10 supermarket price tricks revealed

19 February 2014

Supermarkets persist to run confusing multibuys and 'pricing oddities' across their stores in a bid to get their hands on more of your cash, an investigation has found.

One such poor practice uncovered was hiking prices of seasonal goods in the weeks just before peak demand so the retailers can subsequently get away with advertising 'price cuts', according to consumer group Which?.

For example, a Cadbury's Giant Creme Egg was on sale at £10 in Tesco and Sainsbury's in February this year. It was then on special offer at Tesco for £8 and at Sainsbury's for £6.66 from March onwards in the run up to Easter.

Another tactic revealed was the use of misleading multibuys. Which? said that Asda had sold a 12-roll pack of Andrex Toilet Tissue for more per roll than the four-pack. And it still had the cheek to mark the larger Andrex pack as 'great value'.

Almost half of shoppers (44%) reported buying an item they thought was on offer but turned out not to be. Which? gave the example of Marks & Spencer, which positioned mixed grapes next to a '2 for £4' sign even though they weren't included in the offer.

Some retailers were charging more for products that had actually shrunk in size.

For example, despite a 17% reduction in the size of Persil Small & Mighty Biological Colour Liquid, Asda, Morrisons, Ocado and Sainsbury's all hiked their prices. Asda's price hike was the largest, at 44p.
Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: "We've uncovered pricing tactics that make shopping for your weekly groceries look like tackling an obstacle course. With consumers struggling to cope with rising food prices, supermarkets and manufacturers need to make it easier for people to spot the best deal and make special offers special."

The consumer group is encouraging any customers who feel they've been misled by a special offer to complain to Trading Standards.

Pricing tactics in supermarkets uncovered by Which?

1. Products getting smaller while their price stays the same, or even increases
2. Supermarkets alternate offers on two or three similar items that you might buy interchangeably, swapping the offers between each – often within a single day. This means they can always sell one of them at a discount.
3. Different weights sold for the same price, specifically fruit and veg
4. Just because a product has a red '£1' or 'only £1' sticker, that doesn't mean the price is discounted.
5. Confusing multibuys
6. Refill packs aren't always cheaper
7. Different shops sell different sizes of the same product, making it hard to compare prices
8. Bigger pack doesn't mean better value
9. Seasonal offers where the higher price only applied out of season
10. Tesco's website doesn't like Monday mornings - some fruit products appeared more expensive online on Sunday and Monday. This might not be a straightforward pricing tactic – but it might make you think twice about shopping on Monday mornings.

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