/ Food & Drink, Shopping

Barmy special offers: spotted any in your supermarket lately?

Special offer hanging on a fishing hook

Did you catch last night’s Supermarket Wars documentary on Dispatches? Presenter Harry Wallop explored how the supermarkets compete on price, meet our online demands and use special offers to lure us in…

The show covered a breadth of issues, including the reliance of special offers to reel us in – hook, line and sinker! Now, the trouble is, all too often these offers aren’t quite as special as they seem. Our head of campaigns, Alex Neill, told Dispatches viewers:

‘We’ve found lots of the big supermarkets are routinely giving offers that aren’t special and are misleading. That’s why we’re saying to the Government, if the supermarkets aren’t going to stop doing this then they need to step in and make the rules much clearer and tougher and Trading Standards need to enforce those rules.’

In our latest research, we found Muller Corner yoghurts available for £2 per pack in Asda before being included in a ‘two for £5’ offer (or £3.88 for one).

Not so special offers

We offered Asda the chance to respond to this and the supermarket said:

‘We would never deliberately mislead our customers. Our aim is to simply have the lowest prices for the longest.’

While some offers seem dubious compared to their non-offer price, a number of others are a bit barmy. During the show a number of you shared your examples on Twitter using #SupermarketWars. Tony found an offer where the original price was cheaper than the special offer:

Savvy shoppers go the distance

The show also featured some impressive shopping strategies as people shared how they go the extra mile, sometimes literally, by visiting a range of supermarket for the best deals:

I personally alternate between two online supermarkets – one for basics, one for fresh produce – but don’t think I have the discipline to go to these lengths. And as Patrick flagged, we have to weigh up the efforts involved in this strategy:

Did you see the programme last night? Have you been inspired to shape up your shopping habits to respond to demands on your finances, health or time?


Just recently I’ve noticed in WAITROSE (which should know better) labels on uncooked hams stating:

25% Discount – Introductory Offer

Well, to me this is indefensible and contradictory. If it’s “Introductory” how can there be a discount? If there is really a discount, then the product isn’t introductory or new.

This is just sleight of hand which I think should be exposed for the confidence trick it is.

Bill Pallan says:
17 December 2014


I have noticed that Amazon vigorously promote their ‘Amazon Prime’ postage rate. It has an extra cost after a trial period. If however, one opts for a standard delivery I feel they delay posting items so that their ‘Amazon Prime’ delivery looks more attractive than the alleged delayed standard delivery.


Tony L says:
27 April 2016

Whilst I welcome Asda saying it will clean up it’s act on pricing, I think there is always room for improvement on all Supermarkets’ Shelf Pricing practices. You buy a product from the display, where there is a reduced price label, only to get charged full price at the checkout. It happens far too often, and I regularly check the receipt to see what I have been charged. Last week in Asda, I bought a bottle of fancy Sicilian Cloudy lemonade; price shown as ‘Reduced £1’ on the shelf, ( that’s why I bought it !!) charged at £2.98 at checkout. I went to Cust. Services, who checked, gave me a refund & removed the £1 label from the shelf. They also gave me a £2 gift card, would that have been an incentive to keep quiet ? It is not just Asda, all the big supermarkets are getting it wrong.