/ 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.

Kumar says:
2 October 2010

I am a little puzzled by all the heat generated in this article. Let us say a Supermarket has always sold a triple pack of Cola for £3. This month the Cola manufacturer is offering the Supermarket a promotion, to get rid of a glut of single Cola bottles at 75p each. What should the Supermarket do?
According to you, they must forcibly lower the price of the triple pack to £2.20 even if that makes a loss. This won’t happen, because each product line has a price structure based on its own procurement costs. So the only thing they can do to satisfy your rigid “price maths” is to raise the price of the single pack to £1.10! Any lower price will incur the wrath of the Consumers Association. That’s terrible for consumers. What a supreme irony!!

Instead of wasting time on pursuing these triviae that are easy to survey but a waste of the CA’s time and power, the CA should continue to concentrate on big issues like comparative pricing between supermarkets, price fixing cartels and food quality. When was the last time you gave your kids a tinned sausage that’s not made from mechanically retrieved meat? Why do manufacturers get away with saying “This product is made in a factory that processes nuts” to excuse nut contamination – could they get away with “This product is made in a factory whose staff sometimes have diarrhoea” to excuse faecal contamination?

What the supermarket should do (using your example) is to use Reduced Price labels, either on the bottles or on the shelf. If the product is close to its Use By date it is obviously best to label the bottles.

I think you are a bit hard on the Consumers’ Association since this website raises awareness of consumer issues and is probably seen by a lot more people that subscribe to Which? magazine. (I am surprised that there is no advertising encouraging users of this site to subscribe.) Featuring issues that people can relate to and enjoy commenting on is a way of getting them involved, and public opinion is undoubtedly important in consumer issues.

I don’t disagree that there are very important issues that CA could do more to tackle.

If you feel incompetent with maths coversions or using a calculator, many supermarkets give the answers to ‘special offers’ on the labels, such as X price 1Kg = X per 100g or X price per l Litre = X per 100 ml, etc., where all you need to know is that 10 x 100 = 1Kg or 1Ltr. Okay, supermarkets sometimes mix metric and imperial measures; ask the customer help desk to help, point out that the metric and imperial measures have been used and ask them to do the sums. If you don’t feel comfortable challenging someone employed to help you, how about getting out your pencil and pad (pretend you’re doing a survey for Which? if this helps) and do the sums yourself. Networking with family, friends and neighbours works too. Good luck!

Peter Bartlett says:
2 October 2010

One I would like to see – 3 for the price of 4
I bet it would work

Rina says:
3 October 2010

Been looking at an offer in Tesco’s for Hoegaarden beer – four small bottles costing £5.09, buy two packs for £8. Hmmm, not a bad deal, but didn’t really want eight bottles, so thought I’d wait. Today the offer is gone and guess what, a single four-bottle pack costs £4 – not a special offer. Seems a bit of price inflation going on to persuade people to buy more than they want in the belief they’re saving money…

David Ellis says:
3 October 2010

Here is another offer I saw recently in Asda (beer again!). Bottles are £1.24 each or any 3 for £4


I have seen this a lot in supermarkets…there is a multi-buy promotion but then they reduce the price of some of the items so that it is cheaper to buy them individually.

Carol says:
4 October 2010

has anyone else noticed how small size frozen desserts e.g cheesecakes are better value than the larger ones. Most retailer sell basic cheesecakes 450-550g for £1 or there abouts, but larger varieties 850-925g are £3 upwards, how does that work?

Toby says:
5 October 2010

What I find irritating is when the 2 for £x offers don’t show the new price per kilo or litre. It makes comparing different sizes a chore.

Dave the Rave says:
5 October 2010

I thought this but noticed they also have the smaller label in the usual place, this has the offer kg or L price.

Robert says:
6 October 2010

Dave, I’ve never seen the offer unit price on a multibuy offer, only on a discount type offer (where it may be on a smaller label). Who does this?

Dave the Rave says:
8 October 2010

Robert, I noticed this in my local Asda, the only reason I looked is because of the Watchdog segment on supermarket offers.

Offers freak says:
5 October 2010

Pack of Finger rolls – 50p .
Special offer 2 for £1

A little off-topic, but I spotted this anomaly in Asda via my housemate. Asda’s long-grain brown rice takes 23 minutes to cook. Asda’s ‘easycook’ long-grain brown rice takes… 25 minutes to cook.

Archie Thomson says:
6 October 2010

Do the supermarkets realy think that we can’t count? It would be useful if we could leave a BIG notice on their shelves pointing out their pricing issues.

Hari says:
7 October 2010

I’m the co-author of The Guardian’s new comic strip “Ripped-off Britons”. Our latest cartoon quotes this Which? report. Hope you like it!

Thanks Hari, it’s great! Keep ’em coming.

graham says:
7 October 2010

Yesterday we found at Tesco strawberries at £1,99 or two for £4. We also noticed 8 pints of milk for £2 or 12 pints for £4 but best was envelopes 50 for 65p or 100 for £2,10 or even better 200 for £4.95.

The other day I trotted down to the Coop to buy some castor sugar. A kilo bag was £1.45, but a 500 gr bag was 49pence!. Guess whaI bought………….

This one could run and run.
B&Q on Sunday last – “home automation” remote controlled electrical switches. Clearly an end-of-line sale but the prices were “further reductions”. Remote control weatherproof light-switch reduced from £10 to £10, Dawn-till-dusk switches reduced from £5 to £10, weatherproof socket with remote control reduced form £5 to £10, Infra Red controlled light fitting reduced from £10 to £10. There were lots of other items in the range all now being sold for £10. Clearly someone had been told to price them all at a tenner but had failed to notice that previous reductions had left some items already at or below a tenner!
Surprised to see Waitrose caught out (see above from Rex) – they don’t seem to have that many offers in my local branch, but when they do they usually seem to be real savings (albeit of perhaps only 2 or 3 pence!!)
Co-Op is dreadful – regularly they have their “truly irresistible” yoghurts on at any 4 for £2, but quite often this is at the same time as the toffee ones are on at “two for 99p” and their fruit & veg beggars belief because pre-packed veg which is being sold at “super low prices” is often way more than buying the same items loose. Mind you, to be fair I think pre-packed SHOULD be more expensive to encourage us to buy what we need and not excess which is wasted, not to mention the plastic wrapping to send to landfill. It’s just a bit odd that they promote it as a bargain when it clearly isn’t.

Linda Maddock says:
5 November 2010

The marmalade I always buy at Tesco has been 58p per jar for several months. Yesterday they had a “3 for the price of 2” offer on it but the price per jar at the till was 78p, so you are in fact paying 60p for the “free” jar.

George says:
22 November 2010

Tesco online – don’t trust the comparisons!
The maths is way out at a real £0.24 per sheet – almost double and not a good “bye” (except to your money).

Andrex Toilet Tissue Aloe Vera 4 Roll 792 Sheet SAVE 29p Was £2.20 Now £1.91 valid from 15/11/2010 until 7/12/2010 £1.91 (£0.13/100sheet)

After reading the report I realise that I was caught out with the ‘bigger value’ spaghetti and the three cans of tuna. I’m so busy that I just expect the prices to be right. I don’t really want to have to take a calculator with me to the supermarket and spend more time checking. I’ll definitely be wary of special offers from now on and I have decided to stay clear of that supermarket for a while – especially as my spaghetti bolognaise has left me with a bitter taste!

Martin says:
27 November 2010

Yesterday in Tesco’s. In the centre aisle bargain bins they were selling a 15 can pack of Fosters Lager for £10.
Go to the aisle were lager is kept and they were selling 24 can packs for the same £10.

Anita says:
27 November 2010

I was shopping in Sainsburys,and saw a sign for Activia yogurts 2 for £3 but if you buy an 8 pack which is the same amount of yogurts you can buy them for £2.98.OK you only save 2p but i think its a bizzare offer!!.