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Taxonomy proves too taxing for Tesco

Having found a slug in my lunch, I received a letter from Tesco's customer services to apologise. Oh dear...

Dear Mr Frieze

Thank you for completing a Customer Service Report at our Kingston Park store. I was very sorry to learn that you found insects amongst your Tesco Leafy Salad with Tatsoi. I apologise for the distress caused.

As our customers are concerned about the use of chemicals and pesticides we encourage our suppliers to use them as little as possible. Insects that would otherwise be killed are no more likely to survive when the product is harvested. However, this does not mean we remain complacent and all of our produce is inspected throughly at several stages. It is also washed and cleaned wherever possible. I am sorry we failed to spot these insects.

Although it is rare to receive a complaint of this kind, I have told our Technical Manager who will follow it up with our supplier. This will ensure that your complaint is fully invesigated. As a gesture of our goodwill I enclose Tesco Vouchers to the value of £10.00.

We make every effort to ensure that our products are of the best possible quality by only using suppliers that can meet our high standards and strict codes of practice. We make frequent checks on quality both during and after production. Our Technical Managers also visit our suppliers on a regular basis, to check they are complying with our specifications.

Thank you for taking the time and trouble to contact us. I do hope that, despite this unfortunate occurence, you will continue to shop with us and be completely satisfied with all future purchases.

Yours sincerely
For and on behalf of Tesco Stores Ltd

Elaine Mcdonald
Customer Service Manager

Enc £10.00 Tesco Vouchers

£10 - big deal. I don't want money, I want answers...

Customer Service
PO Box 73
Baird Avenue

Your Ref: 2977327

27 May 2001

Dear Elaine Mcdonald

Thank you for your letter dated 23 May with regard to the Customer Service Report completed at the Kingston Park store last Sunday (21 May). The Customer Service staff at the store were very keen to help and assured me that the bag of salad would be sent away to head office for a comprehensive analysis of its contents. I was also told that I would receive a copy of this report within the next 4 to 6 weeks. The delay in responding to my initial report would be due to the time consuming nature of such a task.

The identification process carried out in the two days between filling out the report and your response was clearly inadequate, since you have failed to determine even the correct phylum to which the creatures belong. Far from being an insect, the slug is of the phylum Mollusca, of the class Gastropoda. – quite different from an insect and something which even a cursory analysis would have picked up. In the light of this basic error on your part, I find your reassurances to be rather lack-lustre.

Having decided to put this matter squarely in Tesco’s hands, rather than seeking independent analysis, I expect to see the results of a thorough investigation. In particular, I want to know:

Furthermore, I find your spiel about pesticides, chemicals, and cleaning wherever possible, to be irrelevant. We bought a ready to eat pre-washed salad. I would have expected the contents of such a salad to have been prepared in such a way as to guarantee the absence of foreign bodies; if you cannot make such guarantees, then perhaps it should be marked differently. When a product is labelled as ‘washed and ready to eat’ I should feel confident enough to serve the food without first having to check for the presence of wildlife. Due to the unfortunate occurrence of last week, I no longer feel able to do this and your letter has not reassured me in the slightest.

As you can imagine, this whole experience has left a rather bad taste in the mouth, and I would like informed opinion to put my mind at rest. At this stage, your letter and £10 gift voucher have fallen well short of doing so.

I look forward to receiving the full report that a detailed analysis should produce.

Yours sincerely

Ashley Frieze.

10 June 2001
Ashley Frieze