Tesco’s Star Wars online lottery

While shopping for Christmas and experimenting with the click & collect services of various retailers (see relevant article here) Retail Insider came across one of the most bizarre merchandising practices ever. And it wasn’t from some tin-pot merchant but from the biggest beast in the UK retail jungle Tesco.

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Random selection

Here’s what happened when we attempted to buy three Star Wars figures from the Tesco website:

When selecting the figures from the images online we assumed these were the ones we were ordering – not so. You are in fact ordering random ones from those in-stock. In fact, not all those actually available are even shown on the website!

On contacting customer service via email it was acknowledged that it is not clear on the site that you cannot order specific characters. The person dealing with the query could see from his analytics that we had not received what we had been viewing on the site.

It is effectively pot luck what you receive from the various figures available and he recommended we sent back the one figure we did not want (we already had that one) and rolled the dice on giving it another go to try and get a figure we did want. Unfortunately, our second attempt failed as we ended up with another of the same figures from the original order.

Recognising that this too-and-fro could go on for some time we decided to curtail this odd exercise and give the duplicate away. The customer service team to their credit handled our issue with efficiency and humour as they clearly recognised this bizarre scenario.

What exactly is the rationale for this weird ordering method? Is it the dictatorial regime at Lucas Films insisting that retailers cannot just order the most popular figures (e.g. Darth Vadar etcetera…) and so Tesco feels it has to randomly assign them to shoppers.

But surely, most customers simply keep trying until either they receive the figure they want or they lose the will to live. Either way, it must be very costly and time consuming for Tesco to keep processing such returns.

If anybody at Tesco (or anywhere else for that matter) can help throw some light on this oddity of online retailing then Retail Insider would be very keen to hear from them.