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Asda phasing out multibuys – should other shops follow?

Buy one get one free crossed out on blackboard

Asda announced this week that it’s cutting down on bulk-buy offers such as ‘three for the price of two’ and ‘buy one, get one half price’. Would you like to see other supermarkets do the same?

Asda says it’s reducing the number of multibuy offers because it believes many shoppers are on tight budgets and can’t always afford to buy in bulk, but we know that’s not the only problem with these offers.

In a survey of Which? members last June, 84% told us they’d prefer a straight discount to a multibuy offer.

What you think of multibuys

You mentioned several problems with multibuys, including a feeling of having being ‘conned’ or ‘ripped off’ if you don’t take up the offer, being unable to use up perishable items before they go off, having nowhere to store them, and being concerned about how multibuys contribute to food waste and obesity problems.

We’ve also raised this issue many times before here in previous Conversations. When we talked about the ‘supermarket special offers that aren’t so special‘, Graham told us how confusing he finds them:

‘I shop at ASDA and practically every other week I’m having to do mental arithmetic in their store to check e.g. whether it’s cheaper to buy a 1.5 litre carton of fruit juice or two one litre cartons.’

But Sophie Gilbert says she steers clear to avoid being fooled:

‘I have always considered these “special offers” ploys to get me to the supermarket premises and never taken the bait. I go to the supermarket when I need to and buy the products I need. If they happen to be on special offer that day, great, if not, fine.’

Replace multibuys with reductions

Taking everything into consideration, it would be easy to celebrate the demise of multibuys. But on the other hand I save a lot through bulk discounts on items such as cheese and fruit juice that I get through quickly, and I don’t want to see those savings disappear.

If multibuys are going to be reduced, or eliminated entirely, then I want to see supermarkets replace them with proper price reductions. That way, shoppers who buy in bulk – such as large families – can continue to benefit, and those who like to buy less can join them.

Asda says it’s trying to bring down the number of special offers and is concentrating instead on offering lower prices across the board. If it follows through on that plan, then I certainly think it’ll be a change for the better. And hopefully other supermarkets will follow suit.

Are you pleased to hear about Asda’s plan or are you a multibuy fan? Should all supermarkets be phasing out multibuys or do you have a better solution?

Should other supermarkets follow Asda's lead and scrap multibuy offers?

Yes - they should just discount individual items (70%, 710 Votes)

I don't mind either way as long as the deals are good (24%, 244 Votes)

No - I like buying in bulk (6%, 62 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,020

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Good for Asda. This could avoid a lot of wasted food and might even help some of us eat less.

It will also help make price comparisons easier.

Unless Tesco does the same, I cannot see Asda doing this in the long term.

I’ve been asking @asda and @asdahelp on twitter all week about a specific multi buy “offer” – not a single response from them.

Readybrek (500g) has been £1.50 for a couple of weeks – asda then increased the price to £2.18 per pack (68p/45% increase in price!) when they brought in the “Buy 2 for £3” fake offer.

These offers more often than not disguise base price rises – when the multi buy/any other offer finishes, the base price remains artificially inflated – it’s disgusting, that in an age when household budgets of millions are cut to the bare bones, supermarkets are allowed to get away with this. They are in effect, playing marketing games with people’s lives, due to their dominant and priviledged position within the market place.

The best policiy to adapt in my non relevant experience, is to ignore ALL supermarket claims and marketing rubbish. They are interested in one thing and one thing only, maximising profits and taking as much money out of our local economies.
Look out for their forthcoming campaigns in 2012 being “local” and individual stores will be focusing on “serving their local community” – they are spending over £4 million on promoting it (which we customers pay for in over inflated prices)
Ironic, as I can think of not one other business that has come anywhere close to the big 4 supermarkets, in damaging our local communities, towns and villages.

Woody says:
25 February 2012

Multi-buys are a great way to be introduced to a new brand or whole new category of product we wouldn’t risk without the bribe. Nonsense about the ‘free’ product going to waste is mainly talked by comfortably off foodies, academics & journos who don’t even need to look at the price tags.

Anyone dumb enough or rich enough to waste food will already be doing so. Largely in response to absurd food safety scares that make some numpties bin anything approaching ‘Use By…’.

In my experience, when I see a multi-buy offer on something I would buy anyway I usually notice the base price has in fact gone up and this new offer only brings the unit price back to what it was prior a random price rise x days before ( x is I’m sure the required minimum number of days required to make the claim, but I forget exactly what that is). So if by doing away with multi buys it does away with random largish price prices then all well and good. FYI My experiences relate to Tesco. The nearest ASDA is >30 miles away , Tesco .5 miles

Dr Shumi says:
25 February 2012

Proper price reduction is much better option than multi buy offer. In that case you would be able to buy as many items as you like (not buy 2- third is free, but you could choose 1, 2 or 3). I wish saw it in my Waitrose. Do not often go to Asda , because there is no any store near my place.

Whenever I want an item and then see that it is marked as ‘two for the price of one’ I resist buying the product at all because I know that the ‘one’ item is overpriced.

I agree. The number of times there is only one item left left on the shelf suggests that most people have worked this out.

Before I go shopping, I often use mysupermarket.com to look up some of the items I want to buy to see which store has the better offers on the day. I find that if one store has a BOGOF item, 80% of the time another store has a discounted price for just one of the same item.

Matt don’t the supermarkets in your area quote a unit priceon the price label on the shelf? (in small print-it should be larger). In this article you give a quote where someone has to do maths to work out a unit price and in an article not long ago you said something along the lines of having to work out the cost per unit.
What is interesting is that it must work and work better than a reduced price. Is it the magic word “free” or the implication of the same in 3 for 2.

Waitrose organic strawberries were priced at £3.49 for a 300g pack, buy one-get one free. They were reduced to £1.89 per pack and since the offer still applied the price was 29 pence for two packs according to my arithmetic.

Maybe there is something to be said for multibuys. I hate shopping and looking for bargains and have even managed to buy two items when offered at 3 for the price of 2, but fortunately I have a friend who shops for bargains. Strawberries for breakfast tomorrow.

Apparently Waitrose is the only local supermarket that still applies discounts of this sort, but even Tesco have done this in the past.

Agree completely that it encourages over-buying and therefore waste and obesity.

They know most people won’t even if they can stand there and do the calculations and are apply taking advantage of it.

Are all these people really and truly so disciplined to resist …or still trying hard to be?

I bet that the loss of two-for-ones, giving an effective 50% reduction, won’t result in a 50% reduction on one item… Multibuyoffers are OK on non-perishables but unattractive on perishables: they result in waste.

If you ever wanted a laugh at how poor some multibuy offers can be just take a look at


You’d think these companies could employ a QA person/team or staff that actually have any pride in the company they work for, ho hum

I am more surprised by the inability of many to take half-decent photos or use the English language.

barbara says:
29 February 2012

hi yes i do agree with asda it will save a lot of waste and it will be good for the invirement to i think it is a big cone .

Pam says:
2 March 2012

There is nothing wrong with multibuys as long as it is something you buy anyway, and is not perishable. The last one I got was 2 bags of 160 Tetleys Tea Bags for £1.50 less than the prce of 1 x 240 bags. Thats a bargain! I shop at Tesco because we don’t have an ASDA where I live. You just have to watch what you are doing. There are bargains to be had.

Adele says:
2 March 2012

I’m a one person household so I can’t take part in the bulk buy offers unless I want to eat the same thing for a week! Why am I being punished just because I only cook for one?

Nick says:
2 March 2012

Tesco are real culprits here. It encourages over-consumption and waste. Not only that, but they have multi-buys on short-life items like packaged salmon where the biggest discount is for 4 packets so unless you are buying for your neighbours, or a really big family, you have to freeze the excess.

P Jordan says:
2 March 2012

As a single person I cannot take advantage of many multibuys particularly when perishable goods are involved

moira says:
2 March 2012

I am a one person household and also dont drive a car. If you have to carry an BOGOF buy you think twice how to carry it home. I feel supermarkets don’t cater for me and my circumstance.

Paul sankey says:
2 March 2012

All offers should be a straight discount, either half price or 25% off, a lot of single people miss out on the multi buy offers

I accept fully that there are economies to be made through efficiencies of bulk selling, but these “two for one” offers are really come on’s to shift stock and introduce new items. They take up more storage space at home and sometimes get wasted anyway, so I am very much for dropping these offers in favour of simply dropping the price of the single item.
I avoid buying many multibuys, but then I can not bring myself to buy the single item, so the shop loses out in the end.

gibo says:
2 March 2012

as a couple we never come into the
area of being elegable for discounts