From A to Z - Aldi vs AIDS and the tale of the pickled rat

7 October 2008

This won't come as a planet-shattering revelation, but very few high street brands have an unblemished record in treating both consumers and staff fairly.

Think your favourite store is all sweetness and light? Guess again. Our team of dedicated researchers have cut and paste from Google painstakingly trawled through news archives to highlight the best examples of bad behaviour.

Kicking off the alphabetical adventure is Aldi, which along with Lidl is our joint favourite German discount supermarket chain.

Not only are Aldi intolerant of high prices but they've precious little time for terminal illness, as store manager Mark Hedley discovered in 1999.

Hedly attempted to return to work after treatment for HIV, but was barred by Aldi and put on gardening leave. The chain claimed that colleagues were uncomfortable working with him, and that his illness could cause the store to lose money.

In evidence submitted ahead of an employment tribunal, Aldi stated its decision was justified "given the nature of the applicant's condition". Oddly enough, the tribunal never went ahead; Aldi settled with Hedley out of court, paying him substantial damages which The Independent put at £250,000.

ASDA haven't fared much better with staff relations. In 2006, the supermarket was forced to pay £7,000 in compensation to a worker sacked for leaving the shopfloor to take medicine for his epilepsy, on top of shelling out £27,750 to 37 Asian workers in Leicestershire for racial discrimination.

Merseyside Police took issue with ASDA in 2005, when a local store sold "special Halloween" packs of eggs, perfect for little sods to throw at windows and cars. And in 2007 the supermarket was fined nearly £80,000 for selling out-of-date food. Anyone for lamb chops a whole month past their use-by date? No?

Then there was the case of Jeanette Reinders, who in 2005 was less than thrilled to discover a dead rat in a jar of gherkins. Thankfully, ASDA customer services figured that a 49p refund wouldn't cut it in this instance, and Reinders was offered £100 plus a free trolley dash. Assuming she could stop throwing up long enough to take part.

Want to share your story of shameful service? Send the gory details to [email protected]

Photo by Unhindered by Talent on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

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