A foster carer and single mum was reduced to tears after being told to ‘shut up’ by a Tesco employee for trying to use a gift card in her local store.
Karen Davis, 47, was handed £150 worth of Spend and Save vouchers by her local authority after taking in a young, vulnerable child, fleeing domestic violence.
The mum-of five was given the vouchers for her act of kindness and to help cover her expenses while she waits for her application to become the 15-year-old’s full time carer to go through.
“I took him in to protect him from abuse, but in return I’ve only received abuse myself,” Karen said, recalling her experience in the London store.
“I don’t have a spare room, so have given him the living room – which means the family TV is with him,” she explained.
“So to avoid anyone missing out, I thought I’d spend the voucher on a new TV for the rest of the family to use in the next room.”
However, when she went into her local Tesco Extra store in Lea Valley, London, to use the voucher in early October, she was left feeling “humiliated and degraded” in front of dozens of other store workers and customers.
“I handed the voucher over at the till and was greeted by a string of expletives, with the store worker laughing at me.
“She said ‘where did you get these from? These are for food, not televisions’. I tried to explain my reason – and that the voucher clearly explains ‘it can be used as a cash alternative’ but she told me to ‘shut up’,” Karen explained.
Stunned by the response, Karen said she resorted to paying for the television in cash – leaving her £150 out of pocket, despite having the right voucher.
“I paid for the item but when I got back to my car, I decided to give Tesco’s customer services a call. I then found out I was completely in the right – I felt victimised.”
Karen then returned to the store, where she explained the case to the same sales assistant.
“She started raising her voice, and I started to get a bit angry too. I didn’t understand what was going on.
“Eventually she called up customer services and found out she’d misunderstood how the vouchers work. I understand that mistakes happen, but the problem then got even worse.
“I asked for a refund and to be able to buy the television again using the voucher – to which she eventually said yes. However, she then insisted that the money had to be returned to my card, which meant I’d have to wait three to five days for my money back.”
Karen later raised her concerns with a store manager, who she says was “apologetic” and issued her with a £20 gift card by way of an apology.
But the customer, who has been a regular at the local Tesco branch for 19-years, says she now feels discriminated against.
“She treated me like I was a benefit claimant that was trying to cheat the system.
“Tesco says ‘every little helps’ but people need to be aware of this before Christmas. All it takes is for one staff member to be given the wrong information for it to leave you high and dry.
“I still cannot believe I was told to ‘shut up’ by a member of staff. I was given the voucher for an act of kindness but I feel like I’ve been punished for it. Why did she need to embarrass me like that?”
“It’s supposed to be the season of goodwill – but this is what customers are being faced with in their local supermarket.”
Mirror Money put Karen’s case to Tesco – who issued a formal apology for the way she was treated.
A Tesco Spokesperson said: “We’re sorry for any confusion over whether these vouchers could be used. The issue was resolved in store.”
The grocer also wrote to Karen, stating that “a full investigation has been carried out” with store colleagues, however said it was “unable to divulge on any action taken as a result”.