- a blog about food and value

Supermarket query: What happens when it’s your fault?

All over the floor they spilt, so they did.

I think it was my fault. After I bought the groceries in Lidl, I dutifully moved to the counter to pack it all away. Then, I noticed I’d spilt most of the blueberries on the ground.

I started to pick them up, and the security guard came to help. I apologised, and he told me it was no problem, and to go and take another packet. “But – but – it was my fault,” I whimpered, slightly mortified.

“No, no problem, take another one,” he insisted. The shop assistant nodded in agreement. Still feeling a little like a thief, I went back and grabbed them.

I was pretty impressed with this. But am I easily impressed? Should supermarkets pay for our mistakes? What normally happens, for instance, when you smash a bottle of wine on the floor?

My sister says that McDonald’s also have excellent customer service in this regard. She’s noticed, on a few occasions when taking the kids there, that if someone drops a packet of chips all over the floor, they’re immediately given a new packet. Or a half-eaten burger, returned with a complaint that it’s cold, is replaced without quibble (she’d like me to point out that she herself has not done this).

What should happen here? Is it a gesture of goodwill to replace the wine/ chips/ blueberries, or should we be told to suck it up and be more careful?

Have you got a good customer service story to share?


  1. I think that in general, it’s goodwill and we should appreciate it. However, Aldi and Lidl in particular bear a portion of the responsibility, I think, with the lack of baskets and the fact you’ve to carry your purchases from the checkout to a shelf to pack. If they had an adjoining packing area where you could finish up without delaying the next customer, and without having to physically carry your goods, I think it would lessen the chances of breakages.

  2. Yes I do have a good customer service story to share, I recently dropped and broke a bottle of wine in O’Brien’s off license in Dun Laoighre. They didn’t charge me for it.

  3. Oh that’s nice! I dropped a bottle of wine *outside* an off-licence before and went back in to buy a new one but they gave me another bottle for nothing, I felt terrible, but they said as long as the seal hadn’t been broken or uncorked they could send it back as “damaged in storage/transit” or something like that. Still though, I thought it was a very nice gesture of goodwill considering it was all down to my butter fingers. I’m sure bigger chains etc are covered for breakages, spillages etc but it always feels nice when something is replaced. I worked in a restaurant for years and if a customer knocked over a drink, into their dinner sometimes, we would replace both free of charge. It kind of seemed cruel not to!

  4. Yes, it is good customer service but it’s the least you’d expect really. Having said that, I bought a bag of spuds in Dunnes and the check out lady pointed out a rotten potato and told me to replace them. Very nice of her I thought.

    What I don’t like is if you spill a drink in a pub or bar with table service and it’s not replaced. I had my fresh glass of wine knocked over as I was being handed a pint by a bar tender. He tried to charge me for both the wine and the beer wasn’t going to replace the wine!

  5. Why is it the least you would expect? If you spill it or drop it yourself? It’s a goodwill gesture and obviously smaller retailers wouldn’t be able to replace all goods that are damaged by customers on top of the ones that get damaged by staff or go over the use by date, etc… Bigger stores will take that into their profits and losses. However, if the waiting staff / barman spill a drink, they should not only give you another one for free but also apologize
    I spilled my coffee once and got it replaced without any quibble and I thought it was a nice touch. In another place, the waiter got an annoyed look on his face (in fairness, he was the one cleaning the mess!) and I bought another one, but since it was my own clumsiness I didn’t resent it

  6. It’s a nice touch but it’s the least I would expect because if I had just paid for groceries, which could be quite a considerable amount of money and dropped €2 worth of blueberries, I would be annoyed and not in a rush back to that store if they weren’t replaced. How many times have you had a leaking carton of milk on the conveyor belt or burst bag of flour or sugar? Who should pay for it then? Certainly not me! I don’t go around throwing coffees or drinks to the ground and demanding a replacement. If it happens, I appreciate it but if it doesn’t it leaves a bad feeling.

  7. Funny you should discuss this, had the SAME conversation last night! I was in Aldi and the box of couscous I picked up off the shelf was ripped, and some spilled. I didnt do it, it was already like that.Anyway, asked my daughter to give it to the lady fixing the shelves and the staff member returned it back, saying, if you would like it, you can have it for free, because we would only end up throwing it out anyway! Tempted as I was to just grab it and run, I bought an extra box too, but I thought it was a lovely (and sensible, within reason) gesture. Certainly made me smile! Yours sincerely, couscous for dinner every night x

  8. Claire, my opinion is that if the milk is leaking or the flour bag has burst then the shop is responsible. If said box of blueberries was incorrectly closed, then yes, the shop should replace it. If it opens because you have mishandled it (easy to do, these plastic boxes are quite flimsy), the shop bears no responsibility.Rachel, indeed, it is very sensible to offer it to you rather than throw it in the bin.

  9. Surely if you drop something in a restaurant or store and is a genuine accident is this not the stores responsibility to pay as you being a customer are covered under their public liability insurance ? I knocked a whole plate of roast dinner off the table in a very expensive restaurant and they charged me for the replacement dinner and I was not happy ! I felt as a regular customer at least they would offer a replacement. Please can anyone comment on my previous insurance comment whilst you are on their premises ? Maybe someone knows a commercial insurance specialist that could give a professional opinion. Regards Gary

  10. I very embarrassingly spilled a glass of red wine all over myself, the table, and the floor in Musashi recently. The worst thing was that I was stone cold sober. They were really nice about it: I asked for a glass of white wine to pour over my shirt in the desperate hope of saving it, and they gave me the white wine for free.