Woolworths – in their own littleworld

Over here in SA, we have our own Woolworths. It’s completely unconnected with the UK Woolworths which finally died the death in a blaze of media coverage in January. Our Woolies is more akin to Marks & Spencer, with food prices to match.  

I occasionally pop in to Woolworths, usually for fresh produce – flowers, fruit, fish and meat – which, although a little expensive, will at least last until the use by date, as opposed to Pick n Pay stuff which is rotten by the time you get it home. Also, their kids meals and baby food are excellent. So yes, I’m a fan of Woolies. Or rather – I was.

While in their Milner Road store the other day, I spotted a leaflet advertising their littleworld programme, whereby when you buy kids food, kids clothes, kids accessories etc, you can get “a world of rewards for mother and child”, including (but not limited to) pampering at a spa, discounts on magazine subscriptions, a free muffin at W café, exclusive Woolworths vouchers and free entry into competitions and prize draws, as well as a newsletter with helpful expert advice on raising your child.

Sounds great, as I like muffins, I enjoy buying nice stuff for my kids and – of course – I want to raise them the best I can.
Except – I’m not a mum. I’m a dad. So apparently, I’m not welcome.

Check the terms and conditions:

Mothers of children between the ages of 0 to 6 years are invited to join the littleworld programme, as are mothers-to-be, grandmothers, aunts or anyone who loves shopping for little ones.

Now – I don’t want to appear over-sensitive or anything, but that list does appear to be ever so slightly female-orientated. This is very much the same as the non-progressive shopping malls with their “mother and child” parking bays and the baby changing facilities in the ladies loos.
In this country with its model Constitution – and moreover from Woolworths, one of the flagship brands in SA – you would really expect more inclusive policies, programmes and offers. 

And yes, I’m sure I fall neatly into the last category on that list from their leaflet, but that’s really not the point. 
Admittedly I’m not a business or consumer expert, but even I can see the common sense in thinking about the messages you’re sending out before you launch a new programme like this. I recognise that there is a specific target market for this programme. But I think they chose the wrong target market.
Can only women bring up children now? Don’t fathers count? Granddads, uncles? And if we do exist, then why can’t we have some reward or thanks for using Woolies products for our children?

It’s not so hard. I don’t see anything there that would be lost if the leaflet read “a world of rewards for parent and child”. Or if they included some male relatives in the “who can join” section. Or even if they just didn’t include the examples of “other” people who can join.
But instead, they really seem to have gone out of their way in order to exclude fathers – and frankly, that is a big disappointment.

EDIT: Update, 19th June 2009

30 thoughts on “Woolworths – in their own littleworld

  1. You’re being over sensitive and politically correct.

    You know exactly what is meant by the T&C.

  2. Emil > You know as well as I do that the muffin will end up being eaten by the child. No matter who gets it.

    CuppaCoffee > Oh OK. Just that I thought that if they wanted to MEAN something in the T&C’s, then they should actually SAY it in the T&C’s.
    That’s what the T&C’s are for, ne?

    I find it weird that they ONLY mention females. Do Aunts really count more than Dads?

  3. “I find it weird that they ONLY mention females. Do Aunts really count more than Dads?”

    The person obviously wrote it like that because women do the majority of the shopping at Woolies, historically – and probably currently – speaking. Of course it’s a stereotype.

    Just like an advert for dumbbells might be male-specific. Yes, everyone KNOWS that women use dumbbells too (and, if like you, might rant about being excluded).

    You’re being silly and over sensitive.

  4. CuppaCoffee > Your argument is perfect. Women do more of the shopping at Woolies. Until you look at the Woolworths My School reward card. Which doesn’t mention what sex the applicant has to be or whether they have to have kids, their sister has to have had kids or their daughter has to have kids.

    So no. That doesn’t work for me. Please try harder.

  5. “CuppaCoffee > Your argument is perfect. Women do more of the shopping at Woolies. Until you look at the Woolworths My School reward card. Which doesn’t mention what sex the applicant has to be or whether they have to have kids, their sister has to have had kids or their daughter has to have kids.”

    Good god.

    I can’t believe you’re being serious.


  6. CuppaCoffee > I’m fed up of being treated like a second class citizen (parent). Of course I’m being serious. What next? The majority of people shopping at Woolworths are white, so let’s have a reward card that only whites can use?
    How do you think that would go down, then?

    And please – you’ve only ever been disappointed when you’ve commented on this blog.

  7. Woolworths #fail for me for a completely different reason.

    My mother stole my Woolworths store card and ran up a R13000 bill for me to pay and politely intercepted my bills as I was living with her at the time. I reported the matter to them, knowing that she could not imitate my signature and not ONE person could assist me in tracing all those till slips she signed. They never ever bothered to check. She obviously walked out there with TROLLIES full of stuff (not for me). Even their ‘Fraud’ division could not help me…but they were more than willing to call me if I did not make payment…which was hard at the time since it wasn’t the only debt she had incurred on my name.

    I have boycotted them ever since. Cut up my card and all. Woolworths: STFU.
    .-= acidicice´s last blog ..How do I motivate my man? =-.

  8. You’re comparing gender to race? That’s ludicrous.

    Look, I’m sorry to hear that a Woolworths T&C has offended you this much. I do hope that you will comfort in the near future. Perhaps phone them to express your disgust at writing such mean and sexist sentences in their adverts.

    Take a stand.

    Who knows…maybe they’ll send you flowers.

  9. 6000,

    I think you make a VERY good point. While research shows that in the majority of cases, it is moms, aunts, grandma’s etc. that would take advantage of these “prizes”, your argument holds a lot of validity to it. Why are dads, uncles, grandpas, etc. left behind? I think W could have been considerably more accomodating, and by simply adding a clever disclaimer such as:

    “Mothers of children between the ages of 0 to 6 years are invited to join the littleworld programme, as are mothers-to-be, grandmothers, aunts or anyone who loves shopping for little ones (and yes, the ocassional daddy too!).”

    If you don’t mind, I would like to use your experience as an example – this definitely needs to be addressed at a different level; when we speak with clients, make presentations and further, to get more feedback from parents like yourself, that may feel the same way, and that for some reason, are not as open about their feelings.

    Great post. Thank you.

  10. Acidice > Thanks for the comment. I have noticed with every company I have ever dealt with that the “rules” are different bettwen occasions when they owe you and those when you owe them.
    But what an opportunity to actually do something and make a difference.
    And they didn’t.

    CuppaCoffee > I’m comparing demographic to demographic. And I have had two emails from readers who have already passed this on to Woolies. So I’ll let them call me.
    I grinned at the flowers comment. Nice one. 🙂

    Angel > Hi. Welcome to 6000 miles… Thanks for your comments and please feel free to use this experience as an example.
    In a world where we as fathers are (rightfully) told to support mothers in the difficult job that they do by being more attentive and hardworking, it’s appalling stereotyping to see this sort of thing in a new rewards programme.

  11. 6000,

    Woolworth, like many other companies, retailers, restaurants, etc. use research to back up their advertising, target demographics and audience. Just to give you an example, when companies like McDonalds, BHS, or even Spurs and Steers in SA develop programs and initiatives, they most likely will try to aim at their general audience. If their research shows that 95% of kids meals are purchased when kids enter the location with their mom or a female adult (which in the majority of cases, is the case), then “W” will most likely target that audience heavily.

    I am by no means defending W; quite the contrary. I think they had an opportunity to REALLY make a difference by grabbing a further share of the marketplace and they passed on that opportunity.

    I am a partner in a promotional company. We make research based reccos to companies like W. Again you hit the nail on the head with your post, and you can be sure that it is not going to deaf ears.



  12. Angel > Thanks again. However, I’m in no way suggesting that they exclude mothers (or grandmothers, aunts, sisters or whatever).
    I just can’t see why they don’t include everyone. At the very worst, I could give the “female-targetted” rewards to a female.
    I would still like my muffin though.

  13. I have written to Woolworths to ask about this. If it is correct then it is terrible. Many fathers do just as much work as mothers and they deserve rcognition too.
    I agree with you when you say that it wouldn’t have made any difference or cused any more work for them to have included Dads in this programme.

  14. NicJ > Thank you. And I assure you, it is correct. I have the leaflet right here in front of me. “Sod off, men!” it says. (metaphorically speaking, of course)

  15. Oh, 6000, you are a naughty boy! Leading CuppaCoffee on like that! 😀

    I regularly used to shop at the Woolies at the Fourways Mall, but must confess that I’ve not bought food *once* from Marks & Sparks since I’ve moved here, even though I know the brands are linked. Never mind… but I will keep an eye open for similar promotions, to see whether PC Britain is any better! 🙂
    .-= Helga Hansen´s last blog ..It’s "Do or Die" =-.

  16. Gosh, this sure is a post that’s got people thinking.

    In the grand scheme of things this might not be the most important thing, but I do agree that Woolies has missed with this one.

    I’m thinking of the kids who are being raised by Fathers, one Dad or two, who are to be excluded because, without a Mother, they are not worthy of benefiting from any of Woolworth’s prizes, rewards or advice.

    Now that’s disappointing.

  17. HH > Re CuppaCoffee: it’s his/her call on what s/he puts on the blog as comments. We’ve crossed swords before and I hope we will do again. I like to hear other viewpoints.
    Re Woolies and M&S: I think that there are other supermarkets in the UK with comparable standards to M&S. I don’t really see that here with Woolies in SA.
    But they’d never get away with it in PC UK. Not that they should here either, of course.

    Rob > Agreed. It won’t change the world. But when you look at the effort needed to make this into a unisex campaign, rather than just for women, I don’t understand why they dropped the ball on this one. It just seems unnecessarily backward to me.

  18. I agree…people are quick to be politicly correct when it relates to race etc. but often miss the fact that fathers get very little credit…ever! You go boy for standing up for something! *high five*
    .-= Ruby´s last blog ..Dear Kalahari =-.

  19. where i live (not a million miles from you 6000, i think) i see many dads – many friends of mine who are dads and my partner who is a dad – in the local woolies, most often in the food section, with trollies laden with food and kids.

    in fact my partner earns a shit load more than i do and can afford to buy the groceries at woolies where as i only head there at month end when i have to resort to buying food with my woolies card – otherwise it’s Pick n Pay for me.

    I back you 100% on this 6000.
    .-= joyanne´s last blog ..Delicious Winter Warmer Soup Recipe =-.

  20. Ruby > Credit? Credit would be a bonus. I was really just after a muffin if I’m honest.

    joyanne > Thanks for the support. Not sure if I’ll get anywhere with this, but an explanation from WW would be nice. (hint, hint)

  21. It definitely wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny from the point of view of the Constitutional guarantees of equality and freedom from discrimination on the basis of sex or gender.

    Give it to them 6k! Take them to the equality court in Cape Town. I could put you onto a lawyer with lots of experience in such things, if you wish.


  22. I agree completely 6000, give ’em hell. I’m a dad that does as much as, if not more, than the average mom and I feel I earned the right to be considered an equal parent.

    I must add that having lived in the UK for many years I felt more of a 2nd class parent over there than I do here in SA, despite how PC it is. Dads get really bad press and are usually portrayed as useless in the media. Not to mention how badly dads are dealt with in custody disputes. Also, dealing with authorities such as schools, GPs, hospitals etc., I felt I wasn’t taken seriously and that they would rather deal with mothers. Just my perception though, not sure if anyone else has had the opportunity to compare…

  23. Bongo > Does that apply to Woolies though? I mean, they do have awesome fruit salads, so shouldn’t we maybe make allowances?

    Tim > I was never a parent in the UK (that I know of, anyway), so I can’t comment on that, but I think it’s the whole mindset of the thing that needs to change.
    And it is – slowly.
    That’s what makes me wonder about this smallworld thing – why that hasn’t been brought up to date as well?

  24. You’ll probably find that the T&Cs were written by a man too!

    If it was just a part of their advertising, I would understand, but by putting it in their T&Cs, well, that’s just plain ignorant!

    PS: Woolies over here belongs to Safeway and is much like the food only sections in Woolies SA.
    .-= Delboy´s last blog ..Misfit mismatch =-.

  25. Delboy > Woolworths aren’t responding to my emails.

    Regarding your link, I once wrote a long and poetic letter to Theakston’s claiming mental anguish after a ‘widget’ in one of the BB cans failed to do it’s thing.

    I got a long and poetic letter back – and 24 cans!

    Viva Theakston’s! Viva!

  26. There was no intention to exclude men in the application form; dads and uncles are welcome to apply. We do apologise if it offended our male customers.

    Our demographic base has been females and our membership is predominantly female, therefore our communication is geared to females.

    It is pleasing to see that men are interested and we will look at addressing this in future communication.

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