Yet again Tesco is hitting the news. This time it's about them being fined for misleading customers on their prices. You'd almost feel sorry for them. Almost.
This fine relates to summer 2011 when Tesco sold strawberries at 'half price'. The 400g punnet of strawberries were sold for one week at £3.99 generating revenue of £926,478. Suddenly the price was slashed to £1.99 and sold on this 'half price' basis from May to August. During this time, revenue from the red berries was over £4.5 million.
The promotion was a breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations Act 2008 which stops stores from running a promotion for longer than the period over which the product was sold at full price. Three months v one week? Well you can do the maths.
This latest news highlights one of the techniques supermarkets employ to get us to buy more expensive products. While I am not suggesting that every supermarket has ploys to get us at every turn, here are some different tricks that I have read about.
Samples are great. But one little bite of cheese gets the tastebuds going and craving more. Try and avoid samples and never go shopping on an empty stomach.
Buy One Get One Free can be helpful, particularly for store cupboard items like chickpeas and tinned tomatoes. However, they are only helpful if they are brands and goods you use and need, not some obscure pickled herring you've never tried. And of course, a large pantry or store cupboard is essential here. Meal planning and grocery lists are key in avoid the BOGOF pit.
3. No windows
A ploy to make you forget how long you are spending in the store, or just a way to maximise shelf space? I'll let you decide.
4. Product placement
The most popular products are placed in the middle of long aisles. This ensures you trek along the aisle passing all the other products ripe for the taking.
Likewise, impulse products that the supermarket are trying to sell will be place at eye level or beside the tills.
I've even seen certain goods placed on the bargain shelf but not actually reduced. This makes the shopper think they are getting a deal.
Being aware of product placement is key to avoiding it. Again the grocery list is a good tool in avoiding product overload. You could also think about going online. Here's a quick video on how to make online shopping nice and easy for you.
5. Supersized Trolleys
Of course supersized trolleys can be very helpful for the fitting all the Christmas shop goodies, or packing in the sparkling water bottles. But otherwise try and use baskets instead. Your average shop will always look tiny and insignificant sitting in the bottom of one of these trolleys.
6. Fruit and Vegetable at the Start
Fruit and Veg are bright and colourful and lend the supermarket a very positive and healthy air. People feel good when they buy their healthy goods at the start of the shop and are more likely to splurge elsewhere. They also have high profit margins.
Fruit and veg are so important that would never suggest you scrimp on this. My best tip here is to plan your meals. By doing this, you know exactly what fruit and vegetables you need. Be aware of sell-by dates and always consider meals that can use the produce in different ways.
Slow music can be used to make you linger, latino to make you buy the Mexican food that is on special offer. Just be aware - and if it doubt, stick on some pop beats on your iPod and dance your way quickly through the shop.
8. Loyalty cards
Loyalty cards are great and the vouchers provided can definitely save on certain purchases. But be advised that supermarkets are using loyalty cards to get data on you and will react to this accordingly. If you bought cheddar cheese this week, next week's vouchers will be offering free cheese if you buy a steak.
Pricing is a vital part of grocery sales. Often staples such as milk, bread and chicken breasts are very well priced to give you the impression that you are getting a good deal. Our brains can only handle so many comparisons and decisions at any time. Do your best to review prices and probe whether they really are saving. Use your meal plan and grocery list. Why not use a price comparison site like mysupermarket.co.uk. Before long, you'll be taking Tesco (or Aldi or Sainsburys) to court.
As I say, I am not trying to be a conspiracy theorist, but with a bit of knowledge you can beat the supermarkets at their own game.