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The weirdest substitutes sent in online grocery orders

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

One Aldi customer received Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream instead of the breaded fish fillets they had ordered, while another received cooking oil instead of milk.

The bizarre substitutions came to light in a Which? survey about the oddest substitutes shoppers had received in their online delivery or click and collect orders. Others included sausage rolls instead of toilet rolls and duck paste instead of duct tape.

The consumer champion asked more than 1,300 online supermarket shoppers whether they had received a substitution with their latest grocery order.

Which? found that overall, two in five (39%) shoppers had received a replacement item in their most recent shop. Customers were also asked what had been the weirdest substitution they had received during the past 12 months.

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Aldi, which has a click and collect online shopping service, was, by a narrow margin, the most likely of the nine online supermarkets to put substitutions in customer orders. Almost half (49%) of Aldi customers told Which? they had received a replacement item in their most recent shop.

Half (48%) of Sainsbury’s shoppers told Which? they had received substitutions in their most recent online shop. One shopper reported ordering Sainsbury’s sponge scourers but instead received a Victoria sponge cake. Another said they had received beef stock instead of brandy butter.

Nearly half (45%) of Asda shoppers received replacement items in their most recent online order. Which? heard from one customer who received sausage rolls instead of toilet rolls. Another said they had a pack of Cadbury Creme Eggs substituted with a box of hen’s eggs.

About four in 10 (43%) Morrisons shoppers reported getting substitutions in their most recent shopping order, with one customer complaining to Which? that they had received dog food instead of breadsticks.

A similar proportion of shoppers (41%) with online-only supermarket Ocado reported getting substitutions. In one case, a shopper told Which? they had received a jar of mayonnaise instead of a bar of soap.

Two in five (39%) Tesco shoppers said they had received replacement items in their most recent shop, while a third of Waitrose customers (36%) had received replacements in their most recent food order.

Amazon Fresh customers were amongst the least likely to receive a dodgy substitution, with only a quarter (26%) of shoppers affected. Those who shopped online at Iceland were the least likely to get a replacement, with only one in five (18%) customers affected on their most recent shop.

Customers with special dietary requirements fared badly when it came to getting substitutions, across all the supermarkets included in the study. Shoppers complained about getting meat or dairy instead of vegetarian or vegan alternatives.

The same was true for customers with food intolerances, with one shopper having their gluten-free plain flour substituted with regular self-raising flour.

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

“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.”