Sainsbury's Bank : Spelling disaster for consumer confidence

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Simple spelling or grammatical errors suggest at best sloppiness, at worst a lack of basic literacy.

The Site

Sainsbury’s Bank is the financial services arm of UK retailer and supermarket operator J Sainsbury. Online, the bank allows people to apply or get quotes for loans, mortgages, insurance, credit cards and savings and investment products.

The insurance sector offers four areas of cover: pet, travel, car and home. The welcome page for travel explains in its opening paragraph that by using its insurance travellers can save “up to 75% on travel agents [sic] prices”. In the next paragraph it talks of “the perfect oppurtunity [sic] to indulge your favourite type of holiday – whether its [sic] a luxurious summer break…”. And so on.

The Takeaway

One simple spelling or grammatical error on a web page may be careless; three within the space of six lines suggests at best sloppiness, at worst a lack of basic literacy. In either case they are a diversion from the message and can undermine customer confidence in a product where attention to detail is integral.

Now is not a good time for website owners to be falling down on the fundamentals of literacy. With the book about punctuation, Eats, Shoots & Leaves, one of the UK’s best-selling books of the past two months, many more than just the usual language fusspots are sensitised to errors. For Sainsbury’s Bank, the added upsurge in interest in travel insurance at this time of the year simply increases the pain of shooting itself so comprehensively in the foot. (Its problem seems to be endemic to the site as a quick check with the pet page reveals more missing and misused apostrophes and a reference to “vetinary [sic] treatment”.)

Mistakes at this level of basic literacy would not be tolerated by companies in their offline literature. When they slip through online it suggests to customers that a lower priority is given to the site. It is what some people call the ‘quality gap’ (between on- and offline channels) – and if it ever was acceptable, it no longer is.

First published on 15 January, 2004