Customers received random vouchers as part of a “trial”.
If you’re a regular shopper at Waitrose then you’ll be familiar with the MyWaitrose scheme. It used to give you a free newspaper and coupons, but earlier this year moved to “personalised vouchers” via the app.
Some early teething problems (such as how people without a smartphone could access the offers) were overcome, and my initial sceptism was overturned. It was actually much better as I’d be saving money on things I actually bought.
But for some reason, Waitrose has ignored “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and tinkered with the scheme. Here’s what’s happened and what you can do.
What is MyWaitrose?
I won’t repeat here my detailed analysis of the scheme, but essentially every Wednesday you can choose two vouchers from a list of six or so, which will be products you’ve recently brought from the supermarket.
Sometimes it could be a bit repetitive (how many times do you need to buy butter, especially at the latest prices?), but a trick that allowed you to use the voucher on similar products meant this has rarely been a problem.
What has changed?
Last Wednesday, 13 July, it was clear something had changed. Or perhaps gone wrong. The vouchers were all for items I’d never purchased before. Things like lavendar body wash, organic lemon curd, vegan chorizo and choc orange almonds.
But I got off lightly. A quick look on Twitter found these offers for other shoppers:
@waitrose like many others, what has happened with #mywaitrose vouchers this week?? Never ever bought any of the products listed, especially the Boys Pull Up Huggies, I may be middle aged but don’t need nappies yet! ?? pic.twitter.com/vstqYWyvMp— Moorsie (@moorsie69) July 13, 2022
.@waitrose I still don’t understand your #waitrose loyalty/voucher scheme. It remains fiddly and non-user friendly to implement. And I really am not interested in a watermelon 3-in-1 hair mask ? pic.twitter.com/Yp7n33d0i7— My name is Rob ?️? (@Nutbourne16) July 16, 2022
@waitrose I think there’s something wrong with your myWaitrose algorithms this week! None of the items I’ve ever bought, for instance two different types of cat food (I don’t even have a cat!) Looking at your Twitter page I think it’s a systemwide fault you need to report.— Joe (@joepatr) July 13, 2022
And though not everyone had nappies, hair products or pet food for non-existant children, hair and animals, it does seem that the majority of offers were for more “out there” products.
By this, I mean things people wouldn’t normally buy. From Dairylea Snackers with Oreo (WTF?!) through to vegan baking fat. Or products that didn’t fit dietary requirements, such as this example of pork offered to non-pork eaters.
@waitrose I’m still waiting for my vouchers to update. Two pork products in there. I don’t eat pork. Not amused. I rang help and they said next day— Ollie Powell (@werdle) July 17, 2022
Not exactly personalised. To be fair I did spot a few regular items in the photos shared on Twitter, such as essential corn flakes and wild rocket – though the people sharing these all said they wouldn’t normally buy the products there were offered.
Why has this happened?
At first, the response from Waitrose was this was a mistake.
Hello. We are aware of the issues with personalised vouchers. Our team are currently working in the background to fix this. I’m sorry for any inconvenience caused in this case. ^Jordan— Waitrose & Partners (@waitrose) July 13, 2022
But by late Friday the messaging had changed
Hi, this week we have begun trialling different combinations of products and reward discounts included in weekly vouchers. Some of the offers this week have been based on recommended products rather than just products a customer has bought before. ^Alan— Waitrose & Partners (@waitrose) July 17, 2022
I got in touch with the Waitrose press office to find out more. They told me:
- The new myWaitrose is proving popular, but customers have asked for more variety in their vouchers
- As such, this week we started a trial amongst a selected number of customers, where we offer suggested products, using the same algorithms as on Waitrose.co.uk
- We’re taking all feedback onboard, and are already working to fix glitches where customers have been served unsuitable items
I’m not convinced anyone actually asked for this. Why would you want money off things you don’t normally buy at a time when the cost of living crisis is pushing shoppers to really focus on what foods they need (or can afford) to buy. We want money off the things we actually buy on a regular basis.
As for the use of an algorithm? Some of the examples I found were ridiculous. And perhaps the “glitch” is behind it and will be fixed.
Elsewhere, I can just about see why I got some of the vouchers. I have bought both chorizo and meat substitute products in the past, so it’s not impossible that I’d be interested in vegan chorizo. I’ve also bought jam and hot sauce, so perhaps I would like chilli jam.
Even so, why? I think when customers say they want more variety, it’s because they don’t want to see the same products appear week after week, or vouchers for things they bought one time. Not that they want to try something different.
My take is if they want to improve the offer they should make the vouchers broader, as the old paper ones used to be. So rather, get £1 off this specific vegan chorizo, how about £1 off any meat-free product?
What happens next?
I went back to the Waitrose team to find out if this is a permanent change: They told me:
- For the next round of offers, all members will receive vouchers based on the products they buy most.
- In response to customer feedback, we’ll continue to trial suggested items in the weeks ahead, but these will be offered personalised offers
- In this case, if customers are unhappy with their products, they can still use it on items in the similar category – i.e. if someone gluten-free was offered a voucher for bread, they would use it on a gluten-free alternative. They can also speak with our Customer Services team, who’ll be happy to help
So for the time being we’ll continue to see changes, albeit hopefully less random options.
But I think the really important part to note here is the last one. Technically the rules for MyWaitrose vouchers say they can only be used on alternative products if the one that’s listed is sold out.
In practice, this works even if it is in stock, but Waitrose are saying it’s OK to do this if the vouchers aren’t suitable too.
You’ll have no problem doing this on self-service machines, and I’d hope a person operating a till won’t be overzealous about it either. Online it could be a different matter (let me know your experiences of this in the comments section below).
As of Wednesday morning I’m yet to see the latest offers to see how it compares. I’ll update it here when (or if) that happens.
*Update 4pm 20 July – still no sign of any vouchers. Customer services told my mum they’ll be sent out Thursday or Friday, but I’m waiting for official confirmation from Waitrose.
* Update 7pm 20 July – the usual style vouchers appeared based on my previous purchases