coles supermarket
Customers walk from a Coles Supermarket outlet in Sydney, Australia, May 25, 2016. Reuters/Jason Reed

Coles managing director John Durkan has challenged other directors of the company to buy a week's worth of groceries for $150. Durkan wanted his team to experience first-hand the cost-of-living crunch that their customers felt. The amount was based on the average data gathered by the Australian Bureau of Statistics Household Expenditure Survey.

Before the challenge began, he asked his team if they could do a weekly shop based on the given amount. The consensus confirmed that they could but they also said that it would be hard.

The setup for the challenge was they would buy;a week's supply that would feed a family of four with two teenage children at Coles at Melbourne's Chadstone Shopping Centre. They only had 45 minutes to complete their task. After they pay for their groceries, they were faced with a real customer. The task of the customer was to give a score for each trolley and to review the purchases.

The company executives shared their experience after the purchase. One executive unaccustomed to having small budget revealed that there was a pressure while standing at the checkout.

“I actually had to put some groceries back. It is actually quite embarrassing, and yet this is reality for so many of our customers," another director said, according to

The pressure continued as they faced the real customers for review. One director bought a half-price packet of Jarlsberg Cheese but a mum of two teenagers said that the six slices of cheese won't go very far. She emphasised that her family went through a 1kg block of cheese each week.

A buyer of two litres of milk did not pass the review as well when a real customer said the kids would polish off 10 litres a week. Another director who bought a $10 bottle of shampoo was advised that those luxuries are the first to go when a shopper is on a budget. The worst feedback that one of the directors received was from a mum who was disappointed with the sparkling mineral water on the trolley.

“Sparkling mineral water, are you serious?” the mum said.

Durkan promised that more team members would be in the program and execute it at least once a year.

“There is nothing more motivating than looking a real customer in the eye and having them tell you that you need to do better,” he said.