/ Food & Drink, Shopping

Special offer? Don’t be misled by multibuys

Buy one get one free crossed out

We looked at 115 products, comparing 300,000 prices, and found that multibuy special offers aren’t always as good a deal as they seem. Are they just a supermarket tactic to sell you more than you need?

We looked at online shopping promotions at Asda, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose. We found that some multibuys wouldn’t save you any money at all. And overall, there often wasn’t a lot of difference between the multibuy and standard prices.

We also found a range of multibuys that were just plain daft. To give you one example, we found a pack of four tins of Heinz soup for £2.99 next to individual tins on multibuy for 80p each or four tins for £3.

You’re not sold on multibuys

Last time we wrote about multibuys here on Which? Conversation, you had strong views on the subject. Edward Crooks has been put off multibuys for life:

‘I used to buy a particular brand of paté from a well-known supermarket. It went missing from the shelves for about a week. When I saw it next the price had jumped from 59p to 85p for the same pack. Several weeks later it was on offer(!) at two packs for £1.50. I have never even looked at a multi offer again.’

Craig even thinks multibuys should be banned:

‘BOGOFs and multibuys should be curtailed or outright banned (as in other countries) because they are so wasteful, and unfair (and make my brain hurt when I try to work them out!).’

And it’s a debate that won’t be going away anytime soon. We’ve found that multibuys could be on the increase; the 115 products we looked at were on offer for a greater amount of time in the first half of 2012 compared to the same period in 2011.

Multibuys can cause multi-headaches

Not all the examples were straightforward price rises, but we still felt they could be misleading. Sometimes supermarkets yo-yo between multibuys and discounts. This means that a discounted product increases in price as it goes into a multibuy offer and is then discounted when the multibuy offer has finished.

In Asda, we found that Goodfella’s Deep Pan Baked Pepperoni Pizza more than doubled in price when it was on multibuy. The pizza’s original price was generally £1. On offer, its price increased to £2.68/£2.50 for one or £4.50 for two.

But this means that if you always take ‘advantage’ of the offer (multibuy or discount), the product nearly always costs the same. Some of the products we looked at did this for most of the year, rendering the ‘normal’ price pretty redundant. Over 365 days, Tesco and Sainsbury’s sold Nestle Munch Bunch Yogurt (4x100g) for either £1 on discount or two-for-£2 on multibuy. Whether you buy the product ‘on offer’ or not, the yogurts still cost around £1 a pack.

Do you believe that multibuys are worth stocking up on, or are you fed up of the sight of them?


Special Offers at Christmas time.
I have been pretty well organised this year and have most of my Christmas presents sorted but what it has enabled me to do, is visit more shops and compare offers and I have found the best chocolate offers this year are to be found in Marks and Spencer! they are doing a huge box of milk chocolates at half price £5.00. These are perfect for family sharing or to give a friend or good neighbour. Debenhams are offering boxes reduced from £25 to £12 whilst BHS are offering boxes at £15 and Tesco’s are the next best offer with their Continential Selection at £10 reduced by £5.

For Green & Black’s organic chocolate the best offer at the present time is Waitrose at £3.66 for a pack of 12 chocolate bars. tesco’s are selling at £4.50 and Debenham’s at £5. The cost of christmas puddings and christmas cakes varies from shop to shop but Marks and Spencer have the best offers on currently.

Smellies – bath/shower hand/foot creams – BHS has some lovely offers but for quality and a brand name – you can’t beat Debenhams Betty Jackson Black’s great great at fabulous prices!


Hi Gigi, thanks for your comment – glad to hear you’re finding lots of bargains for Christmas. However, this Convo is about multibuy offers, where you get a discount for buying more than one of a particular product. Have you spotted any rubbish multibuy offers?


Ah, multi-buys, the only reason I miss not having a mobile phone. I use Tesco and they’re offers are to be taken with a pinch of salt, not only are the offers quite often not that special, but quite often the price is hiked from the week before and the product now on “offer” at a price the same or worse than the week before.

Other people find it amazing just how bad Tesco can be too, enjoy : https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tesco-Offer-Fail/109092949114632?fref=ts


A friend gave me a 150g bag of Red Sky crisps, from Waitrose. The original price was £1.99, with £3 off if you bought 3 packs. They were marked down to £1.09 on the ‘Best before’ date, so three packs cost 27p. It’s not the first time and very occasionally the discount means that you are paid to take away heavily discounted food that is on offer.


One thing that annoys me about misleading multibuy offers, like custard tarts pack of 2 for £1.08 or buy 2 for £2.50 ( see I told you a I miss having a mobile phone). When I pointed this out to the customer services desk, their attitude was appalling. Firstly there’s the we stock around 40k products ( do I care, no) you should expect the odd mistake, followed up by, all prices are set by head office so there’s nothing we can do.

Well, I’m sorry that’s just lame. Assuming around half of all Tesco stores stock the product and each store only employs 1 person to put the prices on the shelves and stock/restock the shelves you’re looking at around 1500 employees who could/should have spotted the issue before I did. And does it not occur to Customer DisServices that maybe they could ring/email Head Office and point it out for me, rather than let me go home and notify head office myself. Makes me think they do this sort of thing deliberately to con the customers.

Three days later the offer was buy 2 for £1.50. I wonder how many people brought it and paid £2.50.

I guess tricks like this have been around for thousands of years as even the Romans had a saying for it, “caveat emptor” , “buyer beware” 🙂

Kelly says:
19 November 2012

I took a photo when shopping in sainsburys of their great 2 for £5 deal on chicken. If you bought them individually they were £2.50. What a bargain. I rarely get multibuys now as it just increases my shopping bill, packs of sausages £2.59 or 2 packs for £5.


I really dislike multi-buys even when the multiple purchase is cheaper than single ones – mainly because it is obvious that the single item is overpriced in the first place. I’ve got to the point that I will happily not buy an item at all rather than play along with this silly game.

I live in Scotland and the Scottish Government banned multi-buy offers on alcohol last year. I haven’t seen any evidence that this has pushed up the price of alcoholic drinks. Whereas the supermarkets used to have crazy offers like “1 bottle of wine for £5.99 or 3 for £10” the same bottles are now sold at £3.33 each. The only difference to the customer is that they can buy what they want rather than be forced into making unnecessary purchases of minimal quality table wine.

Christine says:
24 January 2013

The Scottish Government have got it RIGHT! How I wish this would come into force nationwide and in general and not just on alcohol.


We shop a lot for food at M&S and they usually have a variety of sensible multi buy offers. Their prices seem stable so offers are easy to assess and generally worthwh