Supermarkets’ hypocrisy revealed

Despite a new report claiming that shoppers trust bricks-and-mortar retailers more than online sites, one major supermarket has been left red-faced this week and another has gone back on its word.

Woolworths was caught with its pants down when an inquiry from an ABC News journalist asked why the grocer did not have locally canned beans on its shelves.

The question, asked via Twitter, elicited this tweet from the supermarket giant: “Hi Emma, we’re sorry to hear about disappointment towards our tinned beans. We aim to provide the best quality products to our customers and sometimes this means supplying imported products as they’re far superior.”

The response drew quick condemnation and left customers questioning the grocer’s integrity, as it was seen to be at odds with Woolies’ protracted efforts to embrace Australian produce.

Victorian Farmers Federation vice-president Brett Hosking said he was stunned by the tweet.

“I was actually quite shocked that they would have come out and said that, to imply that overseas products are superior to local products,” Mr Hosking said.

“Both major supermarkets have put a lot of work into extolling how much work they’ve put into working with growers, and how much they want to support Australian growers.

“Then to set a statement like that that completely contradicts all that rhetoric, it’s really disappointing.’’

The grocery chain went on to issue a statement apologising for saying that Australian products were of lesser quality than imported ones. It added that the earlier tweet did not “reflect our view of Australian-grown products”.

“Sometimes we do need to source products from overseas, but it’s always our first preference to source locally,” the statement said.

And in another backflip, rival supermarket giant Coles has put a small group of stubborn customers’ wishes ahead of its own stated environmental concerns.

Coles has said it would continue to hand out free thicker plastic shopping bags to help customers adjust to the scrapping of single-use bags.

“Some customers told us they needed more time to make the transition to reusable bags,” a Coles spokesperson said.

The decision has alarmed environmentalists who say that the thicker plastic bags are a greater hazard for the environment than the single-use ones because they take longer to break down in waterways and other habitats, putting wildlife at risk.

Environmental group Greenpeace said Coles’ decision was bad for the planet, ABC News reported.

“Coles have caved in far too quickly to a small but vocal minority and there is absolutely no doubt Coles will be punished for this decision by customers who don’t want to see plastic bags littering their beaches and killing marine life,” Greenpeace campaigner Zoe Deans said.

When Coles first announced it would phase out the lighter plastic bags, it explained: “We are committed to phasing out single-use plastic carry bags by 1 July 2018 across all our stores because we believe it is the right thing to do for the environment.”

But yesterday, Ms Deans observed: “[Coles] talked the talk but haven’t walked the walk.”

Meanwhile, Monash University Business School’s Consumer Retail Trust Index 2018 found consumers see online retail as less trustworthy than physical store-based merchants.

More than 600 shoppers were quizzed about which retailers deserved their loyalty and supermarkets came out on top. Next on the list was pharmacies, followed by retailers of sporting goods, technology, department stores, homewares, clothing and footwear.

Do you think it was wrong of Coles to cave in to a minority of customers who haven’t been able to adjust to the plastic bag phase-out? Do you believe Woolworths’ slip-up over imported canned beans reveals that supermarkets really do not take Australian produce seriously?

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Written by Olga Galacho

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