You might like to think supermarkets are your best friends when you’re at uni, but prepare for one hell of a messy break up right about now!
So, you thought the supermarkets were on your side, helping you save extra pennies whenever they can?
Whilst there are lots of great deals that genuinely could save you a packet, keeping your wits about you should always be top priority in this game, as the priority of supermarkets will always be to make cash – plain and simple!
From dodgy money-saving offers that don’t actually save you cash, to multi-buys that cost the same as buying individual items, supermarkets employ a whole host of sneaky tricks to get their hands on your hard earned moolah.
Arm yourself with the facts below – and don’t be scared to raise hell if you sniff out one of these sneaky tricks being used in your local!
9 tricks of the supermarkets
1. Floor layouts that make you spend more
It’s crazy but you would not believe the amount of time and effort that goes into the layout of a supermarket – all with the intention of encouraging you to spend more cash.
Here’s just a few of the ways they get you:
- Playing slow music to make you feel less rushed and happy to spend more time (and money!) in store
- Putting healthy fruit and veg at the front so you shop there first then don’t feel guilty about the less healthy foods that go into your basket later
- Placing essential items at the back and far away from each other so you have to look for them (and come across a few things you don’t need but want to by along the way)
- Keeping eggs in strange places so you end up on an egg hunt (and not the Easter kind)
- Stacking more expensive products at eye level and treats, such as tortilla chips and salsa, will be stocked next to each other to encourage you to get both (with cheaper salsa stocked elsewhere in store)
- Covering tills with last-minute ‘essentials’ to encourage impulse buying.
Some supermarkets have even been known to lay smaller floor tiles along the aisles that have more expensive stock so the sound of your trolley wheels speeding up will encourage you to slow down and consider the shelf items more intensely. Who would’ve known, eh!
The classic buy-one-get-one-free offer is a popular one (even universities have started offering it on tuition fees!). But whilst real BOGOF deals can be a steal, too often these offers are extremely deceptive and not actually a good deal at all.
We’ve even seen situations where supermarkets have hiked the price of the item during the BOGOF deal, meaning it’s cheaper to look for the same item not included in the promotion than going for the deal.
Take your time, look at individual prices and compare before you put something in your basket.
3. Multi-buys, shmulti-buys
Some multi-buy offers – where you’re told that you’ll save by buying in bulk – can’t be considered ‘offers’ at all.
Whilst they won’t cost you more, they often won’t save you anything either, meaning you’ve just been tricked into buying way more of a product than you intended to.
For example, you might come across offers such as ‘3 for £3′ when the item is individually priced at £1 each anyway.
These marketing tricks are designed to psychologically trick your brain into thinking you’ve got a good deal by buying more than you need, or even want.
4. ‘Top deals’ that aren’t that top
When walking around your supermarket aisles, it’s likely you’ll be inundated with lots of brightly coloured signs for ‘top deals’, ‘lowest prices ever’ or other not-to-be-missed deals.
Whilst these are supposedly products that have been reduced to a cheaper price than normal, we recommend having a good look at the price label behind the sale label.
Research found that many of these so-called ‘deals’ had been the same price for six months, while others had actually increased in price!
5. Outdated promotions still on display
A recent BBC investigation found that Tesco is particularly terrible at keeping their displays up to date, leaving promotional branding up after deals have already ended.
The result of their experiment was that they were overcharged for their purchases at 33 out of 50 stores they visited! We’re sure Tesco aren’t the only offenders, either.
Make sure you always check your promotion has been deducted at the check-out, and if not – show the display to a manager and ask customer services for your money back. Some supermarkets will even pay you double the difference as a peace offering!
6. Misleading packaging
The fancy packaging of that ‘high quality’ bacon can convince you into thinking you really will taste a difference, but will you really?
Packaging on supermarket premium brands is designed to tempt you into parting with those few extra pennies, but in reality your extra cash is mostly just to cover the cost of said fancy packaging.
As one STS reader, David Hamilton from the University of Sunderland, also tipped, it’s also worth staying clear of the ‘to go’ sections:
Never buy food from the food-to-go section as they have the same food in much higher portions at a cheaper price in the supermarket. Eg. Pasta pots might be £2 for a small tub but in the shop they’ll have a pot double the size for 1 pound, maybe without a fork included.
Downshifting your weekly shop to value brands where you can can save you up to £520 a year. Imagine what you could buy with that!
7. Offering bulk that isn’t better value
Thanks to wholesale supermarkets, it’s kind of been drilled into us that buying bulk-sized products over smaller items will automatically involve a saving.
Buying a massive tub of butter rather than a small one can seem like a good deal as you get loads all in one tub (so save on the extra packaging, right?). But some supermarkets take advantage of that assumption, and will price the larger tub higher than two smaller tubs that combined have the same weight.
They’ll often also make it tricky to work out the weight-to-price ratio by labelling one product in grams and another in kilograms to throw you off.
8. Making comparisons impossible
Similarly, this might totally go against your best instincts, but whilst packaged goods do normally cost more than loose items, this isn’t always the case.
Supermarkets rely on the fact you think this way, and will often make comparing items confusing. This is particularly the case with fresh produce like fruit and veg – packaged cucumbers will be priced per item whilst the price for loose ones will be displayed in grams.
Just make sure you spend a bit of time crunching the numbers before you commit!
9. You’re not safe online, either!
Unfortunately, supermarkets use tricks online too – nowhere is safe!!
For example, you’ll already be well acquainted with the sidebars they use to bring up similar items they think you might be tempted to part more cash on, but you’ll almost never see value brand items in there.
Also watch out for the ‘allow substitutes’ box – checking this means that they can change parts of your order if they’ve sold out, and replace it with something else.
Bit of a mixed bag on this one, as some people report being given more expensive items as replacements but only charged for the cheaper version (neat!) but some have been known to throw in a more pricey replacement and charge you extra.
If you notice that something has been substituted when your delivery arrives, some supermarkets will let you refuse it at the door have the driver return with it for a full refund.
The smartest move here would be to contact the supermarket customer service and find out what their policy is on this.
You don’t have to treat food shopping like an SAS mission, of course, but by being savvy to supermarket tricks you can save yourself a pretty penny!
Now you’ve swatted up on the tricks to avoid, here’s some supermarket money-saving tips to try out!