Alex Neill: What are your worst supermarket substitutes?

What's your best supermarket substitute? Picture: PA.
What's your best supermarket substitute? Picture: PA.
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It could have been the last Thursday of every month – pay day.

Or perhaps it was at the weekend, when really you’d have preferred to be anywhere else.

The two-hour trek around the supermarket to stock up for the month ahead was always a chore.

Which is why these days, if we can avoid it we will – and instead sit comfortably at home, logging on to a supermarket website, and filling our virtual shopping trolleys with essentials.

It sounds like a carefree way to shop – but there are drawbacks. For what is delivered is not always what we ordered and the replacement items can prove a little … well … bizarre.

New Which? research involving 7,000 online shoppers asked them to share their strangest supermarket substitutions – what the store thinks you might want if the item you ordered is unavailable.

Some of you told us that instead of salad you received chocolate, instead of wine you got onions and instead of gluten–free bread you were delivered dog food.

One shopper even told us that while they ordered toilet paper they were sent nappies.

Vegetarians in particular seem to be served poorly – many telling us that they ordered Quorn mince only to receive beef mince, or veggie sausages were replaced with pork ones.

And according to our survey it’s one of the most popular supermarkets which is the worst substitute offender.

Around half of Asda’s online customers (48%) said they received something unexpected in their shopping in the previous six months.

Amazon Fresh was next worst for substitutions while Waitrose Deliver and Tesco Online were close behind. Iceland topped the list with only 12% of customers claiming to have had a substitute item in six months.

Perhaps it’s no surprise then that it was named as the Which? best online supermarket last month, given how big an impact on satisfaction substitutions can have.

Of course there will be times when what we’ve ordered isn’t available but it really shouldn’t be too much of a stretch for supermarkets to make intelligent switches – and not just chuck in any old thing in the hope it will do.

After all, pet food instead of bread will soon have dissatisfied customers putting a supermarket very firmly in the dog house.


A sack of onions instead of a bottle of white wine

Extra strong mints in place of beef mince

A pack of condoms ordered – a pregnancy–testing kit received

Dog food instead of clothes hangers

Mayo subbed for window cleaner

Nappies instead of toilet paper

Baby food replaced with tampons

Tissues substituted for sausages

Tinfoil instead of bin liners

Peaches subbed for peach shampoo