Coles shopper's fury after online 'glitch' sees her 'unable to feed family'

Brooke Rolfe
·News Reporter
·6-min read

Some Coles customers are being left out-of-pocket and without groceries for several days due to a frustrating “glitch” in the retailer’s updated online payment system.

The new system requires a pre-authorisation hold to be placed on a shopper’s bank account ahead of their order being packed and finalised, to ensure there are funds available.

Customers with certain banks who make changes to their order before it is packed however, are being caught out and in some cases claim to be without the capacity to feed their family.

This is due to some banks holding on to a pre-authorisation amount for up to 10 days, even after the online order it was holding money for is cancelled.

When a modification is made to an online order, the hold on the original amount is supposed to be released immediately and made available for the shopper to place their revised order.

In cases where a bank holds the initial funds for up to 10 days, shoppers without money in their bank account to pay for two online orders - the original and the revised - will have their order cancelled.

Family left without food after online glitch

This issue has left Esther Gillett, who lives with her husband and son in Attunga, a community about 25 kilometres from Tamworth in northern NSW, without money to feed her family for nearly a week.

Photo shows Esther Gillet who can't afford groceries because of a Coles system change.
Esther Gillet said her order was cancelled due to "insufficient funds". Source: Supplied

Mrs Gillett placed her family’s fortnightly order on Tuesday, and scheduled it to be delivered for Thursday - the estimated cost was $258.99 which was subject to a pre-authorisation hold.

She modified her order slightly and the new total came to $240, but because the previous amount was still being held, her order couldn’t be finalised and was cancelled.

“All up, they've tried to take nearly $500 out, for a $240 shop, which of course we don't have,” the frustrated mum told Yahoo News Australia.

“Because we don't have the $240 in our bank, our order has been cancelled due to insufficient funds.”

Mrs Gillett said her family was working to a tight budget given she had recently experienced a stroke, and her husband Paul was enduring serious health problem of his own.

She said between them, their two-year-old son Lachlan, their dog and bird, they had barely enough food to see them through the coming days.

They will fall days short of supplies before they get access to their money again, which they have been told could be either Thursday or Friday this week.

Photo shows Paul Gillett and his son Lachlan.
Paul Gillett and his son Lachlan won't have access to groceries until Tuesday at the absolute earliest. Source: Supplied

“It’s just so bloody frustrating. We plan, we organise, we menu plan, we do shopping list. We budget so carefully,” Mrs Gillett said.

“We normally love Coles, but it's this pre authorisation crap is just not working. I suspect, not just for us, but for a lot of people.”

After discussing the matter with a Coles employee on the phone, Mrs Gillett said she was offered $30, and eventually an extra $20 by the supermarket as a gesture of “good will”.

They ended up dipping into what money they had left and drove to town to buy what essentials they could afford over the weekend.

“We’ve had to use fuel that we really don’t have to go in and pick up an order. We had about $40 in our account all up. So we’ve spent $30 of our own just to get what we needed,” Mrs Gillett said.

Photo shows the inside of the Gillett family's almost empty fridge.
This is the family's supply of food until they are able to access the money they tried using for a Coles shop. Source: Supplied

“They said it’s a glitch in their new system they said to me because I modified the order, instead of the pending amount of the $258.99 being adjusted to the new amount of $240, they tried to take a second payment out.”

Her family’s experience doesn’t seem to be isolated, with several other shoppers expressing frustration over the issue in irate posts to the supermarket’s Facebook page.

Another shopper explained that she noticed on her bank statement a pending amount of $207 six days after placing an online order, which actually came to $186 after all her items were weighed.

In a fiery post to the retailer, she asked whether her whole order would have been cancelled if she didn’t have the $207 pre-authorisation amount as well as the order total of $186 available.

“Pending payment means for most people they need near double in their account in order for the payment/order to be processed. If they do not have enough money for a pending payment and actual paid. You will cancel their order,” her post read.

Customer gives up on Coles online

Someone else recalled a similar experience, revealing that $400 had been held on her account for almost a week.

“Payment has gone through but you still have a hold on over $400 for the same transaction for almost a week. If this is what your online ordering process consists of, essentially paying twice for the same order, I will never order from Coles again,” she wrote.

A mum of four said she too had struggled with the online ordering system, and ultimately had her order cancelled because she didn’t have funds to cover double of her $190 shop.

Mrs Gillett's bank records show the $258.99 pre-authorisation amount still being held, nearly a week after she place her order. Source: Supplied
Mrs Gillett's bank records show the $258.99 pre-authorisation amount still being held, nearly a week after she place her order. Source: Supplied

She claimed a worker informed her she needed to have double the value of her grocery shop in her account to cover the pre-authorisation hold and the actual total of the shop.

“I’m a single mother with four children, I don’t have money to pull out of nowhere. That grocery shop had nappies and formula as well as food, which is all essential,” her post read.

A Coles spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia that banks are requested to immediately release pre-authorisation funds, however they sometimes take longer than the expected two days.

“If a customer modifies or cancels their order before it’s picked, Coles Online requests the pre-authorised payments to be automatically released by the customer’s bank.

“While most banks have processes in place to accurately release funds and ensure pending funds are returned within 24 to 48 hours, we have been made aware that some payment methods take longer.

“We acknowledge this is a stressful time for customers and we are working closely with financial institutions to improve this experience.”

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