5 types of problematic supermarket pricing to look out for
A round up of our least favourite “specials”, as uncovered by you.
What happens when member pricing is the only price displayed, but you’re not a member? What does “everyday low” really mean? And how likely are you to notice an overcharge of 10 cents?
At a minimum, shoppers deserve to go to the grocery store and trust that the prices they’re seeing are accurate. But over the past year and a half, we’ve watched sentiment towards the cost of groceries significantly change, rocketing up the list of household financial concerns.
A bit of background
When the Commerce Commission’s market study in 2022 revealed that the duopoly was making excess profits, cost-of-living concerns were growing louder. We launched our campaign to End dodgy ‘specials’ to call out misleading pricing practices across the duopoly.
During our 9-month-long campaign, we’ve received around 600 pricing complaints. You'd think a special means value for money, right? Wrong. Our campaign found that not all deals are created equal. In fact, some ‘specials’ will set you back more than you bargained for.
Here’s a round-up of our least favourite types of supermarket ‘specials’, as uncovered by you.
The price for individual bottles of Pepsi Max was $2.99 - yet a Super Saver sale encouraged shoppers to buy 2 for $7. Likewise, individual broccoli were sold at $2.69, but the Super Saver sale promoted 2 for $6.
Savings = -$1.01
2. Clubcard pricing displayed as the default
How short is your attention span?
Check out the video below – if you can watch it for long enough, you’ll see that the Clubcard price for Puhoi Valley Authentic Greek Yoghurt is displayed for 8 seconds longer than the regular, non-Clubcard price, which is displayed for just 2 seconds.
Price variation: $0.90
Do you think you’d notice the price difference? Tell us in the comments.
3. Specials that cost more than the original price
We received many examples of misleading “specials” across both supermarkets.
Metamucil Fibrecaps 50 dose was $5 more on its club card special, and Angus Pure premium beef on clearance had a premium of its own - $3.82 extra, to be exact.
Like the New Zealanders who sent these examples in, we cringe to think about how many special-seeking shoppers were duped.
Countdown: +$5.01 / New World: +$3.82
4. Mismatched pricing
Always question the bill at the till.
We received countless examples where the advertised shelf price wasn’t honored at the checkout. Many people who shared their examples with us described the awkwardness of requesting a refund of 20 or so cents. They also said going to the supermarket has “become a bit of a memory exercise” as shoppers try to remember the shelf price and match it with what’s charged at the till.
Shoppers shouldn't be responsible for ensuring their goods are charged at the advertised prices. You see smoked salmon pate for $5? You should expect to pay $5.
Smoked salmon pate savings: -$5.99 / Chicken savings: -$3.00
5. Confusing signage
A special at Pak’n’Save shows a special during multi-buy week, where you could buy hash browns for an extra low price of $3.99 each, or 2 for $6 . The eagle-eyed shopper who grabbed two packets of hash browns noticed they rung up at $3.99 each with no discount. He queried why the sign wasn’t over the pancakes, and was told “there was no room for it.” We received lots of examples like this that bewildered shoppers.
Would you have noticed?
End dodgy 'specials' at the supermarkets
Whether it's an 'everyday low price' or 'super saver', we asked you to send us examples of unclear or misleading pricing and promotional practices, so we can hold the supermarkets to account.