When retailers and their special offers abuse our trust

15 January 2009

Placing the most popular products furthest from the entrance; impulse purchases at the tills; ensuring that whatever you went in for, you walk past as many products and up all the bastard aisles before you find it - we've all know that millions are spent by supermarkets on researching new ways to brainwash us while we mosey on through.

There's point-of-sale material too, in-store marketing such as the legendary Tesco yellow labels. Because they have physical stand-out and represent a financial saving to us, we're effectively trained by Tesco to become sensitive to their presence and more susceptible to purchasing the item on offer.

The same is true of all retail stores; point-of-sale material is there to teach us what the shop would prefer we bought. Eventually, we come to trust these offers because as beneficial as they are to retailers if we make a purchase, we make a saving too. Everyone's a winner it seems, unless the trust is abused:

Bitterwallet reader Stuart Ashton found the above example and sent it to us - the sticker promised a saving and the customer saw no reason to doubt it, so he trusted it and bought the item. Another "pointless" offer from the high street or against the law? According to Consumer Direct when we asked them earlier, most certainly the latter. It may have been a one-off mistake, but advertising a product as reduced in price when it isn't would put a shop on shaky ground with Trading Standards.

How does the situation differ with our recent example of the Argos sale? In that case, though some goods were available for less before the sale, a comparison to previous prices was provided. Even while we may think that's very confusing for the customer, Argos played by the rules of consumer law. in the example above, the retailer appears to have marked an item as reduced in price without bothering to reduce it, and without providing any evidence that the item may have been sold at a higher price in the past six months.

If you find any examples of the high street abusing your trust during the sales, send them to us at [email protected] If you're not too busy calling Trading Standards, that is.

TOPICS:   Advertising


  • Cam
    What exactly did you say to consumer direct and what exactly did they say back? The sticker doesn't acutally promise a saving e.g. save £5. I can't imagine that consumer direct would say that this is certainly against the law unless your email to them was fabricated?
  • Paul S.
    I called Consumer Direct and explained the example as it is presented; that sticker doesn't state an exact amount but it does state "prices [are] slashed". In an instance like this, said Consumer Direct, it's very likely that Trading Standards would investigate the retailer because they cannot state a price as a reduction unless it was previously available at a higher price, and there's no evidence of that. Trading Standards would also consider whether the retailer intended to mislead the customer. So there are a couple of issues - correctly identifying a price reduction as legitimate, and whether it was the intention of the retailer to mislead. Hope that's helpful, Cam/Dave/Jim/Anon/Norm etc.
  • Nobby
    Cheers mate.
  • Nobby
    And yes, I'm using a proxy again to stop you guys moderating everything word I say! Regards, Cam/Dave/Jim/Anon/Norm etc. Nobby.
  • Liddle m.
    Cam/Dave/Jim/Anon/Norm/Nobby. Are you aware that Dylan on Dylan can be had at HMV for a mere £3? I'm sure you must be interested in a book introducing the ancient Greek elegiac poet Theongnis on the second page of the introduction: "Present a different aspect of yourself to each of your friends...Follow the example of the octopus with its many coils which assumes the appearance of the stone to which it is going to cling. Attach yourself to one on one day and, another day, change color. Cleverness is more valuable than inflexibility." Hope you enjoy it buddy!
  • Tony Q.
    Surely HMV and Zavvi are the chief culprits with their unmistakable SALE stickers which can often be pricing UP things.
  • MB
    Tony - Surely HMV and Zavvi are the chief culprits with their unmistakable SALE stickers which can often be pricing UP things. If you look on the back of an HMV item, it often has a was price, by the bar code. They get round it this way, there is proof of the higher price.
  • The B.
    I bought Super Smash when it came out for £25 and frankly I wish I hadn't bothered, what a piece of shite it is, I'd be feeling ripped off at a tenner.
  • andy y.
    If Trading standards decide to have a pop at Zavvi they better hurry up
  • James
    Damn yellow stickers, when the credit crunch got into top gear my local tesco blitzed the shelves with yellow stickers...no reductions just yellow stickers.
  • oliverreed
    Bought a PS2 RGB scart lead from Toys R Us years ago, was in a bargain bucket and seemed a good price. Once bought noticed that another label was underneath, peeled the top label off and saw it was previously cheaper. Walked back in store and got refund for the differnce, claiming it must have been rung up wrong on the till :)
  • Paul N.
    if someone cant be bothered to look up the prices before they buy, then thats bad luck. MOFO
  • Doomy
    just wanna give that guy some credit in the vid, love the way he said.. its a bargain of the century , A+ material!
  • ungulator
    tesco should be brought to task for it's game prices, they have the biggest buying power and can do the biggest discunts as a result, yet they don't - the games are full price or a pound under for even old titles, shocking, that's why mey money will go to game online/play, 365games et al every time
  • Martin
    Hey there. Thanks for featuring my video. To be honest, I don't mind the fact that the label was misleading. The reason I done that vid was cause I thought it was hilarious actually :) Technically, it was a bargain, compared to the £35 I usually saw it sell for in other stores. It could be worse. I once bought a DVD for £10 in some marketplace while on holiday, then about a week or so later after I got home, I noticed an HMV label with a barcode and a price of £6 on it.
  • Steve
    What are your rights if you buy an item for eg £49 and get it home and find underneath a sticker for cheaper - whats are your rights as a consumer and is the shop breaking the law?

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