Are we right not to trust supermarkets?

Woman shopping in a hurryPA

Any trust we had in supermarkets and their deals is now officially gone. There was a time when shoppers wandered around the shelves wide-eyed, impressed that they could get so much of their shopping for free, and feeling great about the money they were saving.

Now they venture around warily, looking closely at the prices on these so-called offers, and cynically wondering how many of them actually constitute a saving at all. But are we right to be so mistrusting?
A survey by the Grocer magazine found that six out of ten people don't believe the supermarkets when they claim to be cutting costs.

Which? report

We reported recently that in some instances they are right to be so wary. Which? found that some of these claims were dubious to say the least. There are strict rules as to how pricing promotions work. So, for example, they need to be on sale at the higher price for 28 days before they can be used as a benchmark for pricing, and the deal cannot last for longer than the original higher price. However, the rules can be waived where the stock is going out of date, which means that some supermarkets regularly bend the rules when it comes to fruit and wine.

Rotten deals

And this is not the only instance when the deals have proved rotten. In one striking example a couple of years ago turkeys were on sale for half price in one supermarket - at exactly the same price as the other supermarkets were selling it at full price. The supermarket in question calculated that nobody would worry about an expensive turkey in November, so they could push the price up. Then in December they could reduce it with a flourish.

In fact, Moneysupermarket did a study for the Daily Telegraph of 40 items touted as BOGOFs in Sainsbury's and Tesco in September and found that in some cases prices were increased for a 28 day period just before the deal was launched. So for example, Sainsbury's Taste The Difference English Vintage Reserve Cheddar was on sale for £3.99. It was then hiked to £4.25 for six weeks, before being sold at 2 for 1. Although this follows the rules, there would be many people who would feel that this isn't as transparent as it could be.

Ripped off

The answer, therefore, is that in some instances clearly we're not getting the full picture. The offer may still be a discount on the full price, but it may not be the discount we were expecting, and we may have already paid for it by overspending on the item in the weeks leading up to the deal.

Unfortunately we're right to be cynical when we shop. The only way to be sure we are getting the best prices is to compare them, and take every claim by the supermarkets with an extra-large helping of salt.
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