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No deal: Beware misleading store sales

Some shops charge more for their special offers

Gulf News

What a thrilling bargain. A Breville sandwich toaster in the Sainsbury’s half-price sale, down from 39.99 to just 19.99. But, customers who snapped up this “half-price” deal might be wondering now if they have been hoodwinked.

The toaster in question is on Breville’s own website with a recommended retail price of 19.99. As we all know, a manufacturer’s recommended price is the maximum you ever pay for an item, from which you usually obtain a discount. Sainsbury’s, however, appears to have offered it at an extraordinarily high price, then cut it back to the standard price and told customers they were getting a “half-price offer”.

The hollow attractions of so many supermarket “deals” are becoming more evident with every week that passes. As a Which? survey found in November, Asda was selling a Goodfella’s Deep Pan Pepperoni Pizza at a standard price of about 1, but when it went on to a multibuy deal, the price jumped to 2.50 for one or 4.50 for two. Many multibuys actually left shoppers worse off.

Asked how it could justify the Breville deal Sainsbury’s replied: “We aim to be fair and transparent about our pricing,” which is the sort of meaningless corporate speak public relations people pump out all the time, though it went on to say, in this instance, “we have not been as competitive as our customers would expect”.

When Godson originally wrote to Sainsbury’s, it told him the toaster had been “on sale in our stores on two separate occasions for a substantial period at 39.99 ... we benchmarked the price of this product against another leading electrical retailers (sic), this is standard industry practice”. It chose to carry on with the promotion.

This is just one, small, example, spotted by a shopper who brought it to our attention. How many other promotions are not quite what they seem? We as consumers simply don’t know.

This week, former Labour government minister John Denham, MP, introduced a private members’ bill to force the supermarkets to come clean. They would be required to release pricing data, product by product and store by store, enabling shoppers with smartphones to scrutinise special offers, multibuys and “bogofs” while pushing their trolley along the supermarket aisles.

He says: “Supermarkets have a huge advantage over shoppers. While the supermarkets can base their pricing and promotion policies on sophisticated computer analysis of how we shop, most consumers are left shopping around and trying to work out value for money in much the same way they did decades ago.

“My bill will even things up a little, giving consumers more chance of really getting the best deal, without the need for expensive regulation.”

As a private members’ bill, it stands no chance of making it on the statute book, but is a useful device to draw attention to an issue.

Guardian News and Media 2013