Related: Lidl and Waitrose named as most sustainable supermarkets in UK

Which?

We’ve all been there. A beloved item on our weekly supermarket shop is missing, and so the store offers up an alternative, replacement or ‘substitution’ for the out-of-stock object, in a bid to minimise inconvenience and be helpful.

They are most definitely not helping.

In fact, a recent survey by the consumer champion Which? found that two in five of them (39 per cent) had received a substitution in their most recent supermarket purchase.

Aldi was ranked the most likely to swap something you want for something you may not want in the poll, with almost half (49 per cent) of their customers confirming they had received a replacement item in their last shop.

The full list is as follows:

  • Aldi – 49 per cent
  • Sainsbury’s – 48 per cent
  • Asda – 45 per cent
  • Morrisons – 43 per cent
  • Ocado – 41 per cent
  • Tesco – 39 per cent
  • Waitrose – 36 per cent
  • Amazon Fresh - 26 per cent
  • Iceland – 18 per cent

Ele Clark, retail editor at Which?, said: “While product substitutions in your online shopping can sometimes be genuinely helpful, our research has shown that they can also be downright ridiculous.

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“You do have the right to reject substitutions at the point of delivery, or you could opt out of receiving substitutions altogether – though this can result in a real headache if the key ingredient for your dinner that night is missing.

“If you do end up with a substitution that you don’t want, always contact the supermarket and ask for a refund.”

As well as ranking the top supermarkets for their substitutions, the survey also revealed several examples of weird substitutions.

With Aldi, one customer received cooking oil instead of milk, while another reported that they were given Ben and Jerry’s ‘Phish Food’ ice cream instead of the breaded fish fillets they had requested.

One Sainsbury’s shopper who asked for sponge scourers for their kitchen was given another kind of sponge entirely – a Victoria sponge.

In a similar case of customers being offered items which sound similar, but aren’t exactly the same thing, an Asda shopper expecting to receive a pack of Cadbury’s Crème Eggs were in fact handed a “box of bog-standard hen’s eggs”.

Speaking of bogs, another claimed they received sausage rolls instead of toilet rolls.

Easy mistake to make, of course.

Dog food instead of bread sticks, orange squash instead of Domestos bleach, duck paste instead of duct tape and tampons instead of shaving cream were some of the other weird substitutions put forward by the supermarkets.

And the blunders have consequences too. One grandparent gave their grandchildren some plain cheese biscuits, only to learn that they were in fact a spicy chilli alternative.

Customers with allergies and dietary requirements were affected as well, with vegans and vegetarians offered meat or dairy items as substitutes. One shopper had their gluten-free plain flour swapped for self-raising flour.

We imagine in that instance it wasn’t just the flour that was raising following the odd substitution, but the customer’s eyebrows, too.

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