Saturday, May 10, 2008

Funny pricing of tea bags – the saga continues

Sainsburys Holywood Exchange - tea direct pricing anomaly

Last Saturday I was perturbed by the continuing pricing anomalies to teadirect tea bags in Sainsburys. 2 x 80 bags boxes are £1.01 cheaper than a 160 bag box.

Now the internet has a social benefit in keeping pedants (who, me?) off the streets and out of shops. But every now and again, we escape into the community and are faced with pricing incongruities in supermarkets.

Now I’m aware that FairTrade and environmentally-friendly are different bandwagons. But they’re often related, and shared concerns when it comes to shoppers. So being charged £1.01 for less cardboard (one big box having less surface area than two smaller boxes) seems to encourage customers to be wasteful. That sounds like a £1 pure profit from unsuspecting shoppers.

(And I’m also conscious that supermarkets rightly come under pressure from people living alone who don’t want to have to buy in huge bulk to get a decent prices for foodstuffs. Though tea bags have very long best before dates.)

Stephen Barnes commented on last week’s post:

“A deliberate ruse, IMHO. Shoppers instinctively think the larger box will be cheaper and just go ahead and lift the dearer product. It's not just Sainsburys that do this either....”
Tesco Knocknagoney teadirect teabags

Anyway, a quick survey of local supermarkets today shows

  • £1.42 (80) £3.85 (160) - Sainsburys (Holywood Exchange)
  • £1.42 (80) £3.85 (160) - Tesco (Knocknagoney)
  • £1.59 (80) £3.85 (160) - Sainsburys (Forestside)
Sainsburys Forestside teadirect teabags

Some observations:

  • Sainsburys Customer Service desk at Holywood Exchange find it odd that the price of the larger boxes is so expensive.
  • After three attempts, Tesco Customer Services managed to raise someone from the tea/coffee section who explained that I needed to shop carefully, and keep my eyes open, to make sure I wasn’t ripped off. He did promise to mention it to Pricing Control - who set the prices each store has to implement and display.
  • The two competing East Belfast supermarkets (Holywood Exchange and Knocknagoney) have identical prices;
  • Sainsburys at Holywood Exchange is cheaper than the larger branch at Forestside.
Marks and Spencer - exceedly good value fairtrade tea

And the normally “premium” pay-a-few-pence-extra Marks and Spencer turns out to be the real bargain, with boxes of 160 tea bags going for £2.09.

So perhaps it’s time for a letter to CafeDirect (who are behind teadirect), Sainsburys and Tesco to ask whether they support their customers getting ripped off when they buy a bigger box, expecting to save money rather than waste a pound. (Update - three emails sent, will report back if there's any response. Further update - CafeDirect and Tesco have replied. Update - 3 June - Sainsburys too.)


Grannymar said...


These pricing anomalies are not new; they have been ongoing for years. Loo-paper, kitchen rolls, coffee, cereals are but a few of the items I have watched and checked, for the past 20 years!

Each supermarket has a couple of 'Loss Leaders' items sold at a loss to draw in the customers. We pay for these bargains in the way you describe.

Electrical retailers are another bug bear. The all sell the same machines e.g. washing machines, fridges or freezers. Each group has a slight difference in the casing or where the logo is placed and the model numbers are slightly different. That way they can display large signs declaring: ‘If you find this model cheaper anywhere else we will refund your money!’, knowing they have us over a barrel.

John Self said...

Excellent campaigning work, Alan! Did someone say 'cartel'? Definitely email the big boys and CafeDirect too and let us know what response you get.

Anonymous said...

Alan - if you're after FairTrade tea, it's worth noting that Sainsbury's own brand Red Label tea is now FairTrade (complete with logo), and as with M&S it's usually cheaper than the others, including TeaDirect etc. Oh, and it's pretty decent stuff (just had a cup).

As for price anomalies: 'twas ever thus...