Supermarket specials that aren’t. Deliberate, or just careless?

AdvertisementI’ve turned into one of those boring people who looks out for specials in the supermarket.

This deal is from this week’s Safeway/Woolworths catalogue. If you happen to occasionally buy frozen fish and frozen chips, it appears to be a pretty good deal, saving $3.55.

(Sometimes I’ll use this type of thing; sometimes I’d prefer salmon or barramundi fillets on the BBQ, but either way, combine with lemon juice, mayonnaise, spinach leaves, cheese and perhaps a slice of tomato in brown round rolls… there you go, that’s my fish burger recipe. A good quick dinner for work nights.)

At the supermarket, they’ve stacked the fish and the chips in the special together with a big sign pointing you to it.

So, it’s just a matter of grabbing the fish, grabbing the chips, and heading to the checkout to enjoy your savings, right?

Not so fast.

Specials in Safeway/Woolworths

If you try that, keep a watch at the checkout, because the items came up for me with no saving. On querying it, the lady said she wasn’t familiar with the special, but suggested it might be for specific items only.

But, I protested, they’re all piled together, highlighted as one. The “special” display includes about 4-5 fish varieties, all 425 grams as specified in the special. And there are straight chips and crinkle cut, again, all in the special display.

I hadn’t even seen it in the catalogue, but had found it via the display, and had grabbed the straight chips and the Deep Sea Dory original fish.

With the display set up in this way, how is a punter meant to know which specific products need to be combined to get the special price?

Sure, the small sign on the freezer door shows the items to be combined for the special, but it’s far from clear that it’s limited to just those two items, and the context implies it’s not.

Note that both the frozen fish and the frozen chips normally live elsewhere in the frozen food aisle. There’s no reason to be putting the items which are not part of the special into the cabinet with the big “Special” signage.

In my book, the advertising, the programming of the cash registers, and the presentation of these products don’t all match up. Is it carelessness, or deliberate?

And how many people just grab what they think is a special, but don’t notice at the checkout?

I swapped the fish for the one covered by the special and got my $3.55 saving. How many others might notice, but not bother querying it?

As always, it pays to check the small print.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

11 replies on “Supermarket specials that aren’t. Deliberate, or just careless?”

I agree the grouping of several non-special deals together is misleading, but the sign clearly indicates ‘buy this.

‘This’ is singular referring to the one product.

Probably would have been a better idea so stack the entire area with just those two items (but I’m assuming they ran out and the other products were used as temporary filler).

I’m with Roger – it can often be thanks to the supermarket staff not being aware enough of what they are stacking on the shelf. I say this from personal experience stacking such freezers in the past.

Still, often the entire range of similar products from the same manufacturer are included – eg as Daniel stated all the 425g varieties included.

I would have just asked for a manager, you would likely have got the similar variety as part of the special. And they would have learnt a lesson in merchanising properly.

Of course it’s deliberate, they’ve been doing this kind of thing for years. They scam most of the people most of the time, knowing that only a few people will even notice.

@merlin There was an article recently that outlined the practice that they all share of marking up an item for some small period then ‘reducing’ it to the original price a day or a week later … sneaky bastards

Ahhh I can see the mistake now…..its only taken me reading this three times!
The special DOES include the crinkle cut chips, as they are ‘Birds Eye Oven Bake 1KG’, and includes all the fish varieties in the picture- EXCEPT the Deep Sea Dory.

I’ve found it always pays to look at the wording of the offer: ‘Buy one Birds Eye Oven Bake Fish 425g’- by the looks of it all the fish in the pic are “Oven Bake’ except the Deep Sea Dory.

My hypothesis is that either the Dory was filled where it shouldn’t have been, OR someone’s picked up the Dory elsewhere, seen the special and decided to get the Oven Bake deal, leaving their Dory in the wrong place, just to confuse everyone after them!

That said, shopping really shouldn’t be so complicated…..

Good observation @Danc! It really pays to be extra meticulous on all things especially with stuff that concerns money. You have to make sure that you get the value of every penny you spend.

Thanks for sharing @Daniel!

I stopped shopping at Woolworths and Coles because of this type of thing (among other things). I now know the name of the owner of the local Foodland and some of the staff. I know that some items are slightly dearer but overall it is a much better option.

The other tactic they employ is to have an item on special at really low price for a day or two, then raise the price to only a little bit off, but still technically on special. Safeway recently had some washing machine powder for just under half price, so I bought a couple of boxes and mentioned it to a friend who went next day to get some, but the price (same store) had gone up from 4.84 to 9.46 (usually 10.??)

Comments are closed.