/ Food & Drink, Shopping

What influences you to spend more in the supermarket?

Do you ever find yourself stood in a supermarket, staring at the multitude of offers on display, desperately trying to work out whether any of it is value for money? I know I do…

I’d like to think I’m pretty good at grocery shopping – yep, I’m American ;-). I’m on a budget (saving for a wedding isn’t easy!), so I’m trying to eat out less and prepare my own food more.

It’s important to me to get the most for my money when I go to the supermarket. Unfortunately, sometimes that can be easier said than done. I really can’t tell whether those multi-buys are really worth the money.

Deal, or no deal?

I love a good deal, probably more than the next person, but I hate how hard it can be to tell if the “deal” I’m getting is good at all.

Things like ‘buy one, get one free’ offers when the price for one is £3, and I know that just a few weeks ago I could pick it up for only £1.50.

In April last year, we submitted a super-complaint to the Competition and Markets Authority about supermarkets’ pricing tactics.

The super-complaint called for retailers to stop using pricing tactics that mislead consumers and to make special offers just that, special, instead of sneaky tricks designed to make us think we’re getting a deal.

Research from the Money Advice Service this week says consumers typically spend £1,274 more than they intend to each year. Special offers have the biggest influence on shoppers with 76% of people spending an extra £11.14 in their shop due to these deals, whereas pestering children only influence 26% of shoppers but adds the most amount to the bill (£15.50). Hunger influences 59% and adds £10.87 to the shop, not making a list affects 49% with an extra £13.44, and tiredness impacts 22% of shoppers and costs an extra £13.94.

Pricing tactics

Everyone says you shouldn’t shop when you’re hungry, and I definitely believe it. But that’s sometimes hard to avoid.

I know most of the treats I end up buying aren’t on my mind before I start shopping, but it’s hard to resist when you head to the till and are faced with a huge display of Cadbury’s Giant Creme Eggs. Our investigation in 2014 revealed they were £10 in Tesco and Sainsbury’s in February. It was then on offer at £8 and £6.66 from March onwards in the lead-up to Easter.

This week there were changes starting to come through following our and the CMA’s work for consumers when Sainsbury’s, Asda and Tesco all announced they’ll be changing their practices, and we hope we’ll start seeing fewer dodgy offers on their shelves.

I shudder to think of how much money I’ve wasted over the years due to tempting offers. Offers that might have been misleading and ended up costing me more.

So how do you deal with these supermarket offers? What are the things that lead you into temptation at the supermarket? Do you find it hard to navigate special offers and figure out what the cheapest product really is?


Tescos supermarket selling pack of 8 puppadums unit priced as each. Next to them packs of 10 puppadums unit priced per 100 grams. Which is the best value?

Gordon says:
3 March 2016

Without having taken the time to read them all individually, I fully support the general tenor of the comments made above

No thanks says:
4 March 2016

It was interesting to see that TESCO had 1kg ‘net bags’ of marmalade oranges earlier and next to them were 1kg bags of preserving sugar at £2 +, whilst B&M locally were selling ‘normal cane sugar’ for 56p a kilo. One has to ask is it worth paying the extra money for preserving sugar as the other appears to work satisfactorily.

From Wikipedia: “Preserving sugar is a kind of sugar used for making marmalades, jams and preserves using fruits that are naturally high in pectin (such as plums, redcurrants, blackcurrants, gooseberries, greengages, damsons and Seville oranges). The large sugar crystals dissolve more slowly than those of standard granulated sugar and do not settle in the bottom of the pot or rise up as froth to the surface. This reduces the risk of burning and the consequent need for stirring. It also allows impurities to rise for easier skimming. Because it minimises scum, it helps to make jams and jellies clearer.” Essentially it is ordinary sugar with larger crystals.

I’ve just seen a BOGOF sign at Lidl and it turns out that in fact you can only buy ONE packet of batteries but in the package there are 4 extra batteries. This is explained in small print under the large BUY 1 GET 1 FREE sign. I spoke to the manager who was totally dismissive. Cashiers and other customers agreed it was totally misleading. I wonder how many customers bought 2 packets, didn’t check their receipts, and were ripped off. Shame on you Lidl.

Maria says:
11 March 2016

Another way to deceive us with prices and the cost of life is for example with coffee; but they do with other products also; presenting the same bag size of the old 250 grms but 200 grams or 180 grms. They are not robbing but deceiving us because there are a lot of people that don’t read quantities and think that is the same than before, because the price is the same. At the end you are paying the same money for a half .

I wanted to add that this problem is not unique to supermarkets, tickets for events, or airlines for that matter, should be required to show the FULL cost upfront not hidden extras at the end, which you have no choice about and can only find out after they have required you to sign up with your email address and name if not more. As a resident of Twickenham I was checking rugby pricing, I reluctantly accept that ticketmaster (also owners of ticketweb or getmetin) will have an agency charge, but even the stadium itself has extra charges, which are fixed as part of the ticket price, but hidden away and probably card charges as well, couldn’t check that out and get any further without registering, they offer no alternative (no charge) payment so it should be included. Various organisations extol the virtues of shopping around but it is made, deliberately or otherwise, extremely time consuming to do so and it appears obfuscation is the rule.

That. Are. All a like.

What annoys me is trying to compare sizes of products, eg mayonnaise. One company states ml. and another states fluid ozs. This is not fair tactics. Also I think the way supermarkets treat their suppliers is appalling. I recently watched a documentary on a major supermarket`s suppliers and it ended with a family firm that had been going for generations finally being put out of business because supermarkets demanded perfect shape and size for all their vegetables. However the programme showed that the public would buy odd shaped or sized vegetables.

What infuriates me is – no price at all! (Tesco medium chickens last Friday.)

They were probably free range.

Rachel Pearson says:
23 March 2016

Fruit/veg. bags/boxes sited near to similar items where the former are priced per unit, but the latter by weight. There is often no weighing machine/hanging scale available, or perhaps one at most, which is hard to find. Very often, the one thing you wanted to buy has no price indicated on the shelf/product.

I want to know where my food is made and just putting “Made in the EU” is not good enough for me. Some countries are renown for certain products: bacon from Denmark, cheese from France, Salmon from Scotland and Norway which is what I want to know. I particularly do not want beef from Romania after the horse meat scandal! I also do not want fish and prawns from China. Why are Aldi and Lidl allowed to show this general statement?

We are all bombarded by adverts from every direction. This is a form of dangerous brainwashing and most of it should be banned

Stephen says:
20 April 2016

Price confusion is one of the real issues. Promoting a special offer for one size implying it is good value when another size is still cheaper per unit. Often the unit price is in very small print and for offers not changed to the offer price. In some instances for different sizes the price comparison is in different units measures so no real comparison can be made.
An offer should be just that, the cheapest unit price for a product not just a reduction in price to give a false impression

Unfair and unjust price hikes ie. An well known supermarket (not sure if I’m allowed to use names) as an example we tried a garlic flatbread which cost £1 there was nothing to say this was an ‘offer’ and ove the next few weeks we bought more. The next time I went in to buy one and the price had shot up to £1.50

Caveat emptor…. learn how to add up will help avoid this sort of thing

Supermarkets want to make profits and why would they be fair if they can make more profit.

To be honest I regularly see misleading or wrong pricing…try and tell staff and they cant add up so dont see it…

It is often wrong in my favour so works both ways

Other examples are say bananas that are priced 3 different ways in same supermarket, by weight, per banana and ready packed

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Tesco and Waitrose, and possibly the other large supermarkets, have bar code scanners located in the store for customer use. When I have been doubtful over the shelf price I have used the scanner to see what will come up at the checkout.

Ronald Stempfer says:
27 April 2016

the most blantant conn by supermarkets and their suppliers is by reducing the contents and in the same old packaging but you are getting less.
Classic example is OXO cubes in the same old packing but when you open each cube you find each side has a groove which means you are getting less product.
You see a Horlicks top up bag and when you compare it weight for weight with the jar version the topor is actually dearer.
They think we must be idiots not to notice

Unfortunately they are right for significant number of people who do not bother to check, and for those with out mathematical ability. I am of the opinion that weights for classes of product MUST be standardised and marketed that way.

One think that was very common in previous times was very strict penalties and standards for sale. You may consider if the penalty is but fines how less effective and dramatic than slapping employees with penalties or community service orders. Companies do not make decisions humans do.

In my local Tesco Metro ( I only shop the because it’s handy!) I often find that there are no price labels on the shelves of many of the itmes I wish to purchase and you have to ask a member of staff whet the price is? Often they do not know and have to go to a check out to scan the bar code .

freelander says:
27 April 2016

it makes me go to my local shop for a lot more of our weekly shop

For the first time ever I saw in Sainsbury’s the other day half a cucumber at half the price [35p] of a whole cucumber [70p], Cucumbers in Tesco today were 24p for a half and 42p for a whole one. I think it is virtually impossible for the consumer to win with food shopping. This where the traditional street or covered market scores – the competing stalls are so close to each other that the buyer can easily pick and choose the best value.

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I also agree about the local markets in England. . . .I often say it’s not a place I’d like live but this one part of English life I see benefits in. . . although to me it’s not just about value but more so quality. . . .
Our neighbours grow potatoes of differing varieties and we love the Roosters as they are tasty , , near to Arran Victors but without the deep eye’s. . . .All I have to do is stop them and pay them and within the day the 20kg of spuds are sitting at our door. . . .
We in our old house have a cool larder with a big stone/cement shower tray as the base which sits below the floor insulation and stays around ground temp. . .It holds 20kg of spuds nicely. . .That larder is also insulated from the kitchen with about 4″ of styrene including the door and sits on the north side of the kitchen
The spuds keeps very well to about this time of year and then one has to knock the buds off of them
We’ll miss the larder when we move out of here. . . .The cool and dry larders were a thought of mine when I built the kitchen and a thought I never regretted
We’ll have to rely more on a big fridge but a fridge is not as ideal for spuds or bread as the larder would be

They are disappearing fast, Duncan – especially the produce stalls except at posy Saturday so-called ‘farmers’ markets’. Most country markets around where we live, some of which have 800-year old charters for specific weekdays, are down to just one or two stalls now and are at risk of petering out as the older traders give up.

A charter market usually enjoyed certain privileges. Setting up another market within fifteen miles on the same day was generally prohibited [an early beneficial example of trade protection which also worked for the consumer] and even market towns outside that limit usually held their market on a separate day to their neighbouring market town [both to enable traders to do a full week’s work and to enable customers to get things on other days if they missed their market day]. Much of this was related to the distance that people and goods could travel in the days of horse-drawn transport and explains the distances that appear on a county map between historic towns.

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sandra says:
28 April 2016

i used to work in a shop many years ago i do not think there are any bargains like buy 2 and save what ever the price is always added befor they come up with the so call bargin buys