Waitrose coffee change gives grounds for complaint

Waitrose store Image copyright Waitrose

We have long known there is no such thing as a free lunch, but now it seems there is no such thing as a free coffee either.

Waitrose is changing its offer for loyalty card members so they will have to buy something before being able to claim a "free tea or coffee" in store.

The supermarket said it was just a "refinement" of the existing policy.

But it has provoked mock outrage on social media from some of the chain's loyal shoppers.

As one Twitter user put it: "A collective gasp from middle England as @waitrose announces you now have to *buy something* before indulging in free teas and coffees."

Another joked: "We will speak of this day for years to come. Social historians will trace the #Islington #Coffee #Riots to this act of betrayal!"

Image caption The supermarket sent an email to myWaitrose customers on Tuesday morning

The offer of a free hot beverage for myWaitrose members has not been without controversy.

In 2014, Labour raised concerns about the promotion, claiming it was hurting independent traders nearby.

The prime minister at the time, David Cameron, also gave his views on the issue, saying he could not see why people were complaining about it.

'Just a refinement'

A spokeswoman for the supermarket said the new policy was "just a refinement" for its customers.

"From 3 April, we'll simply be asking myWaitrose members to make a purchase before collecting their cup at the checkout," the company said in an email to myWaitrose members.

Waitrose started to try out the new approach in 15 stores last year, and now it has decided to roll out the policy nationwide.

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But for those who might have been sneaking in the odd free cup of coffee, there is some good news.

The supermarket said there would be no minimum spend to claim the hot drink.

"A free tea or coffee has always been one of the ways we thank our customers for shopping with us - and that has not changed - we are underlining our commitment to this much-loved offer," the supermarket's spokeswoman said.

What else used to be free?

Plastic bags

The obvious one. From October 2015, shoppers started being charged 5p for every new plastic bag they used at large stores in England.

The charge provoked fury, and bag-hoarding, among some shoppers at the time.

But official figures have suggested it has been effective. The number of single-use plastic bags used by shoppers in England plummeted by more than 85% in the first six months, according to the government.

Meals on flights

Before Easyjet and Ryanair rewrote the rules on short-haul air travel, passengers could take their free drink and snack for granted.

But in January this year, British Airways signalled that era was well and truly over when it ended the practice on its shorter flights.

Customers on its domestic and European flights now have to pay for food and drinks from an on-board menu.


At petrol stations, at least, air is no longer free. Drivers need to pay a small charge to fill up their tyres.

The charge has been around for a while, but Tesco angered some drivers last year, when it increased the minimum price to use the pumps from 20p to 50p.

The supermarket says it re-invests the revenue to ensure that the air machines are working correctly.

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