Ocado checks out of all common sense

Just an update on my last post about Ocado’s brain-bogglingly illogical gift vouchers (as outlined at the bottom of this post*), to tell you about their brain-boggling attempt at a kind gesture.

In reply to my letter, I had a nice tweet from Ocado to say they’d love to ‘allocate us’ both a box of chocolates and…another voucher. ‘We hope this will make up for the frustrating time you had & that you’ll be able to treat yourselves to something nice.’

No suggestion that their gift voucher system needed tweaking in any way, but hey, at least a response and an apology was something – hooray.

‘Thanks, I wrote, that’s very kind of you. ‘Sadly’, I wrote next, without wanting to go into too much detail, ‘the person I tried to buy the voucher for no longer lives there as she has sadly moved to a hospice. Please send both boxes of chocolates to her there,’ I put, enclosing the postal address and thanking them again.

I then got the following, which left me cold and open-mouthed.

‘We’re sorry to hear your friend is no longer at the address you’ve provided. Unfortunately the only way we’d be able to get a box of chocolates and voucher sent to your friend would be for them to set up a new account at their new place of residence. We know this isn’t really ideal but unfortunately as vouchers are only available to use online and the chocolates are automatically sent out on an order placed, this would be the only way for us to guarantee that your friend receives these….’

Let’s be clear about this, in case anyone missed it: Ocado have just suggested that we ask someone who is lying in a hospice to use a computer to register their ‘new place of residence’…so that they can send them something to make up for the frustrations of their illogical system.

That they couldn’t stick some real life chocolates in the post themselves blows my tiny mind.

But they couldn’t. Because we officially now live in an age where computerised systems ride roughshod over human empathy and common sense. And to be honest, that’s a world I know both my parents would be only too happy to check out of!

Without wishing to focus on how sick my dear relative is, (to be clear – the only thing I want to highlight here is Ocado’s sensitivity malfunction) she is currently now not able to operate a mobile phone. Much less, a computer or website as counter-intuitive as Ocado’s. The irony is that she’s now too sick to eat the pesky chocolates now anyway, as this has taken so long. Of course, that’s not Ocado’s fault, it’s cancer’s fault.

But I wanted to share this story because I find it so funny (and sad) that Ocado just couldn’t think of a way to extend their kind gesture in a way that transcended the computer saying no.

So thanks anyway Ocado! We’re good for chocolates.














Dear Ocado

I’m not normally a fan of the ‘Open letter.’ But something happened a while ago that was so spectacularly silly that I actually didn’t think it would be fair on the world to write it in a sealed shut letter.

It’s about your Gift cards. And how frankly un-gifted they are.

It all began when a very dear close relative of mine was diagnosed with cancer eighteen months ago. In my small and negligible way, I wanted to do something that might improve her life as she hoped to recover from bouts of traumatic procedures, one of which sounded terrifyingly like an episode of Doctor Who.

I wanted to share the gospel with her that there’s now never any need to go to a supermarket and haul her tired body round the aisles. ‘Much better to stay at home and rest’, I told her, ‘Why not try this online shopping site called Ocado – it’s just so breezy and fun to use!’

So I bought her a birthday gift card for £50, to help get her started.

Big mistake. Huge.

Let me outline for you, step by step, how it is that one can give The Gift of Ocado:

Step 1. Buy Ocado Gift Voucher Online, to arrive in plenty of time for the gift recipient’s birthday. Receive email receipt confirmation.

Step 2. Receive email receipt four days later from your driver, Yuk, to tell you when your printed gift voucher is going to be hand-delivered to the recipient.

Step 3. The next day, receive telephone call from the recipient, telling you a man named Yuk has just rung to say he’s got lost somewhere just outside Borehamwood, having driven all the way to her house.

‘Well I’ve not done one of these before,’ Yuk will eventually say on arrival as he rifles through the back of his van, not knowing quite what he’s looking for.

Eventually a friendly and befuddled driver will present the recipient with an inexplicably large crate containing a solitary green card – upon which is printed something along the lines of, ‘you now have a 50 pound voucher, which will be sent to you on email in 2-3 working days, when the person who bought you it receives it and forwards it on to you.’

Step 4. A few days later, receive email from Ocado confirming successful delivery of what can only be described as the gift-voucher’s stunt double.

Step 5. Two weeks later, receive email containing THE ACTUAL GIFT VOUCHER for your relative while you are abroad, almost a month after ordering it, and three weeks late for their birthday. As instructed, forward the voucher yourself onto the recipient from an internet cafe.

Step 6. Receive email from gift recipient describing their check-out experience as ‘a mare beyond belief’. After an hour of attempts to check-out, Ocado is still asking her for the 10th digit of her 8 digit credit card number. Even though she is trying to use the one thing that wants so desperately to be a gift voucher. Before long, gift recipient will empty their basket and go and have a cup of camomile tea (assuming there are any left in the cupboard).

And that, I shit you not, is what it took for me to give my dear relative a simple Ocado gift voucher.

So I wanted to write this letter – in the hope it might make her giggle at a time when she really needs to – and also, to gently suggest that you think about simplifying your customer user journey in time for this year’s Christmas givers?

If one less shopper has to suffer this convoluted (though hilarious) process then we’ll both be happy.

Many thanks.



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