No-One Seems To Have Stopped Shopping At Woolworths

When Woolworths announced plans to stop accepting debit credit cards, one of the most common reactions amongst commenters was "I'm going to shift my shopping somewhere else!" But if Woolworths' quarterly results are any guide, very few people made good on that threat.

In Woolworths' core food division, just-released sales number for the fourth quarter — the first where that policy applied — show an increase in sales of 1.8% relative to the same quarter last year. That's not a massive rise, but it certainly doesn't suggest that there's been a mass defection to rival chains in the wake of the policy change. The idea that Woolworths might reverse the decision based on a loss of sales equally looks more like wishful thinking than ever.

I don't deny that a handful of shoppers might have decided to change supermarkets, or that Woolworths' attitude (essentially, "we'd rather save a few cents on transactions than give you maximum flexibility as a customer") came across as offensive to many people. But as our recent guide to legal tender pointed out, no shop is obliged to accept any specific form of payment. To judge from the numbers, Woolworths decision hasn't been much of a deal-breaker now the noise has died down.


    The big W still sucks

    I actually went to Woolies the other day. (My usual haunt is Coles). When I tried to pay via credit with my debit card, the attendant told me that I had to press "cheque" or "savings". When I asked him to explain why, he said, "I don't know."

    Not impressed. They should at least train the staff to explain why they're limiting our payment options.

      This is a very generalised statement, but I don't think they could train them if they tried. The majority of Woolworths employees that actually get face time with customers are severely lacking in both life experience and knowledge of basic financial systems.

      It's the same reason I no longer complain about the quality of food from McDonalds - I deserve what I get for relying on a bunch of fifteen year olds to make my dinner.

      Pleased to say though, my Woolies boycott is still in effect! For numerous reasons though, not just debit cards.

        severely lacking in both life experience and knowledge of basic financial systems.

        and basic general hygene

        There is no need to put down Woolworths' employees. I am the office manager of a Queensland store, and our staff are properly trained and provide award winning service, much higher than local Coles and Aldi supermarkets.

        Generalised statements like these are horrible.

        Also, 1.8% is a normal rise in sales for supermarkets.

        Fantastic. I won't have to deal with people who believe they are entitled to treat service staff poorly. Woohoo!

      All employees were supposed to be trained in the reasoning and how to handle complaints about the issue when it was brought in. The training was sugar-coated to the max, mainly stating that "Woolworths is committed to bringing lower store prices, and this is another way to do so", etc.. I find it better and more truthful to just explain that Woolies didn't want to get charged anymore, I still get the oft-abuse for it though.

    If you "don’t deny that a handful of shoppers might have decided to change supermarkets", perhaps you might think again about the sensationalist wording of your headline?

      A sensationalist headline would be "Alleged Woolies Boycott Is Utter Failure". The headline as it is reflects the reality: that there's no evidence of a shopper backlash in sales figures (and even then it's qualified with "seems to", as I don't have the truly detailed sales data that might address the issue more directly).

    Mine still works fine.
    Was this only starting at selected stores or has mine simply magically kept working?

    A sales figure (or a sales increase percentage) is surely not very much information when you need to take into account price differences in the cost of purchasing products?

      The sales figures I quoted are already adjusted to account for inflation (and seasonal differences related to Easter).

        4th quarter last year was the depth of the GFC and the government was only starting to roll out the stimulus package. Woolies only seemed to commence their policy half way through the quarter (mid-May), so you would expect a lag while people began to notice what was happening (not everyone is as on the cutting edge of events as Lifehacker readers). Perhaps a later quarter on quarter comparison, plus a comparison with Coles and Aldi's figures will yield a more accurate result.

          Woolworths announced and started the policy in mid-April, not mid-May. A lag effect might become more evident as more people became aware of the the policy, and I'll check that next quarter. Figures from Coles (AFAIK Aldi don't publish data in the same way since they're not listed on the ASX), which are out next week, will give some indication of whether Woolworths' performance is in line with general trends, and what GFC factors meant across the board. But I still don't see that there's any sensible way of interpreting a rise in sales (adjusted for inflation and seasonal factors) as indicating fewer people shopping at Woolworths.

    On the National Complaints website, the avg time for Woolworths' complaints unresolved is 502.4 days compared to the average time of all companies with complaints unresolved - 206 Days. I'd rather dig through moldy garbage for kids' toys than deal with the associates at Woolies.

      Complaints like that aren't handled in store, so once again there is no need to say things like that about their staff.

    I find it very odd that people think switching supermarkets is less of a pain than switching banks/credit unions.

    If your bank/credit union charges you for EFTPOS transactions, then switch to a bank that doesn't (there are many good deals out there).

    What Woolies has done is simply a reflection of the economics of EFTPOS versus Visa/MasterCard. More and more merchants now surcharge on Visa and MasterCard (regardless of whether it's a debit or credit Visa/MasterCard). This is because EFTPOS is a cheaper and more efficient payment system overall.

    It's funny that people don't get annoyed with their bank or credit union about the cost of EFTPOS transactions.

    As I said on a previous post regarding this, my debit card still works if I press Credit. Even on machines that have the little notice on them.

    I was at Woolworths a few days ago, swiped my Debit Mastercard (Westpac), and had a bit of a '..huh?' moment when I went to press credit and it wasn't there.

    And then I went right on and pressed cheque, because it's still the same account. It doesn't really affect me o.O

    It is interesting that they make a fuss for a Visa or Master Card debit card but happily accept American Express which charges them much higher. A Qantas rewards American Express card and Woolworths rewards card work well together for points.

    I think the small amount of people that complained on this website would be a very very very small percentage of woolworths customers. I didn't really read about it anywhere else.

    I'm trying to boycott both major supermarket chains. They don't need my business. Woolworths charges me to shop there, Coles is importing cheap cigarettes and everywhere is full of crappy promotions and bad music.

    Unless I need anything outside reasonable business hours, there is absolutely no reason to shop at the major supermarkets.

    I am, and will continue to do my bit. Its a matter or principal why I have ceased to shop at any of their stores and they have lost considerably more from me than they would have saved by accepting the small fee Visa charges them for my convenience. I spend about $180 a week in groceries, that was either with them or Coles but now only Coles gets that. Every couple of weeks I buy the 2 for $70 beer, mostly it was from their outlets but now its the Coles outlets that get that. They were not even in the running when I bought my plasma TV and Blu-Ray player recently. So they may have saved $10 at best had I continued to shop with them but they have lost at least $4000 instead. I will not shop with them again. Everyone price matches so its just as convenient to take their catalogue to the competitor. Bye woolies

    Apart from 4-5 stops at Woolies for small grocery shops and one stop at the liquor store (because it's bigger than the Liquor Land) I have moved my business to Coles.

    Considering they are moving their home brand products over to the upscale brand with better packaging and therefore receiving a higher mark up I personally believe denying people a payment option is double dipping into people's pockets.

    This business decision affected me greatly; the Woolworths is closer to me than the Coles and I don't own a car. Despite the longer walk I still find Michael's comment: "I find it very odd that people think switching supermarkets is less of a pain than switching banks/credit unions." ridiculous. It was a pain to move banks, the credit union I left made the process troublesome.

    I also believe with banks selling the use of mastercard/visa debit cards, that the numbers of people affected is higher then reported. When I changed banks last year, any bank account that offered unlimited or high numbers of EFTPOS transactions did not have a fee free option. I chose my bank because I already had an online savings account with them and wanted to consolidate.

    A new Coles is about to open and a large liquor store just has in a new complex closer to me, so the only time I'll see the Woolworths is when I want to eat at the very good cafe next door.

      The point Michael was making is that switching banks, however annoying, is a one-time process. Switching supermarkets affects you every time you go shopping (as is very clear in Tim's case). Everyone's free to make that choice, but all the available evidence doesn't support the idea that it's a common choice.

    It is impossible to look at a sales figure like this and attribute it to any individual driver, particularly a micro factor such as debit card behaviour. Much more impactful drivers such as the state of the economy, retail cycle and the level of discounting will obliterate any changes at the edges attributable to payment type.

    Lol i love this,
    every couple of days we get someone that hadn't realized we had the switch and they're all like uuuhh this doesn't suit my lifestyle, and we're like damn bitch the signs have been everywhere for weeks.
    i mean daaaamn, all you have to do is remember your pin number and everything's cool as.
    besides, the customer service desk has a machine that lets you sign for them, it just takes like 20 minutes to setup.
    remember that ;D

    I stopped. My debit card doesn't have EFTPOS.

    And EFTPOS is used with PIN code (not signature) which means you lose fraud protection if someone uses your account illegally.

    If Woollies were serious about banning debit cards because of the fees they incur, then they should first ban credit cards - the fees are the same or mostly higher.

      I'd be seriously surprised if your fraud protection (to the extent it applied) was entirely contingent on a physical signature, especially given that card companies and banks are steadily moving towards making chip/PIN combos their standard.

        "The Zero Liability policy does not apply:

        - if a personal identification number (PIN) is used as the cardholder verification method for unauthorised transaction(s)."

          That means is that if someone else knows your PIN, you aren't covered for liable transactions. But it doesn't mean that you get additional protection for transactions you legitimately make yourself if you use a signature, which is what I thought you were getting at.

    Are you people serious? Its a visa debit card.. It's your money.It's not true credit. Why do you feel the need that gives you the right to push credit so the business gets a fee. Stop being so lazy and just use your pin number. Society is becoming so lazy and self absorbed these days. I want, I want.. I need, I need. Get over yourselves. Worried about pin security, use cash, or take it up with your bank.!

      i was thinking exactly the same thing... its a debit card so theres no need to use credit.

        Some debit cards don't have the option.

    Just select CHEQUE will still work.

      Actually no... no it does not.

      My card is not linked to an EFTPOS accounts and therefore savings and cheque options do not work.

      Haven't been to Woolworths since.

        Jim, how does a debit credit card work if it's not linked to another bank account?

        Hello Angus,

        Here is an example:

        "NOTE: When you use your CommSec Debit MasterCard, you must always select the 'Credit (CR)' button when using an ATM or when making purchases."

        If you press anything else, it doesn't work.

          The question is though: do you have a card which has debit credit, and literally no other options for accessing money electronically? That is, you can't elect to withdraw from a saving or cheque account by using those options, either with that card or another?

        That is right - the account has no other access options. It's debit credit or nothing.

        It was never a problem until now. So the options are to find a new bank account or find a new shop...

        Perhaps Woolworths should charge any hidden transaction costs back to the customer - for all types of cards. Rather than subsidising some cards and not others.

    How hard is it to press savings or cheque instead of credit? Lots of whinging going on when nothing but a small button with a different name on it, at the checkout, has changed. Changing stores sounds rather dramatic because one has to change buttons in order to pay for their purchases.

      For some debit cards there is no option.

      You can press the cheque or savings buttons as many times as you like, but it still won't make them work...

    This is a bit late, but I have also recently changed to Coles after being a regular Woolworths shopper for many years for this reason. Basically, they no longer offer the service I want, which is to pay for my groceries via the credit option of my debit card. The benefit of this option is that it is a fee-free transaction to me as opposed to using the cheque/savings option. And I don't believe I should be forced to pay the supermarket a fee for being their customer and handing over my money to them.

    At the end of the day, it's not about the money (I probably spend the difference on petrol now as Coles is further from home) but about the fact that they are not interested in providing the full range of customer services that I can get elsewhere.

    if people continue to shop at woolworths and coles they deserve to be eating food from god knows where, you have a choice, stand up and be counted, if not for yourself for the sake of your children and grandchildren. BIG AUSTRALIAN? idont think so

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