Have you ever been baffled by the seemingly endless succession of BOGOFs, rollbacks and 50% extra free deals adorning supermarket shelves? More to the point, do you trust them to actually save you money?
When we last devoted a Convo to this thorny topic, we asked whether you thought special offers were designed to provide the average shopper with good value. And cynicism was rife in your comments:
‘In their “home baked” section is a “promotion” to buy “three items for £1.50″. This included a shelf full of items priced at only 35p each! I could buy more than FOUR for their “special price” for three!’, said an outraged Ken Grahame.
‘I find it very confusing and time-wasting trying to work out which products are included in any offer, which is often NOT clear’, said Mrs A Johnson.
‘Supermarket pricing policy is now designed to increase margins primarily through confusing their “loyal” customers into buying bargains that are not bargains’, commented the frustrated Victor Meldrew Fan.
Biggest ever look at special offers
Clearly the problem is still rife, and you’re right to be cynical. In our biggest ever look at special offers, we reveal a whole range of tactics designed to make bargains look unmissable when, in fact, we don’t think they were ever really bargains at all.
Some notable examples include:
- Products that always seemed to be discounted, with a ‘was’ price that we never saw during our tracking. Aquafresh MilkTeeth Toothpaste was sold at ‘was £1.74, now £1.15’ at Asda. The highest price it was sold at prior to the offer, during our tracking period, was £1.17.
- Products that increased in price just a few days before being sold ‘on offer’. Tesco’s blueberries increased in price from £1.80 to £3.99 for 14 days before going on ‘offer’ for £1.99.
- Multibuys where the products were more expensive per item when they were on offer than when they weren’t. Asda doubled the price of a single Muller Yoghurt from 30p to 61p at the time they went on to offer a multibuy at ‘10 for £4’. They went back to 30p when the multibuy offer ended. This meant they were more expensive per yoghurt when you bought 10 under the offer than when you bought one before or after it.
- And products that were on offer for longer than they were at the higher price. Tesco sold Becks beer for 190 days at a discounted price, but only 70 days at the higher price.
We examined a year’s worth of data from independent shopping website mysupermarket.co.uk
The way forward for pricing
We’re calling on supermarkets to make their pricing clearer. We want them to show clear unit pricing – the price by weight, volume or unit – so that you can easily compare what you’re buying. We’re also putting pressure on them to sort out special offers so that they’re exactly that – special.
What would you do if you were in charge of supermarket pricing? How long would you say something had to be at the higher price before it went on special offer? Or would you just ban special offers altogether, and charge consumers a fair price all year round?