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Supermarket special offers that turn up with full-price tag

Three shopping trolleys with the letter w

Here at Which? Convo we’ve often talked about special offers that aren’t what they seem. But how about the deals that you order online for a snip, then turn up with a price tag that’s higher than you expected?

I’ve often lauded the benefits of online supermarket shopping – the lack of queues, the convenience and the fact that you might save a bit of money as you’re not so easily tempted or distracted by other ‘goodies’ or ‘bargains’ as you wander around the aisles.

But it does have drawbacks – the famous substitutions, missing items, and now, it appears, the annoying phenomenon of having to pay full price for stuff you ordered on special offer.

Why? Because the offer expires before you get it delivered.

We’ve recently had contact from a disgruntled customer who ordered 12 bottles of wine and 12 bottles of Prosecco from Sainsbury’s for a Christmas party. The wine was on a good deal – buy six bottles and get 20% off. So imagine her surprise when her order turned up almost a week later – charged at the full price!

Special offers expire

It turned out that she should have clicked on the ‘special offer’ icon next to the product to find out that the offer would actually expire before her delivery.

Now, having had a play on the site myself, you have to be ultra-vigilant and check your bill to find this out. At no other point does it notify you, even when you type in those credit card details. And in any case, if you’re just rattling off your shopping and are happy with the final total, why would you check each item if you trust what’s on the screen?

Some online supermarkets are more helpful than others in this regard. Tesco, for example, will flash a screen up right before you pay to let you know if your offer will expire before your delivery date. It then gives you the option to remove your products or change the delivery so you can still benefit from the deal.

Supermarkets – make it simple

But surely it would be less confusing if supermarkets honoured the offer when you order it, regardless of the expiry before certain delivery times? If it’s featured on the site then you can get the deal. If it’s not, you can’t. Seems simple to me – and a lot easier for shoppers who choose online for an easier shop, not one where you’re having to check all sorts of catches before you start?

Have you taken advantage of an online supermarket’s special offer only to be stung when it’s delivered? Did you pay the full price or send it back? Which supermarkets are the best at letting you know in your opinion?

Comments
Member

I do my grocery shopping online. I must admit Tescos are pretty good at flagging where the offer isn’t valid according to your chosen delivery date. You need to set your delivery slot before you start shopping to make sure the website does the hard work for you.

They provide a final reminder when you check out, alerting you to items in your basket where you’ve missed an offer or the offer isn’t valid due to your delivery date.

It’s a pain when you realise that if your shopping was delivered a day earlier then you could have had it for half the price, but at least they give you a few warnings so you don’t feel tricked at the end. But I agree, if they honoured the offer, no matter what date you chose for delivery, it would make it shopping online much easier.

Member

Sarah – I’m with you! Supermarkets should honour discounts on the day you bought your items rather than changing prices on delivery. It’s even more frustrating when your delivery gets cancelled or rearranged. Just before Christmas I bought lots of discount drinks for a party, made sure I chose a delivery date before the offers expired, then the order was cancelled because of snow. I phoned Tesco to see if they could honour my discounts anyway, as it came to about £30 worth of saving but they said no.

The reason they said it was impossible was because the tills are electronically updated on the day the offers change, and your products are scanned manually on the day they are sent out. But I’m sure it would be possible to change this so the the other prices are stored instead.

Member

I’ve just been stung by this very issue. I ordered 4 bottles of PIPER champagne at £15 from Asda, on 31st December, it arrived today and instaed of a total of 62.50 (inc delivery) they charged me £119:50, almost double the price! I was outraged and sent it straight back. I buy at this time of year to stock up for special occasions as you can get some fantastic deals. but to think it would be ok to just charge me double I’m outraged. Still it gives me £60 more in my pocket now, when I probably need it most. Any other online retailer charges the price at the time of ordering. I work in IT and this would not be difficult for the big supermarkets to amend, don’t let them use such a lame excuse!!

Member

I agree with Ali, this could easily be sorted out. When you order goods online from a supermarket, payment (or authorisation to take payment) is given immediately. That is the price at which you should pay. If they want to scan in the goods for home deliveries at a till somewhere to ensure an order is correct, that’s fine and up to them. But surely, once the order has been received they cannot change the price just because the delivery date occurs after a special offer has ended.

To me that is a breach of the contract you made with the online retailer. I had a similar problem with British Telecom once, where I ordered a new phone line under an offer which allowed me to pay the cost in installments over 6 months, then found that they had taken the full payment in one hit, leaving me massively short for food and rent.
They said they could not refund me the money as I owed it to them anyway. I told them, that I gave them my card details and authorisation to charge it, only on the conditions that they laid out for that deal on that day. By failing to provide me with the deal as agreed, they had breached our contract and were no longer entitled to take payment from my account. They had illegally charged my account. When put in terms like these it naturally put the wind up them.
In the end, I forced them into compensating me with some money off my next bill, which still wasn’t good enough really, but was a result anyway. This situation with the supermarkets is no different.

You cannot change the conditions or in this case a special offer price once you have made the deal and signed it by handing over authorisation to charge your card. It’s a breach of that agreement in my view and instead of having to send your champagne back Ali, I would have forced them to give it to me at the price offered on the day you placed the order. I guess they would have cited some small print somewhere as an excuse to get out of it. When you returned your goods, were your refunded the delivery and collection charges? Or are these non-recoverable?

Member

We ordered 6 Cadbury Medium Selection box Snowman 180g, on special offer at Tesco for £1 each When the order arrived we had been charged £2 each. A check on the website showed the product as “unavailable”. Tesco refunded our £6.