Nectar not so sweet for jailed Sainsbury's IT manager

The supermarket's IT team leader has been jailed after awarding himself 17m Nectar points. That's a lot of baked beans...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
Customer loyalty schemes seem like a pretty watertight way to encourage consumers to shop with you. But they're not really meant to incentivise your own staff. So it's no wonder that James Stevenson, a 45-year-old Sainsbury’s IT manager, has just been jailed for 20 months after discovering a ‘loophole’ in the company’s Nectar loyalty scheme and awarding himself an unrestrained 17m Nectar points - the equivalent of £81,000.

That amount could have got him 7,363 trips to the cinema, about 810 round-trips on the Eurostar or 6,094 one-litre bottles of Sainsbury’s own-brand vodka. But apparently Stevenson preferred to stick to groceries. According to reports, the would-be fraudster set up 18 false Nectar card accounts under ‘silly’ pseudonyms, making a few, relatively small ‘test’ purchases before he took the plunge and filled his trolley. But Stevenson could only spend £8,120 before his employers became suspicious and, well, the rest is history. It doesn’t sound like it was a particularly well-hidden crime: apparently, he’d have had to spend £1m a month at the checkouts to accumulate that many points. Which would be a challenge, even if you stuck to Taste the Difference.  

The unfortunate part for Sainsbury’s is that Stevenson had been working for the supermarket for the last 20 years, by which time he would have built up a reputation as a trusted employee. Prosecuting, Edward McKiernan pointed out that ‘no-one was looking over his shoulder’ – which perhaps ought to serve as a warning that it’s always worth having checks in place, even for the longest-serving employees. Longevity of service doesn't necessarily equal loyalty.

He may have been sent down for 20 months, but Stevenson was given a minor reprieve by the court: he was allowed to spend Christmas and the New Year with his family before sentencing. Well, they probably had quite a bit of turkey to get through...

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