8 evil tricks the supermarkets play (which make you spend more)

supermarket tricks offers

Think you've got the supermarket shop down? Well, perhaps. But supermarkets are constantly trying to squeeze a little more out of their beloved customers. Keep an eye out for these eight tricks they play - and if you know of any others, let us know.

1. The grand tour

Consider supermarkets as a corporate incarnation of the Artful Dodger; their aim is to pick your pockets without you ever realising. Ever noticed you’re treated to the thrill of a complete shop tour even if you’re only popping in for milk? They aim to show (read: entice you with) everything in stock.

Make like a mission: know what you want and be true to your list. No distractions.

supermarket grand tour

And look, just because you're bored and stuck in a queue, it doesn't mean you have to buy up all the cunningly placed chocolate staring at you beside the till.

2. The 'do I really need that?' deals

do I really need that deals
Maybe they're pumping something through the air conditioning but the supermarket's ability to sell people goods they don't need is quite remarkable.

Be careful. The scenario runs like this: you'll be in the bathroom aisle, picking up toothpaste and beside it, mouthwash and floss will be on sale. 'Ah! A deal! I obviously should buy all this extra stuff' you think - and pay out for something you had no intention of buying in the first place. Money wasted, amigo.

3. Hiding the best deals

With some goods, you're not simply looking for the cheapest price, but the best value. The goods at eye-level are the ones the supermarket want you to buy, as they're what the supermarket makes the most profit on. So it's imperative you look around when shopping.

Hiding the best deals

Look toward the lower shelves for the cheaper prices and scan upwards for things that may be a few pence more expensive but of higher quality. In short: don't just pick up the first thing you see. The best of everything will always be hidden.

4. Artificially inflated prices

Artificially inflated prices
Booze is the biggest culprit here. You're looking to buy a bottle of wine (let's pretend it's classy Friday) and you've got a fiver. You pick up some plonk that looks reasonable, then spy a promotion down the aisle: 'Was £12 - now £5.99!' Immediately, sensing a bargain, you pick up the bottle and pay out the extra 99p for what you think is a £12 bottle. Get home and of course, it's nothing much.

The thing is, supermarkets inflate their prices, and not just on alcohol. There's been a crackdown on it lately, but prices will artificially be raised to make an offer more attractive later on - that '£12' bottle of wine may have only been £12 a handful of times in some obscure store in the middle of nowhere. Use the mysupermarket app to compare the offer price against previous cost to get an idea of whether the deal is legit or not.

Two similar products can have different pricing to deliberately obscure which is better - for instance, it may be £1.05 per KG vs 16.7p per 100g - so keep your wits about you.

5. Deliberately dodgy packaging

Buying own brand?

Dodgy packaging in supermarkets

The bottom ranges deliberately have unattractive packaging and unappealing names like ‘Value’, ‘Basic’ and ‘Cheapskate’. Your custom is a supermarket’s business and they want you to spend more and ignore the cheapest products, though the midlevel produce is unlikely to be noticeably better. Try the range below the one you usually buy and if you don’t taste a difference, stick with it and pocket the change. A value range isn't going to poison you - suppress your inner snob.

6. Overpriced loose fruit n' veg

Overpriced Fruit and Veg
Once upon a time, you could be sure it would absolutely be cheaper to buy your fruit and vegetables loose. After all, it stands to reason - with no packaging, the supermarkets are bound to charge less, right? This was true until price wars took over: in an effort to keep up with Aldi and Lidl, big name supermarkets are offering packets of fruit and veg at set prices - you'll see a bag of carrots or a broccoli for 69p, for instance. Remarkably, such price matches often take the packed items down below the cost of the loose goods, so look to see how much the items cost per kilogram, or 100g, and so on.

7. Bigger isn't *always* better

Big isn't always better
Supermarkets are cunning. They understand consumers shop with value in mind and have certain 'rules' in mind, especially when it comes to bulk buying. So they subtly change their prices:

  • Bulk-buying isn't always more economical - for instance, in some places, buying a four-pack of baked beans is more expensive than buying four individual tins. Bizarre, crazy - but true. The supermarket knows many customers assume multi-packs are always cheaper and price accordingly.
  • The same applies for 'jumbo' packs - they don't always work out at a lower price per, say, 100g. Be very careful - I've spotted it more and more frequently that three 500g packs would actually be a little less than a 1.5kg pack. Again, the supermarket assumes you'll think 'bigger pack = better value', when that isn't always a guaranteed truth.
  • If you do go for a buy-one-get-one-free, make sure it's an item you really, really want. When an item is part of a multi-buy, it's usually at a higher price than it would normally be, so the deal may not represent such good value after all.

8. 'Look at me!' sidebars

Online Supermarket Shopping
'You like bananas? You might like... ice cream!'

Shopping online is probably worse than shopping in store - a) all the websites are pretty horrible to navigate and b) they're always tempting you with more. Watch out for the clickbait sidebars, which exist only distract you and entice you spend more. Be strong - resist and, like in store, stick to your list.