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How Supermarkets Mislead Shoppers

How Supermarkets Mislead Shoppers
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One of the temptations of supermarket shopping is to snap up those multi-buy deals and price reductions that seem so appealing. As you wander around the store the garish marketing materials scream ‘Buy-One-Get-One-Free!’ and ‘3-for -the-Price of 2’ with such silent volume and repetition that you feel like a fool if you walk on by. But are these deals really as good as they sound? Or are supermarkets misleading shoppers into believing they are bagging a bargain when in fact they are not?

Consumer Vigilance

Which?, the shopper’s friend and fierce defender of consumer rights, keeps an eye on such things. They regularly review the deals being offered by the supermarkets to see if they are genuine or not. In analysing pricing practices that offer the promise of savings, Which? often finds that the promised ‘deals’ are in fact only saving you pennies, and in some cases actually cost you more than buying a product elsewhere, or on another day in the same store. But by continuing to use them, the supermarkets dupe consumers into parting with millions of pounds, and buying more than we need.

The Problem with Multibuys

When you stroll by a multibuy deal for a product that’s on your weekly shopping list the offer inevitably makes you stop and think. ‘If I’m buying one anyway, why pay more?’. But by placing the multibuy products in the trolley you ARE buying more, under the impression you are getting a ‘great deal’. If you only needed one 6-pack of crisps, why buy 3, just because they are on offer? Not only does this impact on your finances but on your waistline and general healthy too. It’s no coincidence that so many of the deals on offer are on snack items that we just love to eat. Supermarkets know we find it hard to resist!

What a Waste!

How Supermarkets Mislead ShoppersSome of the worst multibuy items are found in the fresh produce section. The amount of food thrown away by households each week is criminal, and much of it is fresh produce that is ditched because it’s going off. That 2kg bag of carrots may be a great price when compared with buying just the 6 sticks you actually need for the week – but are you really going to use them all? Probably not. Do you need 3 lettuces? Erm, nope. And look! 15kg of potatoes for the price of 10kg! Are you serious? Supermarket deals create an illusion of having got one over on the retailer and we leave the store feeling happy that we’ve snagged a great deal. But often, the benefit is either short-lived, smaller than we anticipated, or even non-existent.

When is a Slashed Price not a Slashed Price?

This is not a trick question. Supermarkets often use the tactic of temporary price changes to fool us into believing we are getting a good deal. In one of its latest investigations Which? found that Morrison’s had sold Pepsi Max 2l bottles at an inflated £1.98 for the statutory 28-day minimum period (probably at a time when they knew demand is lowest). They then trumpeted the product on ‘Offer’ at ‘just’ £1 for the next 63 days – this £1 price is in fact much closer to the true value of the product.

And Morrison’s is by no means alone, Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose … they are all guilty of this perfectly legal practice. Which? found Asda temporarily increasing Robinson’s Orange Squash from its normal £1 price tag to £1.59 while it ran a ‘2 for £2.50’ offer. When the deal ended, the product returned to its £1 price. Supermarkets regularly create the illusion of savings in this manner.

The bottom line is that supermarket deals are not always as attractive as they are made to appear. Savvy shoppers need to keep this in mind and maintain a focus on the items they need, rather than those that look keenly priced. There are obviously some genuine deals to be found too, but it can be tricky to discern which are genuine and which are illusory. And who has time for that anyway? Make a list, stick to it – it’s the only true way to keep a tight control on your shopping budget.

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About Cally Worden

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About Cally Worden

Seasoned freelance writer Cally Worden lives with her family and dog in a quiet corner of rural France. A love of the outdoors, and a fascination with her children's ability to view life with fresh eyes provide the inspiration for much of her work. Cally writes regularly for various websites and UK print publications on subjects as diverse as parenting, travel, lifestyle, and business, and anything that makes her smile.

Website: Cally Worden

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