/ Food & Drink, Shopping

What’s your biggest supermarket pricing bugbear?

Supermarkets are price matching, bombarding us with offers and claiming to drop thousands of prices. But, I’m sure you’ve noticed, the cost of your shop is going up. Do you trust supermarkets to charge a fair price?

We’re not helped by the fact that there are a whole range of ways in which supermarkets make it hard to work out what’s good value and what isn’t.

That’s my biggest bugbear – it’s often difficult to see what’s a genuine special offer and what might be smoke and mirrors. Cue standing in the aisles trying to work out whether that wine really is worth £10. Commenter Champmanfan agrees, telling us on a previous special offers Conversation that:

‘Unless you’ve got a smartphone to compare products – phone signal permitting – there isn’t a fair way to find out how special those offers actually are.’

That’s by no means the only thing that makes getting round a supermarket an obstacle course.

Confusing supermarket prices

When we recently asked what bothers Which? members the most about supermarket pricing, the proliferation of multi-buys, compared with actual discounts on products, came out as their top gripe. Which? Convo commenter Allan agrees:

‘Why are we offered “buy one get one free!” Why not cut the price in half or to a third, and let everyone enjoy a cheaper shop? Those on a fixed income such as our old folk on a pension could then benefit from a few extra bargains.’

Labelling that leads you to think items are on offer when they’re not is hot on its heels, followed by difficulty comparing the cost of items due to confusing unit prices.

We’ve also uncovered other problems over the past year. Like bigger pack items labelled as better value, but actually happen to be worse value than the smaller ones. Or items that are advertised as on offer but are out of stock when you get to the shop.

Do you trust supermarkets?

Perhaps it’s not surprising that only 22% of you trust supermarkets to charge a fair price for food. Commenter ‘Victor Meldrew fan’ doesn’t trust supermarket pricing either:

‘Supermarket pricing policy is now designed to increase margins primarily through confusing their “loyal” customers into buying bargains that are not bargains. It’s a shame that the supermarkets can get away with being so blatantly deceitful. It doesn’t take a marketing guru to know that all customers really want is decent, honest pricing.’

So, when you’re doing your weekly shop, what bugs you the most about supermarket pricing?

Keith Gentle says:
27 January 2013

Why do supermarkets have price labels showing two prices, one considerably more for one item and a lot less for two items whereas a single item should be half of the price of two items. Whilst I am aware that this is a form of catchpenny if the supermarket can sell two items for less than combined price of two items they must be able to sell single items at half the price of the two items. I feel that that this practice should be outlawed as it leads to waste and purchasers of a single item are being cheated.

Keith, just don’t buy it. The shop makes an offer, and unless it is deliberately designed to deceive, you don’t have to take up the offer.

In Sainsbury’s today in Chichester a 250g pack of Red Label tea cost £1.25 and the 500g multipack was £2.75. There wasn’t any label to say it was a special offer and last time I bought the tea the larger pack was cheaper per 100g so why has this been reversed? An honest mistake or trying to fool the shoppers?

Keith Gentle says:
31 July 2013

I fully agree with the statement in your article concerning special offer pricing. If supermarkets can make offers where the single price is at one level and the double price for the offer is less per unit they should be able sell the single unit at half of the so-called SPECIAL OFFER?? Personally I think this practice should be legally banned as it penalises people who have only use for one unit.

One thing that is concerning me more and more are the bulk buy offers. It seemed to start with T. as usual, but has spread to other supermarkets. I am in a position to take advantage of this tactic but many people cannot. In other words the people with the least money get hammered again. It is unethical. Richer people can buy food cheaper than those struggling on a strict weekly budget.

This recession is not hitting the richer people, but between the government and the supermarkets, the poorest are being clobbered continually.

I will probably not get much response, and the people on the breadline will not have access to Which? or price comparison web-sites etc..

Shops of all kinds want to sell more goods, and special offers are a way of achieving this. We have the option of taking up these offers or not. Personally, we do our food shopping at one store where I believe they, on the whole, have sensible offers – to some extent guiding what we buy if we decide to take advantage. many are in basic foods, food that can be frozen, meal bundles that make a worthwhile saving.
You won’t (at least I hope) legislate on how businesses conduct their legitimate affairs – offers, sales, discounts are part of that.
There are some offers, however, that seem dubious – for example whenever we buy Finish dishwasher tablets, we can always find half-price packs, often alongside full price ones, year in year out. You have to keep your wits about you.