Gloating over someone else’s misfortune should not be so enjoyable. When the likes of Tesco makes an almighty mess of a promotion perhaps the better response is to think: “What lessons can I learn from this for my next bulk email marketing campaign.”
Unlikely though it sounds, it all started over a £1.99 400g punnet of British strawberries, or rather a £3.99 punnet. If you are confused by this then you know why someone complained to the local Trading Standards team.
A common theme in bulk email marketing campaigns is the half-price offer. Given the number of such emails that pop into my inbox, the returns must be very good indeed. Which presumably is why Tesco decided on the half-price offer on their strawberries. In the end it would appear that there returns were not as good as expected.
The complaint originated from a woman who, on seeing the crossed-through £3.99 price tag, could not remember ever seeing the strawberries offered for that price. Trading Standards investigated to see whether the claim was misleading.
They discovered that the higher price was on offer for just seven days and the lower price promotion was offered for 14 weeks. There were some slight complications in that the strawberries has been on offer at £2.99 for one week and there had been a further promotion with a pot of cream included. But even so, it can be seen that the claim of half price lacked substance.
On top of this, despite the offer only being in Birmingham, Trading Standards felt that given the number of visitors the city received it should be treated as a national campaign. The court agreed and Tesco was fined £300,000. Whilst this would bring tears to your eyes it should be remembered that Tesco’s profits are said to be around the £2.3 million mark.
Before your next bulk email marketing campaign which has a headline offer that could be considered similar it might be appropriate to review the Pricing Practices Guide (PPG), http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file46254.pdf, and Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008,
The PPG gives a rule of thumb suggestion that 28 days at the high price gives sufficient time for people to view the goods and buy them. It then goes on to say that the length of time of sale at the lower, offer price should be no longer than the length of time the item was available at the higher price. In this specific case Birmingham Trading Standards’ belief that the offer was likely to deceive was upheld by the courts.
Whilst the fine of £300,000 might seem inconsequential to them, the mitigation that the actions of an individual was the cause of the error was accepted by the judge and he also considered the damage that Tesco’s reputation suffered. So many might feel that despite the size of the fine, together with the £65,000 costs awarded against them, they got off lighter than might have been expected.
This case should be taken as a warning to anyone involved in bulk email marketing. Customers do complain, complaints are taken seriously by Trading Standards, and fines can be prohibitive.