high. Nothing. I’ve had several replies that it’s a postcode lottery or it targets areas with low car use.

While I cannot prove or disprove these allegations having done some quick research it seems that more deprived areas do pay higher delivery costs compared to more affluent areas.

Tesco does have a minimum order value but, if you don’t reach it they don’t simply deny you any chance of delivery, they add a surcharge. While not ideal at least you can still get it.

Visa Electron? No delivery from Tesco for you

I recently fell foul to a policy that Tesco have with Visa Electron debit cards. Before I go on, I have checked all the other major supermarkets and can confirm that the all ACCEPT Visa Electron cards online and in-store.

Last month, after spending some time compiling an online shop with Tesco I had finally made it to the payment page.

I input my debit card details, I have a Visa Electron and clicked pay now. The “Visa verified” pop up appeared as usual and then it returned to the page. Then I saw; “problem with card issuer.” Confused I tried again with the same result.

It took me a minute to notice that Electron wasn’t in the list of cards accepted. This is often the case but I have never in 7 years had my Visa Electron declined. I decided to check Tesco’s Help & FAQs and sure enough they state that they don’t accept Electron.

It’s the bare faced cheek they have when offering a solution that bothers me;

“We don’t currently accept Visa Electron cards or Tesco Gift Cards. If you do have an Electron card, please check with your issuing bank as they can upgrade your card to let you shop online with us.”

The reason like I and hundreds of thousands have a Visa Electron is because our banks will only give us that type.

I made contact with Tesco and started to converse with them. They first said near word for word the statement above. When I asked; “but why don’t you accept them,” is were things get interesting.

Tesco justification has more holes than swiss cheese

Their spokesmen said that as under 18s can get a Visa Electron, if they accepted them it could potentially lead to age restricted products being purchased by under age customers.

This is where I shot that argument down. I visited several High Street banks websites and obtained screenshots showing that children as young as 11-years-old can get a full Visa Debit card. I put this to Tesco, and their tone changed.

Their comeback was; “you have to be over 18 to have a account so this would prevent this from happening.” Obviously I said; “if that’s the case it would stop under 18s with Electron cards using the site so again, you reasoning makes no sense.”

Tesco ignored this and changed to “Visa Electrons are less secure.” My final response, as Tesco ignored me afterwards was;

“You are the only major online retailer that does not accept Visa Electron, people with poor or no credit ratings are often forced to have this type of account. It is also frequently the case that people on benefits, that may not have had a bank account before, are only offered an account with an Electron. I have challenged you on why you don’t accept it and proven that your reasons are not true.

Will you look into this matter more to see what you can do?”

My thoughts?

 I have sent an email to both Tesco and Asda but this time to a higher up department who I hope will offer more constructive help.

I fully understand that they are businesses that need to make a profit but, in Asda’s case they have no reasoning on why there is such a big difference in minimum order values. £40 is a lot of money to a lot of people. I am one of them,

At least if you are under the minimum at Tesco you can pay the surcharge and have it delivered. In my case I cannot get either, £40 is too much so that discounts Asda and I only have an Electron so cannot use Tesco.

I did as Tesco said and asked my Bank for a standard Visa, they said no. I live in the Highlands, Tesco and Asda are literally my only grocery shopping home delivery options. What am I going to do?

Put pressure on supermarkets to change their policies that are discriminating against the poor and less well off in our society.

Alex Tiffin

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