Belfast Telegraph

Consumer: Supermarket bargains too good to be true

By Claire McNeilly

In general, supermarkets have been great for ordinary families because they bring prices down. But for all their good points, don't forget that retail giants use a few tricks to make shoppers think they're getting special deals – and therefore spend more.

One of the biggest supermarket probes – recently undertaken by consumer champion Which? – examined prices over a year and uncovered an array of ploys.

The ruses, or '10 deadly sales sins', include selling products at a higher price out-of-season so retailers can boast to be offering a discount at peak times.

A Cadbury's Giant Creme Egg selling for £10 in February, for example, was cut to £8 in Tesco and £6.66 in Sainsbury's just before Easter.

Outlets also confuse shoppers by setting products which are not on offer next to signs for promotions.

In Marks & Spencer, Which? investigators came across a 'Two for £4' sign on grapes nearest to fruit which was being sold at the usual price.

And supermarkets are increasingly using 'Only £1' stickers to indicate that goods are discounted when in the majority of cases they have been £1 for some time.

Richard Lloyd of Which? said the pricing tactics they'd uncovered made shopping look like tackling an obstacle course.

"Supermarkets and manufacturers need to make it easier for people to spot the best deal," he said.

In the wake of the criticism, the big players defended their tactics, claiming to be responding to what consumers want.

Asda said: "We would never mislead our customers on price."

Tesco said: "We use £1 labels to draw attention to our good prices.

"We believe customers recognise it isn't a special offer."

Sainsbury's claimed that customers would rather it changed the pack size than the price.

M&S said most products on promotion were clearly stickered.

Here are the top 10 sneaky supermarket tricks – and how to avoid them:

1 Shrinking products: Is the item smaller than last week?

2 Swapping offers: Remember that deals on certain products change.

3 Same pack, less food: Check the weight and unit price as well as the overall price.

4 £1 stickers: Doesn't mean a special price.

5 Confusing multi-buys: Was the offer registered on your receipt?

6 Pricey refill packs: Always check the refill pack price against the original.

7 Different shops, different size: Check the pack size against the price.

8 Bigger isn't always better: Check the unit price to ensure it's the best deal.

9 Sneaky seasonal offers: Approach with caution and shop around.

10 Sunday and Monday price hikes: Some items cost less on other days.

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So, what's your story? Let us know if you have any consumer concerns. Contact: cmcneilly@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

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