Disillusioned Gosport pensioner Richard Butt was delighted with the popular flagship Tesco Hudl 2 tablet computer he bought from their Rowner store two years ago.
But when it recently developed a fault his delight turned to anger after the store manager told him there were no spare parts or repair facilities for the device, and it was only fit for the bin.
The retired aircraft engineer emailed Streetwise about being given a peremptory brush-off by head office because the £120 computer was out of guarantee and he couldn’t produce a receipt.
The exclusive Tesco budget Wi Fi Hudl tablet was an instant runaway success. It first appeared in their stores in October 2013.
More than half a million Hudl 1s were sold before a second-generation model was put on sale a year later, but abruptly discontinued in October 2015.
Richard, 77, said: ‘My nephew bought one from Tesco in Exeter, and he said it was a very good buy. As he is much younger and more genned up on these things than me I took his advice and that’s why I bought one.
‘I wanted to talk to my sister who also lives in Exeter on Skype. It was on a special offer and, although I didn’t realise it at the time, they must have finished selling them soon after I bought it.’
A few weeks ago Richard turned the tablet on as he’d done many times before and the screen came up as usual. Then unexpectedly a line came down two thirds of the screen, leaving the left side clear but the right fuzzy and blurred.
A loyal Tesco customer of many years standing, he was astounded to discover the primary tool to keep in touch with his west country relatives had instantly morphed into a handful of junk.
He added: ‘When I went to the store and spoke to the duty manager she told me they couldn’t do anything about it and it wasn’t their concern. They’d ceased selling them and there was no way they could take it back and get it repaired.
‘If I’d known I wouldn’t have bought it. There was nothing in the store to say there wouldn’t be any back-up facilities and when I was in there a few weeks later I noticed all of them had gone and thought no more about it.
‘I’d been going to the Rowner store since it opened and their attitude towards me was miserable. I’d even deliberately kept the box just in case I had to send it away.
‘I don’t know why they’re so insistent on a receipt because I couldn’t have bought it anywhere else. It was only sold through their stores.’
Streetwise was concerned that Richard’s experience with Britain’s biggest retailer, whose current financial results revealed an operating profit of £1.3bn, was unchallengeable. It raised a number of issues about a normally reliable product which had become useless and should have initiated a more sympathetic and helpful response.
Tesco were of course perfectly within their rights to request proof of purchase, but it was beginning to look as it was being deployed as a cop-out. We weren’t surprised Richard felt he’d been shabbily treated and hard done by.
Initially were had concerns that Tesco bosses were playing a tad fast and loose with the law when they insisted the tablet was out of guarantee.
Richard’s right to a satisfactory repair or replacement didn’t abruptly end after twelve months, but would continue for up to six years.
We sought chapter and verse about the company’s returns policy, and after some prodding it became clear our concerns were unfounded.
Tesco pointed us to their totally compliant and crystal-clear policy about defective merchandise published on their website.
However, our in-depth research unearthed a significant number of complaints by Tesco customers being given the run-around and demanding receipts when trying to return faulty electrical goods.
Subsequently we pointed out that Richard had only asked where he could get the tablet repaired and their unhelpful response to his enquiry was disquieting to say the least.
Although he’d had use of the tablet for around two years, it had packed up prematurely.
In the absence of spares and repair facilities we suggested the very least they might like to consider was a small compensation gesture of goodwill.
In the meantime we’d located an enterprising private Hudl repair facility offered by the Mobile Device Workshop in Bradford.
Streetwise mooted that a few pounds off the cost of fixing the tablet would be acceptable.
But a week or so later, it became clear Tesco weren’t in a listening or compromise mode.
Back came a further inept demand for a copy of the receipt before they would agree to investigate further.
We then took another tack, and suggested a Tesco Direct voucher would fit the bill. But that was more than a week ago. So far our approach has drawn another blank, and we’re rapidly running out of steam.
Although we’re not in any way implying that the firm has infringed fair trading law, the tone in response to Richard’s complaint fell short of quality service and had left them with a very disgruntled customer.
He told us that he was exasperated and not impressed at the dismissive way he had been treated by Britain’s top retail store management.
He said: ‘Thank you very much for all the help you’ve put into my complaint.
‘I feel people should be made aware of my experience and warned that if they buy electrical goods from Tesco they need to keep the receipt otherwise they’ll not be taken seriously.’