Monday, 3 September 2012

Supermarkets’ not-so-special offers

Alice Judd from the UK’s Which? Magazine reveals misleading tactics of some supermarkets when it comes to bargain pricing.

In June, we published our third (and biggest) investigation into supermarket special offers.

We trawled through 700,000 prices on over 300 products to find out if these special offers are as good as they seem.

On previous occasions, we’d seen items at the higher price for only a few days before they were put on offer for weeks.

This time we uncovered a greater range of tactics designed to make bargains look unmissable when, in fact, they weren’t really bargains at all.

These include:
  • Products sold with ‘was’ prices that hadn’t applied during our tracking;
  • Products that increased in price for a few days before being sold on offer for months;
  • Multibuys where the products were more expensive per item when they were on offer than when they weren’t; 
  • And products that were on offer for longer than they were at the higher price.
We examined a year’s worth of data from the independent shopping website

In terms of the specifics, we spotted problems on everything from toothpaste to beer.

For instance:

Asda doubled the price of a single Muller Yoghurt from 30p to 61p as they went onto multibuy at 10 for £4.

They went back to 30p when the multibuy offer ended. This meant they were more expensive per yoghurt when you bought 10 under the offerthan when you bought one before or after it.

Aquafresh Milk Teeth Toothpaste was sold at ‘was £1.74, now £1.15’ at Asda. During our tracking, the highest price it was sold at prior to the offer was £1.17.

Tesco sold Becks beer for 190 days on discount and only 70 at the higher price.

Which? is calling on supermarkets to make their pricing clearer. We also want the Government to tighten the current UK guidelines about special offers as they’re too vague with too many exceptions – which means that you can’t guarantee that a special offer is special.

We also want to see an improvement in unit pricing – the price by weight, volume or unit – so that you can easily compare what you’re buying.

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