BBC's Panorama supermarket exposé will teach us stuff we already know

5 December 2011

_57090894_1056137-high_res-panorama-the-truth-about-supermarket-price-wars You can always rely on the BBC for some hard-hitting consumer journalism – just look at Watchdog for example. Incredibly insightful stuff every single week.

Now the heavyweight Panorama is getting involved – tonight’s programme (BBC1, 8.30pm) reveals ‘The Truth About Supermarket Price Wars’. Among the shocking revelations you’ll see are…

The multi-buy non deal: special offers where an item is £1.00 but the yellow shelf label says you’ll get two for £2.00. Sometimes done in error, but are they occasionally done deliberately in order to draw you towards the ‘bargain’ items?

The price cut that isn’t a price cut: A supermarket temporarily raises the price of an item so that they can then ‘slash’ it back to what it previously was. Punters are lured to the reduced price and buy in bulk. See Tesco’s recent ‘Price Drop’ campaign.

The scales are missing: Where are the scales in supermarkets? So that you can compare and contrast the prices of pre-packed and loose fruit and vegetables. Well, as a rule of thumb, the pre-packed stuff is almost always more expensive.

Any of this new to readers of Bitterwallet or users of HotUKDeals? Probably not. Yet the BBC seem to think they’re breaking new ground with this stuff. In truth it’s just lazy. Stick with us and HUKD and you’ll learn more in a week than the BBC can trot out in a year’s worth of Watchdogs and Panoramas. Rant over.

TOPICS:   Supermarket

14 comments

  • Phil
    I'm really undecided if such practices as this are wrong or punishment for stupidity. I think I'll stick on the side of wrong because I'm sure when we're in a hurry and don't check such deals make us all look stupid...
  • JonB
    Not everyone is savvy enough to read BW. It never ceases to amaze me how poor shoppers are at working these things out, so the BBC is doing Joe Public a service, of sorts.
  • Nick T.
    It's not just the supermarkets. I’m looking at some Staedtler 308WP4 markers on Amazon. I can buy a pack of four for £6.28. Woo hoo! OR I can buy a pack of four *with an extra two free* for £9.46. Woo...huh?
  • Niles T.
    The Amazon example is not what it seems. The comparison is between some pens sold by Amazon themselves (was £6.28, now £6.29) and a different but similar set of pens sold by an independent trader on Amazon's marketplace platform for £10.99 (was £9.46). That's like comparing the price in WH Smith vs. the price on a market stall in the street outside WHS and then blaming the local council for encouraging prices which aren't comparable in the market stalls they rent out.
  • Dick
    No doubt Which! will find the same thing in their all new expose in five months time. Even without scales, it is not that hard to compare prices of pre-packed and loose food. Look at the price per kg for the loose food, and the price per kg or per 100g (which is normally printed on the shelf edge label) of the pre-packed. Worse case, you might need to do some maths, but pre-packed bags of items which are also sold loose often come in 500g, 1kg, 2kg, 2.5kg, 5kg bags, so not that hard.
  • Hippy S.
    @Dick That works except have you not noticed that Tesco have a habit of pricing the loose goods by the pound (lb) so a bit more math needed. Do Tesco do this for any other reason than to make price comparison difficult?
  • JonB
    I think you overestimate the mathematical prowess of Joe Public, Dick. That's why the BBC made this programme.
  • Sicknote
    When you walk into any of the large supermarkets they're out to mug you of your hard earned cash - remember that single fact and you should get out without a bitter taste in your mouth. Look below and above the most colourful shelving adverts and there you'll find the bargains; if you really want to screw them up then start at the back of the store and work forwards.
  • maxtweenie
    @Hippy Hippy Sheik. I've also noticed that Tesco will show the price of some cheeses per 100g and others per 1Kg. It's all done to confuse customers into buying more expensive stuff.
  • Dick
    For some gourmet cheeses, you are unlikely to buy more than a few 100g, so it makes sense to price in £/ 100g, whereas cheap-as-shit unmatured industrial cheddar is bought in large portions as so price is in £/ 1kg. Of course, conversion between the two is fairly easy. But I probably do overestimate the maths ability of a percentage of the population. The BBC may have made this expose, but people that are so thick that they cannot convert £/100g into £/1kg are likely to be watching ITV3 anyway. So what is the point? No wonder the country is fucked.
  • zeddy
    @Dick: I cut my own cheese. How does this affect me?
  • Sawyer
    I think people are giving the supermarkets too much credit here. I don't doubt that they employ sneaky pricing tactics and confusing labelling, but I also think that when toothpaste is priced by the kilo, it's a genuine mistake. A lot of pricing errors are probably down to a computer somewhere that has calculated an "offer" due to some rounding of numbers (they all work to several decimals of whole pence), when actually there is no saving at all. My favourite supermarket trick is when they occasionally sell Frijj milkshakes *without* a multi-buy offer, so that when the offer returns (as it always does) it seems like a really good deal... when in fact you're just buying several at the normal price.
  • Subway K.
    My favourite are Subway, as a vegetarian I couldn't choose their value subs which were £1.99 as they all contained meat. The veg version was £2.59, so I asked for a value one but without the meat - they attempted to charge me £2.59!
  • Neil H.
    I must admit I was secretly impressed with what they did with polos year's ago. Overnight, the size of the pack shrunk by about 10%. Then they put the price up. Then they added the 10% back with big yellow stickers saying 10% extra free or whatever. Slick!

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