Tesco hikes prices before dropping them

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There are claims that Tesco's big price drop is not all that it seems. In the supermarket world where smoke and mirrors are as much a part of the furniture as trolleys and tills, researchers are claiming that Tesco didn't just cut its prices: it apparently put some of them up first, before dropping back sightly.

So in effect, in some cases it's more like the big price hike.

The Big Price Drop was announced with quite a fanfare. We heard how it was a departure from the usual round of gimmicks and offers, and was instead an honest attempt to cut the price of 3,000 items. The supermarket spent £500 million on the enterprise.

The hikes

The Times newspaper looked into the prices that Tesco was charging in the run-up to its promotion, and found some shocking price changes.

It discovered that in scores of cases the price went up in the weeks before the promotion. So, for example, the Tesco 750g Fruit and Nut Museli went from £1.28 on August 16 to £1.89 on August 23. The promotion then shaved it back to £1.75 on September 26. So even after the cut, shoppers were paying far more for their breakfast.

And this is far from the only example, a 250g box of sliced mushrooms was increased from 85p on August 30 to 97p on September 6. The promotion then cut it to 87p - leaving it higher than it had been weeks earlier.

The pattern is repeated on unsalted butter, unsmoked back bacon and Oxo beef stock cubes - all of which were raised during August and then dropped back to their original price in the promotion.

A rip off?

So does this constitute a rip off?

That's not entirely fair, because thousands of prices have dropped, and if you stick to the items in the promotion (especially if you know which ones have been legitimately dropped and which ones have actually risen) then you will see the cost of your shopping fall.

In addition, the price of food is rising, and as a Tesco spokesperson said: "Given the current economic situation and inflation levels it is not surprising, and a factor for every supermarket, that some prices on some products will have gone up in the weeks before Big Price Drop."

However, this discovery does mean that we can't take Tesco's claims entirely at face value. When the store says it cut 3,000 prices up to 35%, we can assume that not all of these were real cuts and not all of them were cut as much as Tesco claims.

And surely that defeats the whole object of the exercise. We were supposed to be able to trust this promotion. It was meant to be an end to the gimmicks: they were supposed to put the smoke and mirrors away. This revelation just goes to show that the supermarkets haven't changed, and that shopping around and viewing every claim with caution is still the only way to get a decent deal at the tills.

But what do you think? Are you convinced that the supermarkets have changed, or were you expecting the other shoe to drop all along? Let us know in the comments.
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