Better than Half Price!

A short while ago my local Sainsburys had some lovely looking Scottish raspberries (yum, yum, my favourite!) with a big red sticker advertising them to be ‘Better than Half Price’.  Could this be too good to be true?  Probably!

My analytical side kicked in;  was ‘Better’ to be construed as meaning better for me, the customer, or better for Sainsbury’s shareholders?  Probably the customer I concluded but my wife insisted that it was strawberries we needed anyway.  Fortunately the strawberries were unambiguously ‘Half Price’.

But then I reflected what does ‘Half Price’ mean anyway in the context of a highly seasonal product?  Is it half the price of strawberries flown in from halfway round the World or half the price of strawberies grown in the UK in midwinter or what? 

In reality since they are packed specially for Sainsburys there is no reference price to be half of and Sainsburys can claim whatever it wants.  In the end we decided to go instead to our local independent greengrocer where a slightly larger punnet turned out to be substantially cheaper even though it was full price!

The week before it was lager.  They had a huge pile in a prominent location labelled ‘Manager’s Special’.  Great! I picked up a pack but then thought to check it against the price on the ordinary shelf (a slightly different pack size).  Good call – the ‘Manager’s Special’ was far more expensive.

Yesterday it was printer paper at WH Smith who were advertising a ream as ‘Half Price – Only £3.49 – formerly £6.99’.   It’s a while since I bought any, but I remember that when I did it was the exact same brand at £2.99.  Naughty, naughty!     

And so it goes.  To be fair I’m not picking just on Sainsburys or WHS here.  All the supermarkets (and indeed ‘Big Retail’ generally) are up to these tricks.  I go to Sainsburys because I dislike it less than Asda which is the next nearest.

However you slice it this is a deceit – and not just a minor or accidental one at that.  It’s a systematic, organized and large-scale deceit on the consumer perpetrated with the intention of fleecing him or her of the maximum amount of money while masquerading as the patron saint of low prices.

Which raises an important question.   In a liberal democracy is it acceptable for systematic deceit to be an organizing principle of a major industry, especially when it is quite clear that this is largely at the expense of customers and suppliers alike?

I think not.


One response to this post.

  1. […] Their man says, “Consumers … have all the information they need … “.   Err, no they don’t.   The whole point about deceitful pricing is that it aims to confuse and obscure the most important single bit of information in a buying decision – the price and hence the value.  Most people, even highly numerate ones, find it very difficult to work out which is the best buy from a range of competing offers and pack sizes.  This is a difficulty intentionally created by Big Retail – see for example here and here. […]


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