Customers cry fowl over chicken

Natalie Horn bought a tray of crumbed chicken schnitzels from Woolworths’ new flagship store at the recently completed Table Bay Mall in Sunningdale.

The tray was marked R181.48 and the weight on the price tag stated 1.863kg.

“After I paid I thought it felt a bit light and asked to get it checked. Together with food manager, Pennie Umhlanga, we went to the fish department and when we weighed it the scale showed 0.802kg, which meant that I had overpaid by R120; it’s like shoplifting in reverse,” the Blouberg woman alleged.

“Normally I wouldn’t bother with such small things but what really shocked me was the attitude of the staff. Instead of immediately rectifying the problem, Ms Umhlanga went into denial and claimed that it’s not her fault: The product comes like that in prepacked trays.

“I accept that a mistake could have occurred but it is my hard-earned money. The attitude from Woolworths’ store manager Asif Ismail was even worse, although he did apologise. Mr Ismail asked an assistant to bring another tray of chicken schnitzel which weighed 0.646kg. ‘You know what? You have paid for this tray, then the second one I will give you for free’,” Ms Horn said.

“The store overcharged me by R120 but he dares to give me a ‘free’ 0.646kg which is about R50.”

Ms Horn said the two “managers” took her contact numbers and promised that “someone” from Woolworths HQ would contact her. But nobody did.

So what did Woolworths have to say? Their press office promised to give me a statement and asked if I would extend the deadline to give them more time to investigate. I did but they didn’t.

When Adrian Poole of Steenberg complained to Woolworths about a tainted rotisserie chicken and bruised bananas that he bought, the Woolworths press office also promised to reply. The excuse: they were so busy that they forgot. So it appears that the customer is not always king at Woolworths.

However, customer care consultant, Shehaam Villette, thanked Ms Horn for bringing the complaint to their attention.

“Please accept our sincere apologies for the disappointment and inconvenience caused with the chicken schnitzel.

“The quality of all our products is Woolworths’ first priority, and we appreciate it when customers take the trouble to let us know that a purchase has fallen short of our high standard.

“All Woolworths’ products are produced to strict product specifications. Products are regularly checked against these specifications, and products not conforming to the specifications are removed from our shelves, and corrective action to solve the problem and prevent re-occurrence is demanded from the producers,” Ms Villette said.

The supplier has been informed and corrective action will be implemented and the product range will be closely monitored through the weekly quality assessment that is done at head office by the technical team.

“We understand that the store has given you a refund and trust that the matter was handled to your satisfaction,” Ms Villette said.

Perhaps no one spoke to Ms Horn.

“You will receive an SMS in two working days which entitles you to a gift card to the value of R100,” Ms Villette said. And so it happened. “Disgusting,” said Ms Horn.

Earlier this year, Mr Poole bought organic bananas and a free-range rotisserie chicken from Woolworths Tokai.

“I cut the chicken into four pieces. I ate the leg and thigh portion and as I peeled the skin from the meat, there was a dark colour covering the leg and thigh portions. Although there was no smell, the dark coloured portions tasted ‘off’,” Mr Poole said.

“Three of the organic bananas had rotten sections although the skins were not bruised or damaged. I contacted Woolworths’ customer service and they told me I would receive an SMS within 48 hours for a refund: R80 for the chicken and R20 for the bananas.

“I did get a refund for the bananas but despite numerous emails to customer care for the R80 there was no reply.

“I went to Woolworths Tokai and showed their customer service consultant, Porchia, the email from head office and the SMS for the R20 refund. The amount of time, data, energy and petrol I spent to resolve this problem, is not worth the amount to be refunded. What should have been a simple customer service experience has turned into a frustrating and energy-sapping event,” Mr Poole said.

The Woolworths press office promised to investigate and when I asked for a progress report, they said they were so busy that they had forgotten about my request but would remind customer care. Who also probably forgot.

Mr Poole, though, after a prompt, said Woolworths gave him a gift card of R400.