Complaint to Sainsbury’s

Hi Sainsbury’s.

I picked up a few of your recipe cards from my local store, with a view to extending my usually limited diet and trying something new. I am, I have been informed by everyone who has ever tried to cook for me, quite a fussy eater. The recipe that took my fancy, from the great range of recipe cards you stock, was Thai Green Noodle Soup. The photo on the front of the recipe card made it look quite appetising.

The back of the card listed all the ingredients necessary to prepare the meal, and so I set about wandering around the store trying to find them.

If you would like to see the recipe online, it is here – *link removed as recipe has now been taken off site* – Item 5 is the plant in question.

There was just one item on the list that I could’t find in store; “1 red chilli from British living chilli plant by Sainsbury’s”. I wanted to keep the recipe as authentic as possible, and so it was important I used the exact ingredients you listed. I could have gone for a different chilli but, as you listed that plant quite specifically, I wanted to maintain the authenticity of the recipe.

To list THAT chilli as the one to use must mean that rigorous testing had taken place at Sainsbury’s HQ, to see which was the best chilli to use. This one obviously came out on top during a taste test and so for me to use any other chilli would do the recipe a disservice. Maybe a chilli taken straight from a plant is much fresher and the recipe needed that freshness, or maybe it produced a different taste, so any variation from the recipe would mean that I wasn’t trying the recipe as it was intended.

I searched all around the fruit and vegetable area. I found the living herb plants, but no living chilli plants. Then I searched the flower area as, obviously, the chilli plant is a plant and may have been mis-stocked there. It wasn’t there either. I asked an assistant in the fruit and vegetable section, who told me that they didn’t stock them at this store. I left, chilli plant-less.

For a few moments I wondered why you would stock recipe cards in stores, in which you cannot buy all the ingredients.

It wasn’t just an “ingredient”, it was a “Key Ingredient.”

The day after I visited my second nearest store. After yesterday I only needed one more ingredient; the chilli plant. Again, I searched their fruit and vegetable section and, again, I could find the living herbs but not the chilli plants. So I searched the flower area, but to no avail.

I picked up another identical recipe card from this store, and took it to the customer service desk.

“Hi there, I’ve picked this card up…” I pointed to front of the card, “… and on the ingredients on the back…” I flipped the card over, “…it says I should use a chilli from a Sainsburys living chilli plant.” I pointed to the small picture of it on the back. “But I can’t see any chilli plants. Where would they be?”

The assistant took the card off me to look closely at the picture. “They should be over there, near the herbs,” and she pointed the where I’d been.

“I’ve been there and I couldn’t see any,” I frowned.

“Oh?” She seemed shocked. She then went over herself and did a thorough search of the shelves. When she returned she confirmed, “I couldn’t see any either. Let me check the stock.” She went over to the computer on the corner of her desk and started keying things in.

She keyed some things, waited a few seconds, pulled a confused face and keyed more things in. Then she did the same again. This went on for 3 full minutes, keying, confusion, more keying… It seemed that the more she keyed things in the more confused she got. 3 minutes later she returned and the reason for her confusion became clear.

“We don’t seem to stock the chilli plants, but if we did they’d be £3.49”

“They’re £3.49, but you don’t stock them?” as asked for confirmation.

“No, we don’t stock them. Erm, I’ve searched other stores too, and nowhere else stocks them either. I’ve searched The North West.”

“Oh… ok…” I said, not sure whether to ask if the non-existent plants would also be £3.49 in other stores too.

“Well…” she continued, “actually, it says that 2 stores should stock them, but only the Bury store says it has stock in. They have…” she checked the monitor, “yes, they have 0.5 in stock.”

“Only 2 stores out of the entire North West stock them?” I asked, not yet realising that the stock level in the store she mentioned had been an impossible number of items to stock.

“Yes, I’ve searched The North West.” she nodded.

In my head the proverbial penny dropped, “Hang on…. they don’t even have a full plant in stock? They have 0.5 of a plant in stock? How do you stock half a plant?”

She apologised, and so I thanked her for going above and beyond what I had been expecting from a customer service person – she had searched the shelf herself AND searched other stores without me asking her to. I left the store after buying a Curly Wurly.

In that there are roughly 934 Sainsbury’s supermarkets and convenience stores in the UK, (I checked on your site) I’m going to assume there are probably around 100 in the North West as a whole.

Statistically, if the customer service lady is correct and only 2 stores in the North West actually stock them, then that obviously equates to 2% of North West stores.

If ALL your stores stock the recipe cards, why do only 2% of stores stock a key ingredient from the recipe cards? It does kind of make it hard to complete the recipe, doesn’t it?

My main worry is that there are other Sainsbury’s recipes that also contain equally impossible ingredients. How ARE people supposed to authentically replicate the recipes you supply if the ingredients are so impossible to locate? Whats next? Lasagna with Latvian Goats cheese? I hope not; THAT would really frustrate me!

Joking aside, why are the key ingredients to the recipes you supply only stocked in a small percentage of stores?



From: “Hayley” <**********>
To: Craig Anderson
Subject: RE: Re: Shopping instore

Dear Craig

Thanks for your email. I’m sorry that you couldn’t find the chilli plant required for one of our recipes in your local store. I can understand your concern as my colleague advised that this plant is only available in two of our stores.

The ingredients listed on the recipe cards that we display don’t reflect the stock we have in our stores. We ensure that all the ingredients listed are readily available within the UK even if supply of the particular item is short within our stores.

The recipes on these cards can be suggested to us by top chefs, colleagues, customers and their kids. If the recipe is healthy and tasty, were more than happy to display it.

When my colleague referred to 0.5 of a plant being available within a branch, this means there was 0.5 of a case, a case containing 12 plants therefore the store had 6 plants in stock. I’ve had a look on our stock system and many of our stores have this plant in stock.

I’ve fed your comments back to our buyers to allow them to take your views into consideration when next reviewing the stock of this plant.

We value all customer feedback as it allows us to make any necessary improvements to our products and services. Without customer feedback, we would never know where we needed to improve.

We appreciate you taking the time to get in touch and we look forward to seeing you in store again soon.

Kind regards

Hayley Smith | Customer Manager |

From: Craig A
To: Hayley
Subject: RE: Re: Re: Shopping instore

Hi Hayley

I was told that the Chilli Plant was only available in two stores, yet you refer to is being available in many. When you say that many of your stores have this in stock, how do you define “many”? I take “many” to mean there are a lot. What your staff in store told me was that there are “few”, which is the opposite of “many”.

Maybe I’m wrong? Hang on, I’ll get a dictionary… brb….

………mandable, mandatory, mankind, man, man…. ah, here we are…

noun, pronoun
1. Constituting or forming a large number; numerous: many people.
2. Noting each one of a large number (usually followed by a or an): For many a day it rained.

Now, unless you mean “many” is a passive negative way, as in “Many of the stores didn’t stock it”, or “After shopping around for many hours, the plant remained illusive” I think your definition of “many” differs from the consensus.

I know there is no official chronological classification for vague terms such as these, but I always imagined “many” would fall somewhere between “A few” and “lots.” The amount that the terms related to would change depending on the situation.

As an example, if there were 20 things, I’d imagine “a few” would mean 3 or 4 and “Lots” would be 17-ish, so “Many” would probably be about 12.

If there were 50 things, I’d imagine “a few” would be 7 or 8, “Lots” would be 40-45, so “many” would be 25-30 ish.

There are 100 Sainsburys store in the North West. 2 of them had the plant in stock. That it not “many.” It isn’t even “a few.” It’s more like “hardly any” or “practically none.”

The ingredients listed on the recipe cards that we display don’t reflect the stock we have in our stores” is another curious point. Surely it would be wise to have SOME correlation? I mean it seems foolish to suggest people make food out of ingredients they cannot get hold of, doesn’t it? The chilli plant, one of your Key Ingredients in a recipe YOU provide, isn’t available in the majority of YOUR stores. That is bonkers!

I suppose you could put a passive-negative spin on it, as you seem to have done with the above “many”, and when someone else asks if you stock it, the in-store customer service people could reply “Yes, yes we do, and it is available in practically none of our stores,” them grin wildly in an attempt to deter customers from questioning the logic.

If you have checked stock, as you say, can you forward me details of which nearby shops currently stock this chilli plant? My postcode is *******.

I look forward to eventually trying your Thai Green Noodle Soup, and am also looking forward to seeing which “many” stores stock it. When you reply to my email with a list of stores, I’ll write them down with a view to calling in a picking a plant up. In preparation for making a list of stores which do stock it, I have a pen by the side of my computer and, in anticipation, a very small piece of paper.



—–no reply—–

16 thoughts on “Complaint to Sainsbury’s

  1. Are you stupid? Just because a recipe card says you NEED the chilli plant doesn’t mean it’s the only chilli type or the only chilli plant which will work for the recipe, all red chillies are the same – they’re used for pallet heat.
    Sainsburys only put there own items on there to promote their own branded products, but you are not expected to only stick to their own brands.

    I find it ridiculous you went to all that trouble over something so stupid and idiotic, use some common sense. Sainsbury’s should have had more in stock, but they didn’t. Get over it.

    Oh, and for future reference – seeing as you’re in the NW, Sains Salford, and Fallowfield stock them, i’ve seen them.

  2. Dear Craig,
    Today in Sainsbury’s I saw a Guacamole Kit. It contained 2 avocados, a lime, a red onion (?) and a big fat red chilli. For some reason I thought of you….. quite probably because I stumbled upon this blog last weekend by way of this very post.

    Anyway, it was lunchtime so I then bought a sandwich. A Taste the Difference sandwich no less! Are you impressed? Don’t be, it was part of the £3 meal deal and yet it cost £3 on its own, so it had to be done (Frankly any meal deal that will offer me an Orange & Mango Tropicana and a bag of Wotsits completely free and I’m sold!).

    Anyway, when I got back to work and attempted to remove the sandwich from the packaging, the bread was soggy! Can you believe it? £3 for a sandwich and the bread is water logged! So after eating what was edible from between the mushy yuck that was formally known as bread, I got straight online and made a complaint to Sainsbury’s. It wasn’t a funny complaint like yours are (unless you consider the subject “Soggy Sandwich” to be humorous) and it was only slightly waffly. This is because I’m going for the refund at this stage since we are in a recession after all.

    Anyway, I blame you for the whole sorry episode. Not the sogginess of course, just the post-lunch complaint that spewed forth from my still moist fingers, subliminally inspired by the sight of a red chilli contained within a ridiculous ‘cooking’ kit at Sainsbury’s.
    Incidentally the kit cost £2.29, which is 45p more than their ready-made guacamole! FYI, I had to open excel to do the maths on that, but it is late so please forgive me.

    Anyway, I hope there aren’t too many grammatical errors in this reply. My IQ is not as high as yours, probably. I’m not sure since I’ve only ever done the crappy online tests.
    Thank you & goodnight.

    Best wishes, Natalie

      1. Woe is me for I am blogless.

        If I had a blog it would probably be called “Annoying, inconsiderate and often smelly people who I have to politely share seats with on London Underground tube trains but I would actually like to beat to death with a rolled up Evening Standard”. Therefore I think a blog would be used against me under the mental health act, and hence my bloglessness…

        Sainsbury’s complaint update; they are apparently sending me a £5 gift card! At 66% profit I’ll be making some more complaints very soon. But I promise not to hijack your blog with them in future.

        I hope you munch on many excellent treats this week!

        Kind regards, Natalie

  3. just had a shopping few days ago from sainsburys from west ealing bransh, oranges 4 each pack,writting Best Before 6july on item,but 5th julay all oranges has been looks discusting,I notice on the pack they cut of the old date they fixed new one,I took this proof of pic to send sainsburrys but not any email to attach this pic,we are shocked,Sainsburrys selling not fresh food our children eating fake date on item,They selling their store in sainsburys, whats a shame!! Urgent replay please

    [Comment from Admin: Why are you telling me this and why do you want me to replay it?]

  4. Brilliant! I would have done the same, just cos it has entertained us readers!

    Anyway, that’ll teach them to monopolise chilli plants with their super capitalist soup!

  5. Last night 28/07/12 precisely at 20:48pm, I bought From Sainsbury’s Euston Station Local a pack of Rachel’s Rice Pudding. The product was out of date since 23rd July 2012.

    I was sick vitmiting all night and suffered bad stomach and sleepless night. I went back to the branch this morning to speak to Duty Manager named Sarath. I gave the expired product, told him waht happen and asked if he can remove the expired product off the shelves so to avoid the same happening to other people.

    Do you buy buy their moto that said “Live Well for Less”. I don’t.

    I am very upset.

  6. Just visited my local Sainsbury’s with my granddaughter to buy some jewellery and hair accessories. Saw a LARGE sign above saying that they were half price. On paying, I was told that these weere only supposed to be certain items. Why does Sainsbury’sof all stores, have to resort to this “low con” form of advertising?

  7. Hey

    I came across this blog whilst trying to track down the specific type of chilli plant that I had bought today. After a few clicks and pages reviewed I found that the chilli seems to have no other name that the ‘British Living Chilli Plant’ as widely available from Sainsbury’s (pun intended there). I’ve searched again and looked in a chilli bible but to no avail, no one apart from Sainsbury’s has this specific no name breed.

    I can tell you that the fruits are around 30-50mm long and pack quite a punch, even the non ripe ones and they would make a great addition to any food, including an own brand recipe for Thai Green Noodle Soup.

    So if you are still in the market and looking to complete your recipe then hot foot it down to Sainsbury’s in Alperton (near Wembley in Londonshire) but be quick as there were only two more plants left on the shelf. Alternatively I can post you a couple of the ripe or semi ripe fruits, FOC.

    I do a lot of work for Sainsbury’s and visit many of their stores in the whole of the Southern region and Alperton is the only store I’ve seen this plant in, so again not massively stocked, or not stocked in MANY stores.

    Hope this helps and am glad you can finally finish the recipe.


  8. I wanted to give my grandson a gift to buy petrol as my christmas present to him and didn’t just want to give him money. I made him a special card ready to attach a Sainsburys Gift Voucher for him to buy the petrol. When I enquired at Sainsburys Petrol Kiosk if he could use Sainsburys Gift Voucher to buy petrol I was told no he couldn’t. I find this very disappointing and can’t really see the reason why this should be the case. I have always thought Sainsburys to be forward thinking but in this case am thoroughly fed up with them.

  9. Dear Manager
    For the last one year I used to buy chicken tikka buriyani on Mondays and Tuesdays at your Branch stores.For a change I bought Veg. buriyani on 19.08.13 and it was fairly good. But
    on 20.08.13 also I bought Veg.Buriyani of expiry date 24.08.13 which utterly useless the beans they have used is not tender one all are over riped and cannot eat them because beans was the main vegetable. I am very much disappointed. Please see that infuture to mainatyin the quality
    Many Thanks
    My Nector Card
    …. …. …. 7641017

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *