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Does Waitrose understand the meaning of “price match”?


I don’t know about you, but when I see the words “Price Match” I assume it means exactly what it says – an item’s price will be matched, without loopholes. It’s something Waitrose doesn’t appear to have understood.

Waitrose and Ocado’s promises to match online prices with Tesco on a selection of branded items looked great at first. But it’s only once you’ve taken the time to look a bit closer that you’ll have discovered that the price matches are only based on Tesco’s “standard retail price”.

The price match loophole

This means that when Tesco puts a product Waitrose and Ocado are “price matching” on special offer, Waitrose and Ocado don’t drop the price to match the offer.

Product prices comparedThat’s fair enough. Special offers are usually negotiated between supermarkets and manufacturers well before the offers hit the shops, so Waitrose and Ocado would have to constantly play catch-up with Tesco if they tried to do this.

But why then, do Waitrose and Ocado continue to say that these items are price matched, when in fact they’re charging more than at Tesco when the items are on offer?

To give a few of the examples of what we found: on one day a pack of 20 Persil Non Bio Capsules was £3.94 at Tesco, but £5.99 at Waitrose. On other days, we found that selected Pizza Express pizzas and Colgate toothpastes cost twice as much at Waitrose and Ocado than Tesco.

The simple solution

Whenever I find out about a loophole like this it just makes me less likely to trust a supermarket’s promotions. And that loss of trust could have been easily avoided if these items were simply removed from the price match promotion while they were on offer at Tesco.

What do you think? Have you noticed Waitrose and Ocado’s price match promotions when shopping and did you know that they didn’t match special offer prices?


I’m very old fashioned and I have high moral principles which – at least up until now – I have had the luxury of being able to afford.
Therefore I would not set foot in Tesco to save my life because of Lady Porter’s “Homes for Votes” outrage and because of Tesco’s relentless flouting of the law on planning issues.
Tesco can afford to offer the lower prices in part because of their size and therefore the bulk-buying power they have and partly because of the ethics that they subscribe to, which don’t sit easily with mine.
I therefore put up with paying a little more at other shops (mainly the Co-Op, Waitrose and sometimes Sainsbury’s) for the sake of my conscience.
As for Waitrose’s understanding of Price Match, I agree that the situation is a little ambiguous and may mislead some people. That isn’t acceptable and Waitrose need to make the wording clear, but I strongly suspect that if one reads the small print that has probably been done already. Maybe it needs to be made more obvious.
Bottom line: Customers need to put up with less pleasant shops, poorer service and possibly slightly inferior goods (and close their eyes to ethics) if having the lowest price is their number one priority, otherwise they shop where they can get what they want in pleasant surroundings and served by good staff (probably with a clear conscience) and accept a slightly higher price tag. Shops just need to be upfront, honest and clear.

Dave – In the Middle Ages, flour was sometimes adulterated with chalk, milk was watered and goods were sold underweight. Throughout history, there have been unscrupulous traders and misrepresentation has long been part of the game. I am not surprised that Waitrose is playing the same game as other supermarkets. As Ramar says below, we have to read the T&Cs or take the chance that there is no hidden catch in a special offer.

At least we live in a country where food is generally safe and wholesome. With the exception of the Co-oP, ethics does not seem high on the agenda, at least for the large supermarkets.

[Hi Wavechange, we’ve edited your comment due to potential libel issues. Email us if you have any concerns. Thanks, mods.]

Well edited and apologies for my sense of humour.

All “price match” schemes have small print and they couldnt exist without it.
Its reasonable to complain about schemes whose small print effectively prevent any claims at all e.g. one of the budget airlines used to offer price match as long as the flight left from the same airport and within a very short time of their flight – almost impossible !

But these days consumers will just have to get used to reading the T&Cs for any offer especially those which seem to good to be true.

My first thought when I read this was that Tesco are dropping the prices of the price-matched products to proved a point.

Or am I just too cynical?

If I flitted from store to store chasing the lowest price – lowest usually by quite a small amount – on a random jumble of items that happened to be cheapest in different ones, I’d probably spend more on fuel, and waste considerable time, than if I just bought everything on my list in my usual supermarket.
What really REALLY tempts me though, wherever I see it, are BOGOFs and – above all – that magic word REDUCED!
By the way I shop at Waitrose and the Co-op as they are nearest to where I live and I like both very much.

Frank says:
19 August 2011

This is one reason to shop at Aldi and Lidl. No having to compare prices or decipher marketing weasel-speak. Good quality products at prices you know are very competitive and one or two examples of each. Simples!

Rob W says:
19 August 2011

If you see a headline FREE*, you know there’s going to be a cost.

But it’s actually not acceptable to announce a good deal in highly legible displays on shelves, and have terms and conditions hidden away somewhere else, if that is what’s happens.

The large print giveth. The small print taketh away.

Re Rob W

The law is clearly on your side when it comes to bringing reasonable and sufficiently prominent notice to your attention before you effected the transaction… and no amount of small print relating to exclusion clause howsoever, whether made contemporaneously or otherwise, can be added to vary the contract of sale to your detriment.

What you see is what you should get in the case of shop displays, as opposed to the Ocado
case that I alluded to elsewhere.

Would be happy to be corrected if this is not the case in law.

Betty says:
19 August 2011

The Ocado website is absolutely clear on what the price match deal is and makes it plain that it doesn’t apply to temporary promotions at Tesco. They match the prices every day from Monday to Friday and apply any changes in regular price. Personally I hadn’t assumed that they were matching promotions. Also haven’t we all learnt that you need to read the info produced by a company rather than make assumptions.

AnneB says:
21 August 2011

I have found instances when the items are not on promotion and have alerted Ocado to their error and they have not rectified the issue on their website.

It occurs to me after reading Betty’s post (above) and re-reading the intro that perhaps the phrase one of my work colleagues uses so often is very appropriate here:

“Never assume: it makes an ass out of u & me”.

In case the profanity filter doesn’t like it here it is in a slightly different form:

“Never assume: it makes an a55 out of u & me”

ChrisG says:
27 October 2011

It is simply a matter of trust, if one were to read all of the Terms and Conditions on all the sites we use, there would be no time advantage to buying online. Ocado is a well known company, it is not unreasonable to trust them until proven otherwise.

My first transaction with Ocado left me feeling cheated, I complained to one of their their customer (dis)service operatives and her smug, condescending response suggested that it was my fault for taking headlines at face value and not checking all the terms and conditions.

My response is simple, never buy from them again and let as many people as possible know about my experience with them.

Rose says:
21 August 2011

I’d prefer Waitrose and Ocado not to price match with Tesco as the items I buy regularly were always much cheaper than the current “matched with Tesco” prices! (eg my 160 TeaDirect teabags went up by over £1 when matched to Tesco prices, something I’m not at all happy about!).
Ignore Tesco and go back back to offering good value, Waitrose and Ocado!
I’d rather all the supermarkets got rid of all these offers, that seem to have created a massive industry of price comparison websites/emails, and offer us fair prices. We’d probably gain a day a week’s worth of leisure time!

AnneB says:
21 August 2011

I complained to Ocado and eventually took it to Advertising Standards Agency they found in Ocado’s favour. Ocado grudgingly gave me a refund of £5 but I have cancelled my membership agreement with them – their price match promise is completely untrustworthy.

MarkL says:
21 August 2011

For me it’s black & white.
If one supermarket claims to be matching the price of another I expect the price to be the same as if I purchased the same item from the other supermarket on the same day. To do anything other than this is at best misleading and at worst dishonest. Burying caveats in small print is no excuse.

Waitrose is a brand that tries to project an image of quality & integrity. Behaving in this way certainly brings the latter into question.

You still need small print MarkL to define “same day” and “other supermarket” and even the definition of “price” does it include BOGOF etc.

I’m with MarkL on this. Computers and the people who operate them are smart enough to monitor changes to price-matched products pretty much in real-time, so I don’t see any excuse for Waitrose. If they don’t want to be caught out by annoyed punters, they shouldn’t run the promotion and they shouldn’t need to rely on small print for basic stuff.

It is nearly impossible for Waitrose to match the offers other supermarkets charge on a day to day
basis given the impracticalities and inconveniences involved in administering it, furthermore these other supermarkets quite often reduce their prices at very little or no notice at all and it’s hard therefore for Waitrose immediately to respond with a like price offer, if they were so minded to do.

Best to avoid IMO any price comparisons with other supermarkets as being wholly unnecessary, the typical Waitrose customer (so set in their shopping habits that I know for a fact) will shop there regardless of the fact things may well be a little or a whole lot dearer.

Having said that, in the interests of transparency, exclusion or exemption clauses should NOT be covered in small print hidden away but it is a perfectly legitimate way to conduct business, I know, in the case of Ocado, but Waitrose is guilty of misrepresentation when it openly and boldly declares on its shelves that the price of an item matches that in Tesco or Sainsbury when it clearly does not, in numerous instances I have personally come across.

Furthermore, there is no consistent pricing policy within Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s very own stores which makes price comparison with them even more difficult and if based on a national notional price, is misleading and quite unacceptable.

ChrisG says:
27 October 2011

A Price Match should mean that on a like for like basis prices should be the same. It may be legal to hide restrictions in amongst a lot of small print but all I can say to those who think that this is a legitimate form of marketing “Once bitten, twice shy.”

I need to trust the companies I buy from and I willingly do so until I feel that I have been cheated, when I just go to a company I can trust.

I do most of my shopping online so it is without regret that I will no longer be doing business with Ocado.

AnneB says:
30 October 2011

I agree ChrisG I have also cancelled my membership with Ocado. Customers seem to treat it with a semi religious zeal anyhow – any complaints are treated like a complaint on their ego – drives me mad. Recently have been impressed with Aldi. Does what it says on the tin.

Elizabeth says:
28 September 2014

Waitrose are not truthful over price matching Tesco branded goods
Danone fruit fusion Tesco £1 Waitrose £2.19 – with 10% off for My Waitrose card Still no where near Tesco price This is because any “Offer ” in Waitrose is not price matched even though the offer is still more expensive We know where to shop!!

I am, right this moment taking issue with Ocado who are blatantly lying about their Price Match. I am taking this up at Management Level & I am threatening to get Trading Standards involved.

I am indisputable proof that they are ripping me off. So me in this order, how many deliveries a day & how many thousands of pounds are their fleecing their customers?

Incidentally, I am also a Tesco shareholder.