Supermarket special offers that aren't very specialWhich? research reveals dodgy special offers

24 May 2012

Special offers

Are special offers as good value as they seem? 

New Which? research has revealed a whole range of supermarket tactics designed to make bargains look unmissable when, in fact, we don’t think they were really bargains at all. 

These tactics include products sold with more expensive ‘was’ prices that hadn’t applied during our tracking and others that increased in price for a few days before being sold on offer for months. When we looked at multibuys, we found products that were actually more expensive per item when they were on offer.

We also discovered products that were on offer for longer than they were at the higher price. Which leads us to ask - which price is the real one?

If you're a Which? member you see the full results of our special offers investigation - if you're not a member you can sign up for a £1 trial.

Supermarket special offers

Which? examined a year’s worth of data from the independent shopping website mysupermarket.

We found a number of offers we didn't think were good enough. These included:

  • Asda doubled the price of a single Muller Yoghurt from 30p to 61p when it put the yoghurts on offer at 10 for £4. The yoghurts went back to 30p when the multibuy offer ended. Even if you'd bought 10 yoghurts to qualify for the offer, you would still have paid 10p more per pot.
  • Aquafresh Milk Teeth Toothpaste was sold at ‘was £1.74, now £1.16’ at Asda. But the highest price it was sold at prior to the offer, during our tracking, was £1.17.
  • Tesco sold Becks beer for 190 days on discount and only 70 days at the higher price.

However, these were by no means the only examples. 

Supermarket pricing campaign

We think it’s time supermarkets sorted out their own pricing. We’ve been calling on them to show clear unit pricing – the price by weight, volume or unit – so that you can easily compare what you’re buying. You can read more about our unit pricing campaign and support us by signing our pledge below.

We also want them to sort out special offers so they’re exactly that – special. 

What the supermarkets said:

Tesco said: ‘We’re committed to helping our customers keep their costs down. We change millions of price labels in store and online each week and we sometimes make mistakes, for which we apologise. We make every effort to ensure we act in accordance with government guidelines on price promotions.'

Asda said: ‘We are only human, and occasionally we make mistakes. By and large our systems and procedures ensure those instances are kept to an absolute minimum, but when we do get it wrong, we put our hands up to say sorry, and put things right as quickly as possible.’

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