‘False advertising’: Coles and Woolworths shoppers’ wild claims amid lobster rage

Brooke Rolfe and Brianne Tolj
·4-min read

Desperate and frustrated Coles and Woolworths shoppers have slammed the supermarkets over their controversial $20 lobster promotion.

Both supermarket giants announced early in December they would be selling half-price WA rock lobsters due to a surplus supply amid ongoing trade tension with China.

While some lucky shoppers were able to snap up the bargain seafood, hundreds of people that flocked to stores nationwide were forced to leave empty handed.

Coles and Woolworths responded to widespread criticism on Wednesday, claiming that despite having almost 30 times more stock than last year, they simply could not keep up with demand.

More theories have since emerged however, with angry customers telling Yahoo News Australia they had been offered up very different explanations by staff at their local stores.

People queuing at Woolworths in Adelaide, Australia. Source: Getty
Desperate and frustrated Coles and Woolworths shoppers have slammed the supermarkets over their controversial $20 lobster promotion. Source: Getty

Woolworths and Coles cop the wrath of furious shoppers

Irritated customers have claimed supermarket staffers told them some stores never ordered any lobsters at all, others were being kept for staff they said, and the price had been increased due to demand.

Many of the complaining shoppers said they had visited multiple stores and even waited outside for their local Woolworths or Coles to open – only to discover the lobsters had been sold out.

Some accused the supermarkets of “false and misleading advertising.”

“I’ve been down to Woolies seven times including this morning over the last 10 days and not one in sight, yet the seafood shop outside had plenty at $25. False advertising at its finest,” one man said.

A second man said he visited Coles in Ingleburn, NSW to pick up two lobsters but was told the store had only received one box and won’t be getting any more.

People queuing for seafood at Westfield Hornsby. Source: Paul Newman
Huge queues for seafood were a common site around Sydney on Christmas Eve. Source: Paul Newman

“She told me that the bigger stores got over 30 boxes and there are more boxes of lobsters in the city,” he said.

Another shopper called the deal “absolute bull crap” and claimed staff have been “told to say they’ve sold out despite none arriving at the stores”.

“One staffer told me that they keep it for themselves,” they said.

A customer said staff at three Woolworths stores had told them they “never even got supplies”.

“I visited my local Woolies at 7am when the doors opened but they were sold out immediately. There were not more than 15 or 20 available,” a separate shopper said.

Worker placing lobsters into a bag. Source: AAP
A man said his store had increased the price to $29 because of “high demand”. Source: AAP

Supermarkets say lobsters have been ‘exceedingly popular’

A Coles spokesman told Yahoo News Australia that more than 750 Coles supermarkets have been “receiving WA Rock Lobsters since the 12th of December, priced at $20 each”.

“There have been no movements on price since then.

“We have experienced exceptional demand from customers, with some stores selling out of their daily supply early in the morning,” the spokesman said.

A Coles spokesperson replying to a woman’s complaint on Twitter, said “more West Australian Rock Lobsters will be arriving in our stores throughout next week and up until Christmas.”

A customer transfers items from a shopping cart to a checkout counter at a Coles supermarket. Source: Getty
A Coles spokesman told Yahoo News Australia more than 750 Coles supermarkets have been “receiving WA Rock Lobsters since December 12, priced at $20 each.” Source: Getty

“We'd recommend calling your local store to check stock levels before your next visit. We're sorry for any disappointment!

Yahoo News Australia has also contacted Woolworths for comment.

Woolworths previously told Yahoo News Australia that it too had experienced an “extraordinary response” to its bargain rock lobsters.

“While tens of thousands more WA rock lobster will continue arriving in stores before Christmas, demand continues to outweigh supply and it’s likely not all customers will be able to buy a lobster before Christmas,” a spokesperson said.

“Despite ordering more than 20 times the lobsters as last year and applying purchase limits, customer demand has just exceeded all expectations.”

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