/ Shopping

The supermarket ‘special offers’ that aren’t so special

Supermarket offer

Would you buy two drinks for £4 when you can get one for £1? Sounds daft, but it’s just one of the really rubbish offers we’ve found on the supermarket shelves.

It could be a simple mistake, it could be poor maths, or at a push, supermarkets could be trying to make us laugh. But next time you spot a special offer ticket screaming a saving if you buy more, check very carefully.

Examples of daft offers at some of the UK’s biggest supermarket chains have been sent to us by eagle-eyed Which? members. And they show that clearly not all of these offers are worth the ticket they’re printed on.

For instance, why bother buying two bottles of Old Jamaican ginger beer from Tesco for the ‘bargain’ price of £1.60, when they’re only 50p each?! Then there’s the new, lower priced Sainsbury’s tin of peas, reduced from 35p to… 35p. Yes, you read that right. Or how about buying one Strawberry Muller Vitality Drink from Asda for £1, or two for £4? Deal!

A gallery of daft offers

We’ve embedded a gallery of all the ‘offer’ photos we’ve been sent so far, but if you have any other examples please send your photos to helpwanted@which.co.uk and put ‘daft offers’ as the title. We’ll continue to publish the most ridiculous ones.

What laugh-out-loud offers have you seen while out shopping? Tell us below.

Robert says:
29 September 2010

Theoretically, there may be a point to some of the “any 2 for” offers, if the other items are much more expensive and you only want to buy one of them. You would clearly be better off getting two of the other item, but if you definitely only wanted one, there could be an overall saving even though it looks nonsense.

But what happens if you get two more expensive items and one cheap one? Is it cheapest item first?

I nearly bought some wine the other day on a ‘3 for £12’ offer… but the wine I wanted was under £4! I ended up only buying two bottles in case I was charged extra… would probably pay the supermarkets to check their offers better or they miss out on sales.

corina says:
29 September 2010

i recently went into homebase to buy some paint all around the store were big signs all around the paint saying all All Dulux emulsion buy one get one half price i picked up a white and a cream when at the till they came up full price, so i told the cashier they were on offer to which A lady from behind a desk shouted its only on the white paint and you have cream,I replied the sign in the isle says any white or coloured dulux paint was part of the offer to which i was told well you cant mix colour with white. I pointed out how miss leading the signs were as none of them explained this in any way at all.

pickle says:
29 September 2010

There’s usually a catch with these promotions – often done to get rid of excess stock – so, it pays to carefully check the “2 for one” offers – often the offer means you are paying more.
In any case, all too often when you want only one item, to buy two or more can be wasteful if the product is perishable.

Linda Phillips says:
30 September 2010

I have just been reading about Sainsbury and Asda misleading customers with offers on sweetcorn, cheese etc. Which investigators really need to get themselves down to Tesco and check out their multi packs of sweetcorn and beans,amongst others. They are much worse!!

Thanks, Linda. We’ve had a look at Tesco’s products, and couldn’t find any examples. If you could let us know some specifics, including where you saw them, that would really help us! Thanks for taking the time to post about it.

Ray Rooney says:
30 September 2010

Not so much a daft offer but an offer that highlighted the daft pricing both on the offer and the normal pricing!

I have bought milk by the 6 pint bottle for years assuming that this is the most cost effective measure. However, the special offer in ASDA (and now TESCO) of 4 pint bottles at 2 for £2 and 6 pint bottles at 2 for £4 made the maths easy enough to see that the 4 pint bottles were significantly cheaper per pint than the 6 pint bottles (25% per pint)! This also applies to the pre-offer pricing of £1.25 and £2.25 (17% per pint cheaper).

I don’t know why I didn’t spot this before but I suspect that it was because I converted from glass pint bottles to the plastic 6 pint bottles – based on the price of the pint. I’ve never really bothered to look at comparing the price of the 4 pint bottle until the special offer made it glaringly obvious!

I was going to report the same thing but Ray has beaten me to it! Just to add that these prices have been constant for several weeks, and are the same at all 3 Tesco stores in my locality so this is clearly not an accidental pricing error – playing silly games with customers is clearly Tesco policy.

Buying alcohol has always worked this way, for some reason.

It’s almost always cheaper to buy two half bottles than one bottle, be it wine, spirits etc.

my local sainsburys in nantwich proclaimed a massive saving deal for a 3 bottle pack of 600ml Peroni beer for £4.99 when individually they cost £1.60 each ? how does that work?

lmar says:
1 October 2010

At Asda, low enrgy light bulbs, various types: 10p or 3 for £1; 4.7p or 2 for £1; and £2 or 3 for £2. In fact the latter were fantastic value because singles were more than £2 elsewhere, so I bought six for £4.

Graham Marsden says:
1 October 2010

I shop at ASDA and practically every other week I’m having to do mental arithmetic in their store to check eg whether it’s cheaper to buy a 1.5 litre carton of Fruit Juice for or two 1 litre cartons.

For example at the moment a 1 litre carton of Tropicana Orange is £1.76 or two for £3 wheras a 1.5 litre carton is £2.72, so the 1 litre is actually £1.50 per litre and the 1.5 litre costs £1.81 per litre.

However next week, I may well find that the 1.5 litre carton is on a “Rollback” promotion and could be £2 ie it’s now £1.33 per litre making *that* cheaper, so if you just keep buying either without checking, you’ll end up spending more.

Talk about Confusion Marketing! 🙁

Doreen Monks says:
2 October 2010

Asda’s Rollback Prices are a mockery. Here is just one example – Smart Price packet Vegetable Soup has been 17p for about a year. One week it had suddenly jumped up to 25p. Next week it was Rolled back to (you’ve probably guessed) yes 17p. Do the Supermarkets think we all came over on the last Banana Boat?

Graham Marsden says:
8 October 2010

Guess what! I called it and it happened!

This week the 1.5 litre carton of Tropicana Orange Juice has been “Rolled Back” to £2 just as I said, meanwhile the 1 litre cartons are still at £1.76, so if you don’t bother checking (or working out the maths) you’ll miss out on the item which is actually cheaper and end up paying *more*!

Graham Marsden says:
11 October 2010

And now, to make things even *more* confusing (if that was possible!) the same 2 Litre cartons of Tropicana Orange Juice are being offered at 2 for £3!

So that is *THREE* price changes in *TWO* weeks…!!!

Bill T says:
1 October 2010

Great what about the reduced items which do not take into account the offer on the in date goods. Buying 2 at the reduced price could cost more than the full price.
Also TESCO sells 1 litre bottles of milg at 2 for £1.50 whereas the 2 litre bottles are 1.75 unless tou buy 2 for £3. You can have 4 @ 1 litre and as they remain sealed until needed they remain fresher.

Brian Oaten says:
1 October 2010

I am well aware that, over the 40+ years that I have been a member, Which? has been working hard to bring clarity into price labels. Perhaps now we should move on to make it a statutory requirement that the font size on price labels should show the unit price with at least as the same size font as the price for any particular item.

Mark Edinburgh says:
1 October 2010

The thing I find most frustrating about supermarkets is short term changes in price which can be 20 or 30%. They seem to deliberately make it impossible to have a stable price for your basket. This is either some kind of manipulation of prices to appear better in comparison with other supermarkets just for a few days or make it difficult or time consuming to filter out the constantly changing price spikes so over all they make more profit. I would like consumer groups like Which to look into why this happens.

My Sainsburys spent the whole of summer selling 4 x Stella Artois beer at £3.46, or two for seven pounds. Bargain. I did notify the staff there to no particular avail.
ALWAYS CHECK PRICES WHEN SELF SCANNING, I have been misled many times, fortunately I always spot the error.

My local “Co-operative” supermarket frequently has soft fruits such as raspberries and blackberries “Half-price” at £2 per punnet – yet in all the time the store has been open I have never, ever seen soft fruits priced as high as £4 per punnet. Also sometimes the prices at the check-out do not match the “offer” price on the shelf – today the lady in front of me at the check-out complained because she was charged something like £1.80 for a product where the price on the shelf was £1. Staff checked, confirmed she was right and charged the correct price – but what would have happened if she had not noticed?

Keith Gentle says:
1 October 2010

Seen today in my local Tesco’s – Green Grapes £2.17 per punnet of 500G or 2 punnets for £3.00.

Absolutely criminal pricing! Do Tesco’s think that customers are daft!

Brian Bloxam says:
2 October 2010

Have I missed something? 2 punnets for £3.00 is much better than £2.17 each!

martyn says:
2 October 2010

It is obviously cheaper to buy the two punnets in this case but its a bit of a hassle generally if someone on a limited budget only wants to buy a single item. I agree it is criminal pricing!

Well – that’s not quite the same as the others, as Brian points out. That’s quite common to get rid of stock – but they’re actually giving you a better deal for two. The ones we have posted give you a worse deal if you buy more than one.

Though I agree, that is expensive for grapes – and by pricing an individual pack so high they can make the 2 for 1 ‘deal’ look better than it actually is.

Our local ASDA here in Bridgwater has gained an unfortunate reputation for pricing errors.
Many times the shelf price is different to the till price… and most times it is not in the consumers favour!

I haven’t noticed any of the types of Goofs mentioned above in the article yet… but I bet they are there!

David Ellis says:
1 October 2010

I spotted a classic error the other week in our local Morrisons. It was for a bottle of Marston’s Pale Ale, which was originally £1.55 but was now £1.75, with a big sign saying Save -20p.

I pointed it out to one of the staff who looked at the sign and just shrugged, suggesting that they saw nothing wrong with it!


Part of the problem – and it strikes me it’s a real possibility in this example – is that the staff are so illiterate and innumerate that they don’t actually understand!
Sadly I have taught a great many people who have gone on to work in retail who are in this situation. (I should add that I teach IT not English or maths!!!)

Recently the local Waitrose had Muller Fruit Corners at 4 for a £1 when the offer ended instead of putting them to there normal price of 55p they simply replaced the £1 sign with one for £2, so in my view the,customer perhaps would not notice the price increase.
Another point is if the Fruit Corners can be sold at the equivalent of 25p each why is the full price 55p each.
Another thing I find annoying is the buy 2 for such a price offer where the single item price is out of all proportion to half the stated price ie:£3.99 each 2 for £6