Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?

Supermarket prices-confused.com

If you think that you get good value from your supermarkets maybe you should think again.

All the price cutting campaigns appear to be just smokescreens to actually increase the cost of your basket.

The Sunday Times reported on research at Warwick University which examined prices between 2003 until the end of 2010. They found that supermarkets would reduce prices on lots of items by amounts as small as 1p but at the same time increase the price on others by up to 10p.

The researchers think the stores are exploiting the “number blindness” experienced by shoppers faced with hundreds, if not thousands, of price changes.

The ST article gives examples such as Tesco changing the price of Dolmio microwave sauce 88 times over the 8 year period. 40 of the changes were 1p reductions but others were increases of up to 10p.

Sainsbury’s did something similar with Hellman’s Mayonnaise: 46 changes of which 16 were 1p reductions and increases on 10 occasions of up to 10p. Sainsbury’s appeared to have fewer price cuts than Tesco or Asda.

Tesco also came in for criticism from the Grocer magazine which found that over the past 6 weeks Tesco had put up prices on 3 products for every 2 it reduced. Examples were a 35% increase in the price of chicken pieces ie up 69p and up to 35% increases on cooked meat – and all this is during the Big Price Drop campaign!

The supermarkets all claim that they offer the best possible prices to their customers. You make up your own mind.

PS I’ve written before on the supermarkets’ habit of increasing prices and then dropping them but to a higher base level. These price fluctuations are just one example of the psychological ploys used by supermarkets.