Vegetarian lamb koftas anyone?

Despite having worked in ecommerce for over 7 years I had never shopped online for groceries. Not due to any of the typical fears about quality, delivery times or card security of course, but simply because I really enjoy my weekly trip to Lidl or Whitechapel market.

I do also occassionally shop in Sainsburys, so tempted by their rather generous voucher (£12 off a £60 shop) I spent half an hour in front of the TV with my ipad and did a big shop at Now the last time I had looked at their online shop in any detail was about 5 years ago when I went for an (unsuccessful) interview with them. At first glance the site didn’t seem much advanced, with an oddly narrow display on the ipad and fairly basic navigation and search. I remember at the time suggesting segmenting visitors by dietary choices or needs (vegetarian, halal etc.) so that vegetarians like myself wouldn’t have to navigate through meat products, offers and related products. There is a “my usuals” functionality for repeat shoppers, but it would be very easy to filter the product selection for all users, in the same way a clothing website shows products available in your size.

Anyway, my shop duly arrived 10 minutes into the 1 hour time slot, and the friendly delivery man handed me paperwork explaining a few substitutions, and a letter apologising for the lack of frozen goods due to a freezer malfunction (I hadn’t actually ordered any frozen goods). The falafels I had ordered weren’t available; instead I had been given lamb koftas, which I had the right to refuse for a refund – if we could only find them in amongst the approximately 30 plastic bags sitting in my hallway.

I like to think from a customer service point of view that someone picking my order might have noticed the lack of meat products, and substituted my falafels for say, vegetarian sausages. Or from a marketing point of view, Sainsburys would have learnt from 10 years of non-meat-buying Nectar card purchase history and profiled me as a vegetarian. Or from an ecommerce point of view that there would be a simple option to specify vegetarian subsitute products.

But none of these things happened, and I gave the offending bits of lamb to my neighbour.

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