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Do you find Waitrose’s 3 for 2 offers confusing?

Supermarket offers

What do cod liver oil and nettle & peppermint teabags have in common? It may sound odd, but they were included in the same 3 for 2 offer at Waitrose.com.

This came as quite a surprise to me when I was filling my basket online, as I wouldn’t have thought the items in the 3 for 2 offer were a natural pairing. Continuing my shop, I found Dorset Cereals granola and Cawston Press apple juice seemed to be included in the same offer too.

Mixed messaging

I was trawling through hundreds of offers online after a Which? member got in touch to tell us that they found it ‘impossible to work out the saving’ on their shopping on waitrose.com.

Described as Mix and Match Add 3 for 2 Cheapest Item Free, Waitrose’s offer essentially means that for every three items you buy, you’ll get the third one free in descending order of price.

So far so good: that’ll give me the best savings when I pay for my shop. With such a wide (and sometimes unexpected) range of products in the deal, I don’t have to change what I want to buy to take advantage of the offer either.

The problem? It’s not clear that this is how the saving works until you get your food shopping delivered.

Waitrose told us that when the order is put through the till in the store that packs it, the total saving is applied.

I reviewed my order, but my savings didn’t seem to add up. I’d chosen three £1 melons and three £3 packs of pears for my fruit salad and been shown a £2 saving. That’d be two free melons and no free pears. I’d expect to save £4 – and this is what Waitrose assures I will get on receipt of my shopping.

Clearer offers

The Which? member who got in touch was keen to make the most of three for two offers by buying three of each item; they found the saving shown on their order confirmation was less than expected.

When you have your shopping in-hand, this deal gives you the best saving – but you’ll just need to trust in that until you get your final receipt. But shouldn’t it be much clearer than that?

Waitrose says it’s looking at how it can make savings online clearer – we’ll keep you updated.

But in the meantime, have you come across any baffling supermarket offers or unexpected deal combinations? We’d like to hear about them.


I have not encountered this offer but I don’t like it because it is not possible to work out the unit price of each item. Other supermarkets play the same game and I’m sure the intention is to discourage us from using unit prices – which were provided to help us compare prices of similar products.


You do take the “discount” on trust until you look at your receipt. We shop at M&S and there are a number of regular discounts – 3 for £7 deli, 3 for £10 meat and fish, 3 for 2 on coffee (cheapest item free). Oh, and a good £10 meal deal. Thing is, you don’t need to use these offers if you don’t want to – the individual prices are not increased. But they do offer a wide range of product to select from so they are usually advantageous, and can help the economy of the shopper.

But it comes down to freedom to buy as you wish. If you don’t like special offers in a store, don’t shop there. If they are deceitful, report them.

25% off 6 bottles of wine? Is that any different?


I must admit I am flummoxed by this. Does it have anything to do with the order in which you add items to your basket? Or do they aggregate all the items covered by the offer and just give the bottom-priced one third of the order free of charge? I am rather disappointed that Waitrose have descended to this kind of tactic as they used to be very open and honest on pricing. “Waitrose says it’s looking at how it can make savings online clearer”; don’t try to mix a ‘mix-&-match’ offer with a ‘BOGOF’ deal would be my recommendation.

I think supermarkets are tying themselves in knots trying to lure customers and shift slow-moving lines. Having breathed a sigh of relief when Sainsbury’s recently announced that they were doing away with their obscure competitive pricing mechanisms and going for straightforward lower prices I now find they are fiddling about with their bonus vouchers issued by the till on completion of your shopping. They have always been irritating but they are now becoming ludicrous. Having done a large shop we were presented with a voucher for something like 700 Nectar points if we spent over £30 on various cleaning and related products in one shop within a fortnight. Having just restocked the cleaning cupboard [and the system knows that!] trying to spend £30 on such items is almost impossible in one go – many of the items are cheap anyway and some are already on discount [so you have to buy a stockpile to achieve the spend], and it is far from clear which products are inside or outside the designated category. Plus you need to go round with a calculator to see how you’re doing against the price threshold. This sort of offer makes it much more difficult for people on low incomes or who live on their own, and especially if they don’t have a car for £30 of cleaning products is a weighty load. I expect somebody received a bonus for coming up with this crackpot wheeze. I wonder how often it has been redeemed. Making offers impossible to negotiate is not honest trading in my book and our better retailers should be ashamed of themselves for doing it.


No point in buying something you don’t need! I’ve a nectar card – rarely use it but it has, over the years, accumulated around £27 which I assume one day I will get round to spending. A pity there is not a cash alternative. Remember GreenShield stamps? I think you could redeem those at the rate of around a million for a penny if you didn’t shoose a gift.

The 3 for 2 is not uncommon – Boots (the Chemist) at Christmas and other times for example. The system should group products onto 3s where two higher priced ones yield a “free” lower priced one, but done in appropriate groups. So the example given in the intro should have yielded a £4 saving.

What matters to me is what I spend overall on my (well, mrs r’s) shop. Unit prices are useful, but not relevant when buying offers if the items become cheaper than their normal unit price – a saving is being made.


I still have some Green Shield stamps in case they make a come-back! I seem to accumulate quite a lot of Nectar points at BP and Homebase and let them build up until December when they ease the Christmas shopping bill. Sainsbury’s halved the redemption rate a few months ago so they are not worth going out of your way for. I would far sooner go back to straightforward honest pricing.

I also remember the political storm over the abolition of Resale Price Maintenance – one of the few things for which Alec Douglas-Home’s short government was memorable. It was pushed through Parliament by Edward Heath as President of the Board of Trade, split the Tory party, upset the small traders, and led to the ultimate dominance of big supermarkets whose bulk-buying deals could undercut the market.

I don’t know how the Boots system works at Christmas-time but on an everyday basis it is annoying. If you try to buy three groups of three products in the deal the system ignores this at the checkout and merely takes the three bottom-priced items out of the nine selected and gives them free. If you want to make the sort of savings the offer is enticing you with you have to go round three times and pay separately each time. We hardly ever go to Boots nowadays since it is no longer competitive and its own-label products are now generally inferior.


I am confident that Sainsbury’s computer will be able to cope with the order that items are scanned, John. I take your point about people with little money or no car to transport their money-saving bulk purchases but I’m most concerned about the amount of fresh food that gets wasted because of BOGOF deals. I believe that Aldi and Lidl avoid all this carry on and it’s hardly surprising that their market share is increasing, though I don’t have much personal experience.


I agree with you on food waste Wavechange. We buy a lot of fruit at this time of the year and the supermarkets seem to overstock the displays with items with three or four days’ before the ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date. People seem to instinctively go for the longer-dated produce leaving the stuff that is ripe to eat in the next 24-hours unsold. We prefer short-dated fruit because it is nearly ripe and we only buy enough for immediate needs. I suppose we are in a fortunate position that we can easily buy some more tomorrow and the day after whereas some people have to [or like to] get a week’s supply in one go. I still feel that the unnecessary desire to present an abundance of fruit as a temptation is the cause of so much waste.

I thought one of the good points about Morrison’s provision of a decent cafeteria in their bigger supermarkets was that they were able to use up left-overs from the shop, especially vegetables. Their deli counters are also creative with their salads to avoid waste. I’m not sure the other big supermarkets see their caffs and delis in that light.