Is LIDL’s operationally efficient system short changing customers?

LIDL occasionally discounts products. This may be because a product is nearing the best-before date, to clear slow moving goods or maybe because the item’s packaging has been damaged. The sticker below is from LIDL's mixed salad


The sticker tells the consumer the original price, the percentage discount and the discounted price. The consumer also gets to know how much he or she is saving per kilo of that product. 

The shortcoming of LIDL’s system is that the barcode of the discounted product is the same as that of its undiscounted equivalent. On many occasions the undiscounted product is concurrently on sale. This means that when the cashier scans the barcode, LIDL’s system has no way of differentiating between the differently priced products and the cashier has to manually intervene to mark down the product. 

LIDL operate a high efficiency system. Cash points are opened or closed depending on the number of customer waiting at the checkout. When not at the till employees are stacking shelves or performing other duties. Cashiers are never left idle and the company consistently aims to keep them busy. The cash points at LIDL are designed to get customers to react quickly. This is achieved by having a long motorised area before the cashier onto which customers unload the items they’ve purchased and an abnormally small area to hold goods that have been totalled up. This latter area does not have a lip all around and unless customers are very quick they risk having items fall off. By the time the previous shopper has removed her trolley and the current shopper has placed her cart, there is already a pile of items stacked on top of each other that need to be placed into bags. Keeping in mind that shoppers at LIDL have a tendency to bulk up, the need to act quickly becomes easier to comprehend. 

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LIDL is a shopping chain that has taken operational efficiency to the extreme. 

I and many others have, upon arriving home, realised that we did not receive a discount on items that should have been discounted. Some may feel that this is a genuine mistake on the part of the cashier but others feel that is it operationally more efficient to simply pass the item in from of the scanner rather than perform a manual intervention. Irrespective of what one thinks, the end result is that customers end up being short changed. 

When this happened to me the first few times I couldn’t be bothered; the cost to collect the discount was higher than the discount itself. Then I decided to bring the matter to the attention of LIDL’s customer case. Their reply was that I should have checked the bill before I left the shop and that if I took the products and the bill to the shop they would refund me. I drove all the way to the LIDL shop and got the refund.

A few days ago I purchased a few products that were discounted and a few there were not. The shop was busy as ever and my trolley was full to the brim. I told the cashier that I had three items that were specially discounted. On exiting the store I decided to look up the bill. Only one of the discounted items was listed. I entered back and brought the fact to the cashier’s attention. He was visibly pissed off at my having bothered him. He insisted that I must fish out all the discounted items. I exited the store and after rummaging through the trolley I managed to find out the three discounted items. I was somewhat taken aback when the cashier took issue at my having come back with three discounted items. In a packed store I felt somewhat belittled when he shouted at the clerk in front of him what the discount was (the bright orange sticker was plainly in front of him) and after seeming unable or unwilling to punch the correct amount into the till he told me in a loud voice “here let me give the you money myself”. I don’t think that is the right way to treat customers. 

Since each discount label is specifically printed for each product why can’t LIDL add a barcode that when scanned will show the proper discounted price? Cashiers won’t have to be on the lookout for discounted items, they wouldn’t have to manually intervene to enter the discounted price, information collected by LIDL would be more accurate and customers would not have to belittle themselves to collect what is rightfully theirs. Besides, this small adjustment would help further improve the operational efficiency of the company. 

And while on the subject of improvements, LIDL should maybe invest in customer handling skills.


  1. I have no idea what the shortfall in customer service skills are, are these cases or exceptions?
    I mean doesn't everyone happen to have a bad day?

  2. While researching this article I discovered 15 separate cases in which Lidl did not pass discounts to clients. If Lidl insert a bar code under the discount sticker clients and cashiers would both benefit.

    It takes longer for a cashier to swipe a product and punch a discount than it would to simply swipe the product. In a company were every minute counts (check internet) being on the lookout for the bright orange sticker and punching discounts increases the overall time to process a customer.

  3. I have been cheated by LIDL many times this way. It is like when they have something well priced but only have few items. Once they get you to drive to the store you will spend something anyway. Did you know that today we pay up to 40% more on certain items then how much they sell in Italy!!

    I stopped buying discounted items. I hate feeling like a begger.

    1. How would you feel if you are charged Euro 1 extra for a normal (non-discounted) product? A product that LIDL have discounted is made available at a special price should be sold at ***that*** price.

      LIDL's systems should help cashiers do their job and no customer should ever feel intimated to ask for what is rightfully theirs.


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