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We're all gulled by special offers

Robert Peston | 09:51 UK time, Thursday, 2 December 2010

I asked the boss of one of our largest fashion retailers whether he was concerned about the substantial size of price increases he would have to force on consumers in the new year, as a consequence of the looming VAT rise, the increment in the cotton price (which has softened a bit) and the substantial inflation which China is now exporting (in contrast to the deflation that it used to export).

Shop with closing down sale

 

He more-or-less called me a blithering idiot. Visible price increases? Don't be so naive, he said. Most of these problems could be dealt with by "changing the product mix".

What does that mean? It means there'll be more clothing on the shelves that's ostensibly better quality, priced at - say - £20 an item, and very few £2 t-shirts. Or to put it another way, it's not so much that the price of the really cheap stuff will go up very sharply, but that there will be very little of it around.

Of course there will be considerable consumer detriment, a squeeze on spending power - especially for those on lowest incomes. But the impact will be hidden to an extent: it won't manifest itself in a conspicuous across-the-board price increase.

I suppose two questions follow. First, whether this change in the product mix will be adequately picked up by the statisticians who calculate the official British inflation rate (history would suggest probably not). Second, whether shoppers will be fooled into thinking prices haven't gone up that much - and will simply be puzzled about the absence of the very cheapest clothing.

Which of course brings me very neatly on to today's fascinating report, The Advertising of Prices, by the Office of Fair Trading, the competition watchdog - because it is all about how most of us as consumers are supposedly easy to fool into making the wrong or superfluous purchases, by fiendish pricing strategies employed by consumer businesses.

You know the sort of thing I'm talking about: big adverts in shop windows trumpeting a "closing down sale", for a store that never closes; discounts offered on an "original" price, where that original higher price was charged for not much longer than a nano second; websites that advertise an incredibly low price for a service - such as travel - on the homepage, but keep adding extra charges in a "drip drip" way as you navigate towards the checkout; special offers of that gadget you always wanted for the first customers to turn up at the shop, when there are almost none of the gadgets in stock at that low price.

Now you may think that you are resistant to such ruses. But the OFT says you are fooling yourself. On the basis of extensive research - both its own and external - it is persuaded that almost all of us will end up buying something that we didn't intend to buy, having been lured into a shop or website by a spurious special offer that doesn't really exist.

What's less clear is whether we make the superfluous purchase because we are embarrassed to admit - even to ourselves - that we've been gulled, or whether it's because we don't want to go away empty handed having invested precious time in the trip to shop or website. Either way, oh-so modish nudge or behavioural economics really does seem to apply when it comes to retail purchases.

Now I hear the free-market adherents and entrepreneurs among you screaming "so what!!!!!". If consumers are there for the taking, take 'em, you'll say. If someone who really believes they can fly to Barcelona for 20p, they deserve to be charged £150, as a lesson, you might argue.

Well that may be so for those households with more money than they need. But surely not for those on a tight budget.

And although the OFT is saying it doesn't like any of these putative misleading pricing practices, and is clear that many of them are illegal, the watchdog says it will crack down only on those where the consumer detriment is considerable: it won't punish retailers who only occasionally stray into falsely claiming to offer the deal of the millennium, so long as the provable harm to consumers was minimal.

That said, there is a more fundamental point for the industry to consider, I've long thought. Which is why they employ so many people whose job is to persuade us that their prices are cheaper than they really are. Surely, if those consumer-facing firms deployed the same resources into finding ways to improve productivity and actually cutting prices, wouldn't they - and consumers too - be much better off.

Maybe price comparison websites are beginning to force some firms - especially those in the insurance, banking and energy businesses - to sweep away some of the baffling complexity of their pricing structures. Although it seems to me that progress remains slow in that respect. And some of the pricing websites themselves don't seem to me to be as transparent as they might be about their relationships with the companies whose prices they monitor.

The basic point remains. We'd all be much better off as consumers if "what you see is what you get" applied to the advertised prices of all business. And, arguably, consumer-facing businesses themselves would all be forced to become much more efficient. Oh dear, there I go again, speaking like a blithering idiot, as the boss of that retailing conglomerate would probably say.

Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    RP wrote: Maybe price comparison websites are beginning to force some firms - especially those in the insurance, banking and energy businesses - to sweep away some of the baffling complexity of their pricing structures.
    ---------------------------------------------------

    This is plainly nonsense. Price comparison sites require there to be complexity or else they themselves would be unnecessary. I expect they do the best they can to encourage complexity from both their owning group and others that they list in the comparisons.

  • Comment number 2.

    Totally agree. The modern business model is all about stitching up customers. Don't expect the government to be much interested or the regulators to lose any sleep over it.

  • Comment number 3.

    Kit Green: correct. Also the comparison web-sites encourage hidden costs, so that the intial 'cheap' price brings the vendor to the top of the sort order by price. This is most notable with flights, which is why eg Ryanair remove everything they can from the ticket-price to get to the top of the cheapest price order. Expect to see this in a lot of other places.

  • Comment number 4.

    I blame the design of the Nation's education policy?

    No one can do arithmetic any more. Very few understand how to compare prices. Arithmetic has been expunged from education to ensure that everyone gets 5 good passes at GCSE. Arithmetic has right and wrong answers, and in this age of everyone must pass that whole concept of a wrong answer has been expunged from the syllabus.

    Retailers take advantage of the low level of their customers arithmetic ability. They know that now the overwhelming majority of their customers can't do price comparisons.

    It really is only in the UK that everything is prices as xxx.99 and that also indicated that the vast majority can't do the actual rounding necessary to understand the price.

    We get the retailers that we deserve, and that our education is designed for!

  • Comment number 5.

    Prices in the UK are a joke.

    Examples:

    Our local supermarket Chicken 500g two for the price of one - Hay presto it's the same price as the 1KG pack. Were they really selling 500g for the same price as 1Kg last week? If they were it was in a back freezer some were I've never seen it.

    Furniture shops

    Blue sofa suite 50% off. Rotates with the red one, white one and the green one. You may have to wait up to three weeks to get the colour you want at the right price (or pay 100% more to get it when you want it).

    Cleaning products

    30% extra. Price per 100g a penny lower than the smaller pack, a penny higher than the bigger pack, bang where you would expect it for a pack of it's size.

    These are all examples I have seen

    Along with the old Bait'n'Switch

    We did have the cheap ones in the window but we are now out and that one is for display, besides what you want is a better model......

    Annother recent one

    Free makeup. All you have to do is spen over £50. Thats NOT FREE, It's included in the £50!

    The result is that with food you can't buy small packs at a reasonable price and then we wonder why all that food goes in the bin. So long as you buy it the supermarket do not care if you end up binning it.

  • Comment number 6.

    I wonder how much the retailers are aware of the hate and contempt their policies of confusion and hidden pricing generate? I am often furious by what I consider to be underhand, sharp practice by retailers, utility suppliers and banks. You know the kind of pitch: "Buy this now - it's a good deal" then 6 months later punitive costs or higher rates kick in. This is the supplier deceiving the punter, and plaintive cries that "it is all explained in the small print" do not wash. These companies are not trustworthy; they are not making a deal with integrity. I have to deal with them but I hate them. The less I have to do with them, the better.

  • Comment number 7.

    I was hoping for a Barclays story Roberto !

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    I agree with the other posters here. I use the web substantially each day and usually use my network to do my own research and comparisons. It can be very time consuming and annoying to be treated as a fool who can be easily misled by 'clever marketing' tricks designed to conceal the precise nature of a product and the exact costs of purchase. I presume individuals or possibly whole departments are paid to generate these sorts of ambiguities and 'assist' sales and it appears to be a fairly widespread practice, so presumably, it's worth the expense. But I think many suppliers are doing their business a disservice by attempting to generate sales by concealment. Particularly, those for whom an alternative product or service is available. They're not encouraging any loyalty by their actions. In fact, crude attempts at concealment make me suspicious about what someone's peddling.

  • Comment number 10.

    The government can only prosecute where the claim is false. This can never cover the situation where a bigger pack costs more than two smaller packs. My local Sainsbury's has been selling a three pack of tonic for more than 3 single bottles for weeks now and I do the sums and buy singly. Another common one like this is fabric conditioner. Education is the only answer.
    Financial products are slightly different as they are often over everyone's head. there the government should ensure clarity.

  • Comment number 11.

    The fact that people do actually fall for these offers is simply indicative of the fact that "dumbing down" does exist both in the education system and in politics and it works.

  • Comment number 12.

    Price comparison sites should be forced to declare any links with or sponsorship they receive from retailers. Almost everything I buy online I can get cheaper than the best price shown on the likes of PriceRunner and others just by spending a bit of time searching on Google, so they are not comparing prices and showing me the best deal, they are just advertising a certain small range of retailers. This needs to be investigated as a misleading practise.

  • Comment number 13.

    "4. At 10:27am on 02 Dec 2010, John_from_Hendon wrote:
    I blame the design of the Nation's education policy?

    No one can do arithmetic any more. Very few understand how to compare prices. Arithmetic has been expunged from education to ensure that everyone gets 5 good passes at GCSE. Arithmetic has right and wrong answers, and in this age of everyone must pass that whole concept of a wrong answer has been expunged from the syllabus"

    Is this actually a serious point? Are you saying that the current generation of young people can't look at one price on an item at £99.99 and another price for the same item at £79.99 and not understand which is cheaper on comparison, due to some inability to do arithmetic, which is ultimately a failing of the education system?! Sounds like something out of the Daily Mail.

    Could it not be more to do with the way in which businesses obscure pricing, and the details of the overall package, which confuses the consumer? Something to do with the 'unscrupulous seller' model? Hence Robert's entire point above?

    If we want a significant change, how about we introduce the same traffic light system we use for fat, salt, calorie content (with the amount specificied and a colour to indicate it's 'danger value') but for the profit margin the company has for each product on it's shelf. For instance a big red sticker saying 78% profit from sweat factories in Asia for a t-shirt from GAP.

    Something about pigs flying...

  • Comment number 14.

    CAVEAT EMPTOR

    The capitalist free-market system is all about the right of businesses to take advantage of the less cognitively able in our society. It's about every man (or woman) for themselves. It's about what's in it for me. It's about de-regulation of business for the unfettered pursuit of profit at any cost to society. It's small state or no state. It's anarchism.

    ...and if you are sat at home reading this wondering why you couldn't get to work this morning due to a bit of snow, it's probably because what little is left of the state cannot manage the situation. Private businesses that now control our state infrastructure do not make provision for such adverse weather conditions simply because there's nothing in it for them.

  • Comment number 15.

    You have discovered the secret of modern capitalism. The 19 parts 'below' the surface of the 20 part exploitation iceberg. Must not get bogged down in anecdotes - we all have plenty to relate. These ways are integral to modern business & have infected the public sector. The OFT is hopelessly under-resourced. Today's consumer should go shopping with a statistician, research assistant and a psychologist to avoid being fleeced. Lets have more on this aspect of consumerism that dare not speak its name!

  • Comment number 16.

    Take care with comparison websites! – they only make money if you switch. I recently compared my gas & electricity costs on one - comparison website claimed that I could save £195; when I crunched the numbers the best I could get was £145.

    However, if I moved to a monthly direct debit with my existing supplier this cut the £145 ‘saving’ in half. Also, taking into account that the alleged cheaper supplier had not increased their prices as yet, and will probably do so and that I needed to lock in for 12 months to the cheaper supplier without them fixing the price – I decide to stay with the current supplier.

    Moral – The comparison websites are like free legal advice – it is worth what you pay for it.

  • Comment number 17.

    Two for one, three for two, etc type offers are increasingly common in the UK and have increased the time I spend navigating supermarkets in particular. I believe you can probably "take advantage" of these offers if you are very numerate and also check out the price per kilo etc (as adjusted for the two for one or other offer). But it is interesting that such offers seem to be thin on the ground or non-existent in Germany and Denmark which I have recently visited - or did I just miss them? Supermarket prices in Germany at least are lower in general than here, but not in Denmark where they have 25% VAT and fewer exemptions from VAT.

  • Comment number 18.

    @John_from_Hendon

    "I blame the design of the Nation's education policy?"

    As usual, the person who complains about standards in modern education includes a grammatical error in their first sentence. I like to read this sentence as if I were Ron "He'll read whatever is written on the tele-prompter" Burgundy with the cadence going up at the end.

    "No one can do arithmetic any more."

    Obviously, this is untrue. The focus of the arithmetic syllabus has shifted from "process mathematics" to "approximation mathematics". This is due to the advent of machines that take the vast majority of the drudgery of exact calculation away. This is faster, doesn't require long-winded methods and "close enough" is usually close enough.

    "Very few understand how to compare prices."

    Again, untrue and unsubstantiated. Plucked out of thin air based on your opinion of how great you are.

    "Arithmetic has been expunged from education to ensure that everyone gets 5 good passes at GCSE."

    Again, not true. The "arithmetic" you are referring to is actually rote learning of methods. In truth, this is easy but requires no understanding. For average to low ability mathematicians this serves no purpose in real life as they can rarely apply methods appropriately. Hence, the shift in focus of the syllabus. I think you might be assuming too much of a connection with 'easier exams' but that is a different debate.

    "Arithmetic has right and wrong answers, and in this age of everyone must pass that whole concept of a wrong answer has been expunged from the syllabus."

    Not true. Maths papers still have a 'right' answer for each question.

    "Retailers take advantage of the low level of their customers arithmetic ability."

    And they always have.

    "It really is only in the UK that everything is prices as xxx.99 and that also indicated that the vast majority can't do the actual rounding necessary to understand the price."

    What makes you think that because retailers do this, people don't understand what their doing. You clearly do and based on your rant-like post you don't appear to have much clarity of thought. I would argue they are matching their competitors' practises rather than out-foxing consumers.

    "We get the retailers that we deserve, and that our education is designed for!"

    The same ones that exist in every other first world country.

  • Comment number 19.

    Went in to our local M&S when their £10 champagne Christmas offer started, mid morning, no sign of the champers, just loads of customers peering around the shelves for it. And sure, we made a few unplanned purchases

  • Comment number 20.

    John_from_Hendon wrote "Arithmetic has been expunged from education to ensure that everyone gets 5 good passes at GCSE. "

    Nonsense! The primary school syllabus provides for arithmetic every day. Go find an eleven year old and test them - I bet their mental arithmetic is better than yours. You're talking about the education system 20 years ago. But I don't think you got your information from the real world, did you? You're just repeating what you've heard/read in the papers. Now whatever happened to verifying your information?

  • Comment number 21.

    DebtJuggler: At first I thought you were advocating the situation (there are plenty of free-market evangelists out there who would take your first paragraph as praise), but from your second paragraph I deduce that you are being ironic.

    The trouble is - again - short-termism. Yes, people will still use a supplier if they have to (and we do often have to) even if they are spitting with fury at the unscrupulous tactics. But there is no long-term loyalty; no goodwill; and come the day, there will be a willingness bordering on joy to see them fall, crash and burn. I assume that from the personal point of view, those who put these tactics in place are hoping to be out, clutching their little bags of shiny stuff before they fall. Sad, really.

  • Comment number 22.

    The shops are not so much taking advantage of those that can't do maths but taking advantage of those people who have a life, and have better things to do than spend hours doing mental arithmetic in front of supermarket shelves, or hours on their laptops plugging data into price comparison websites.

  • Comment number 23.

    Before the banking crisis gave us bigger things to think about, the newspapers campaigned over "Rip-Off Britain" - and they were right. Time to reopen that debate, and well done Robert with this excellent blog.

    Of course, ripping off the consumer is all part of the ultra-market economy that the US, the UK and a number of other countries subscribe to - drive sales and quarterly earnings by any means, fair or foul. It sucks.

  • Comment number 24.

    There are two separate issues here. Firstly, there are companies providing a service on an ongoing basis e.g. utilities, banks, telecoms etc. who change their prices or T&Cs without sufficient notice or detailed explaination. I agree that this needs to be combatted in the interests of the consumer.

    However, all this whining about supermarket/retail pricing makes me despair. No-one is forced to buy anything from a high street shop (or online retailer for that matter). If you don't like the price, don't buy it. If you do like the price, who cares if the discount is real or just marketing? i.e. use the brains you were born with!!!

    I don't normally accept the theory that we live in a nanny state but I do have to reconsider when government sponsored bodies are wasting their time trying to protect people who can't decide whether a tin of baked beans is priced fairly or not, or who think budget airlines are charities rather than profit driven businesses. If you don't realise when you walk into a high street (or online) shop that they exist solely to extract the maximum amount of money out of you at the least possible cost to them then you are naive and frankly deserve all you get.

  • Comment number 25.

    Let us be clear here almost every UK company with the exception of John Lewis have one interest - screwing the customer. They use various ruses to ensure that customers dont recognise they have been screwed.

    They use mainly complexity compare mobile phone or utility tariffs and fake deals when did DFS not have a sale on? The idea that a 2.5% increase in VAT will have a major affect is a joke.

  • Comment number 26.

    Ethical and honest businesses are becoming extinct. The prevailing consumer protection laws are a joke, especially in relation to web sites and products such as 'Yellow Pages'.

    Consumers may have a degree of common sense but many do not know when they have been ripped off.

    The focus of the media tends to be towards the major retailers and household name companies but in fact the biggest rip offs occur elsewhere.

    It would be very nice if we could have level playing field but I'm not going to hold mt breath.

  • Comment number 27.

    I would suggest it's not education and in particular people's ability to do maths. It is more to do with the fact that people in the UK tend to take things as presented, without questioning them as they abdicate their own responsibility in the expectation that others are looking after their welfare. In the case of consumer markets this may well be the result of the regulatory framework. For example, people go to the supermarket and buy 5 lbs of potatoes in a pre packed bag. They without question take that as being exactly 5 llb. Why? Because they think the state is looking after them and that trading standards officers are going around checking things for them. They don't need to question it. The same is probably true of drip pricing and so on. Consumers don't like it, but think well it must be ok otherwise the state would sort it out. Bit of a ramble, but I suspect in a society where there isn't a strong (or better still no) regulatory system in this area, people would do a lot more questionining in terms of whether or not buying three for two actually works out cheaper than buying single units.

  • Comment number 28.

    18. At 11:16am on 02 Dec 2010, marky_makry wrote:

    You are talking a good talk and sound quite believable. I suspect you work in the "strategic" education establishment or at the management level and are quite removed from the "coal face" - that is facing 30+ bored and de-motivated kids at different ability levels every day for five hours at your average comprehensive.

    "The focus of the arithmetic syllabus has shifted from "process mathematics" to "approximation mathematics". "

    That sounds great yet what I can see from personal experience is that average kids that learn the basics (OK, rota learning if you wish) and in the old fashioned way, so derided by the modern educationalists, tend to perform far better that ones taught using those latest fads. Exam results comparing two teachers using the same ability classes in two different methods speak volumes....

    "Not true. Maths papers still have a 'right' answer for each question. "

    Have you ever marked maths SATS/GCSE exam paper? Points are given for half-answers, incorrect answers that show logical thinking, showing part solutions etc. etc. So no, there is rarely a "right" answer for each question but a multitude of "thereabout" ones. Little wonder if people see £9.99 they think it is £9 rather than £10....

    ""Retailers take advantage of the low level of their customers arithmetic ability."

    And they always have."

    You just contradicted yourself in here. That was the whole point of John_from_Hendon's post....

    ""Very few understand how to compare prices."

    Again, untrue and unsubstantiated. Plucked out of thin air based on your opinion of how great you are."

    You wouldn't care re-reading AP's blog by any chance...? Or is OFT research not authoritative enough for you?

  • Comment number 29.

    I make a ruthless customer. I will boycott an entire stores group for what I view as a deceitful offer I have seen on their shelves. I need to feel confident in my supplier which is a standard I apply in business. What is the point in lying as I refuse to deal with crooks?

    Don't they understand that to mislead in order to achieve a pecuniary advantage is an offence under the Theft Act? I suppose if the City of London doesn't understand such a basic principle then there is not much hope for the rest of the commercial sector.

    I can remember the marketing policy of dear old Jack Cohen, founder of Tesco, which was pile it high and sell it cheap. That was what he did and a lot of people over the years appreciated what he did even though he could be a very diifficult person. He understood the people to whom he was selling and they understood him. Now I boycott Tesco: all of them, even the well-managed stores.

    There is also something I describe as spreadsheet-itis which is responsible for many of the mad offers you see: such as one for a quid and two for three quid. The children that assemble the prices either can't or don't check the thousands on the list and just download them straight into the store database. It is only the customer who notices if the wheel has fallen off. Don't we have a laugh!.

    Then there is the much advertised special offer which is suddenly out of stock. Poor planning? Major error more like as nobody goes to promote without a defined stock quantity to meet the expected demand.

    It is pure size that protects the modern retailer. They have taken out the small retailers, even the market stalls, leaving just the specialist dealers who survive on product knowledge and skilled sourcing.

    So where is the competition? It is the same everywhere with everything. The free-market argument falls down when there is an oligopoly and we now have many of those in the UK with often the same staff circulating around and between the organisations.

    Why do we put up with it?

  • Comment number 30.

    Failure to properly analyse the price of something isn't a risk that business should be responsible for mitigating. I think this report serves a good purpose if it reminds people they can't rely on the person on the other side of a commercial trade to tell them everything they need to know to strike a good bargain. It shouldn't lead to any greater regulation of transactions, though the conclusions it arrives at should be included in any real debate about the effectiveness of our education system. If people can't rely on themselves or their parents to teach and learn the basic rules of human interaction then I guess it's up to the school system to do it.

  • Comment number 31.

    The tactics of selling are universal those just blaming the US or UK clearly dont travel much as I do globally.
    We generally have options on who we buy from, frankly if you dont like a selling tactic like Ryanair dont use them I dont.

    The OFT and Competition Commission should be concerning themselves more with the types of acquisition we saw with Kraft of Cadbury where are consumer choice was reduced from four large confectioners down to three or the narrowing of cement suppliers down to four large groups these types of "market deals" present very real market failure of choice and ultimately keep prices higher as the economy of scale goes to the owners not the customers.
    Rip off Britain has come about because fat cats in the city have systematically sold off companies and in just about every major sector narrowed choice and these large companies use complex selling techniques a. to make comparison harder and b. to maximise their returns by highlighting what you want to see rather than the whole picture.

  • Comment number 32.

    29. stanilic:

    "I make a ruthless customer. I will boycott an entire stores group for what I view as a deceitful offer I have seen on their shelves. I need to feel confident in my supplier which is a standard I apply in business. What is the point in lying as I refuse to deal with crooks?!"

    Me too, in fact I take it to extremes. I will NOT watch commercial tv. If I use a certain search engine, I boycott all 'sponsored links'. If I have to see sponsorship, I make a note to avoid the sponsored products in the future - for instance, during the World Cup, when the sponsorship was unavoidable, I made a list of all the sponsoring firms in order to ensure that I will NEVER buy anything from any of them.

    Oddly enough, this policy of passive opposition to advertisers have never yet prevented me from buying something that I wanted or needed. The moral may be that if they have to push it at me in the media, then I don't need it?

  • Comment number 33.

    As for price comparison. Fully comprehensive insurance now bears no relation to what it did 20 years ago. All sorts of things have been stripped away to get the low headline price.

    Driving another (insured) car with third party cover
    Letting others drive your car
    Switching cover to a new car

    All sorts of things are either now not included or like changing cover have a new big price tag.

    Comprehensive my bottom! (can I say bottom? the more American word I used last time got the post dropped even with stars)

  • Comment number 34.

    Perhaps you would all like to go back to a time when the suppliers were 'the Gas Board', 'the Electricity Board', 'the Coal Board' or the GPO.

    Perhaps you'd prefer to buy your shopping from local greengrocers, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers where everything is weighed and measured for you - wait in line, please. Lets go back to a time when there was no 'own label' to choose in preference to branded goods.

    I know what - travel agents and insurance brokers.

    Let's pay standing charges and fees for things we now do for ourselves.

    Door to door salesmen instead of the internet.

    We all have more choice and more access to more information than ever before.

    Alternatively we could pay more for a more local, more personalised service, employ a few more people and consume less which might not be a bad thing.

    I'm off to buy some Christmas Crackers from a shop. I might do a bit of comparison shopping. I might just say I've got other things to do with my time -perhaps I'll watch a bit of reality TV instead.

  • Comment number 35.

    Every time I ask if I can have one for half price, instead of "two for the price of one" sales assistants look at me as if I was mad.

    Try it- it's fun.

  • Comment number 36.

    "Now I hear the free-market adherents and entrepreneurs among you screaming "so what!!!!!". If consumers are there for the taking, take 'em, you'll say. If someone who really believes they can fly to Barcelona for 20p, they deserve to be charged £150, as a lesson, you might argue."

    Hang on, I was always told that free markets relied on consumers able to make free choices - which is hard to do when you're being misled. I didn't think lying was part of free market principles, although both supporters and detractors seem to agree it's a fundamental part. Clearly my economics education was inadequate.

  • Comment number 37.

    14. At 10:55am on 02 Dec 2010, DebtJuggler wrote:
    CAVEAT EMPTOR

    The capitalist free-market system is all about the right of businesses to take advantage of the less cognitively able in our society. It's about every man (or woman) for themselves. It's about what's in it for me. It's about de-regulation of business for the unfettered pursuit of profit at any cost to society. It's small state or no state. It's anarchism.

    ...and if you are sat at home reading this wondering why you couldn't get to work this morning due to a bit of snow, it's probably because what little is left of the state cannot manage the situation. Private businesses that now control our state infrastructure do not make provision for such adverse weather conditions simply because there's nothing in it for them.
    .....................
    Is it advertising or propaganda? I struggle to tell the difference. Its all part of the process to get us to buy into the concept of cyclical consumption, a process that is inherently unsustainable in terms of the use of our finite resources. Do we really need 1000's of different mobiles, which all provide reasonable similar features? and only last 12 months before they break.

  • Comment number 38.

    The contemptuous behaviour of the retailers, banks, utility companies stems from the inadequacy of the laws and the protection they don't actually give in practice.

    There may be protection written into the statutes but these organisations will have discovered a long time ago which of the more onerous laws they need not be concerned with in court. Because those laws will be the ones that can be difficult to prove and will cost an individual consumer too much to pursue through the courts anyway, meaning they probably won't bother!

    But any consumer that goes into a well known high street retailer, thinking that shop is going to treat them fairly, honestly and decently, is the sort of person that shouldn't be let out in public on their own.

    The shop is there to part you from your cash and will use as many tricks as it can to get away with it. Even breaking the law, knowing there is a high probability it will get away with it.

    They would say, if you can do it any better, you set up a shop and do it your way.

    What is totally unacceptable is a lack of genuine competition, because of monopoly or cartel like behaviour. This is where the law should be made very harsh for individual transgressors, where company owners can go to jail and whistleblowers are given complete financial protection/compensation, by forced seizure of the company assets if necessary.

  • Comment number 39.

    The trick which is really anoying me is when at the moment is when the large retailers advertise a great price only for when you get into the store they have none of that product left and you end up buying an alternative at normal price and your weekly shop anyway as you are not going to go to another store. (imo this is common at least at Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury's )

    This isn't though actually news imo it is very similar to Ratner saying that he can get such a high margin as the product is "crap"

    They people who will suffer is the independent retailers , in this instance tailors who can only sell on quality and reputation. THe vat increase will be the final nail in the cofin for a lot of these guys.

    Finally why RP have you kept council to whom the retailer is?surely it is not in the publics interest for retailers to act like this.

    Moderators could i please ask that you allow this blog. All comments i'm happy to say are my own opinion and death of the high street is one which is close to my heart .

    This imo essenc

  • Comment number 40.

    It all depends on your budget, some consumer can't be fooled as easily as retailer think. You only need to look at the explosion in "Pound shops" to realise many poorer consumers are avoiding main stream retailers who are known to be expensive. Anyone on a tight budget is acutely aware inflation is at + 4% regardless of any "changing of the product mix". The reality is any retailer would be mad to chase the poor , they have no money !!!

    Far better to place their resources into the demographics with cash , I suspect at least 40% of the population are better off than when the recession started and its these "suckers" that the retailers will be aiming for.

    To proof a point . In the next 2 weeks , 100 ,000 cartons of fresh flowers will be sent FIRST CLASS to all points of the UK as part of the Christmas celebrations. It's numpties like these who the retailers love to fleece .

  • Comment number 41.

    20***

    No way are children better educated at maths..

    My daughter is likely to get a A at GSCE . I showed her my old "O" level paper from 82 and she could not do a single question.

    Dream on...

  • Comment number 42.

    I may be going against the grain here, but I'm afraid that I can't get too worked up about the majority of advertising ruses dreamt up by the retailers. I will however, draw the line at deceit and take my money elsewhere if I feel I am being lied to. The never-ending closing down sale is possibly the best example of this.

    Advertising strategies that in essence work on making the customer feel they are getting more for less (as opposed to the reality - they are getting either the same for the same amount or less for more) don't trouble me too much. We do have freedom of choice and in these cases a very little bit of legwork - e.g. looking at the price per 100g in the supermarkets rather than the price on the ticket, checking out comparable items on the same shelves or in other stores - can furnish us with the information we need to make the best decision for us.

    There is an argument that those who are more in need - and I suppose, though it possibly isn't acceptable to say so, those who are more gullible - are the ones who suffer most. Possibly this is true but ultimately, if people don't want to put any effort into their spending then they may quite literally pay the price. Regarding those who might be more easily duped - sorry, but this is simple misfortune. There is specific regulation for advertising aimed at children, which is appropriate. Anything further would be absurd.

    Personally, whilst I don't necessarily enjoy being battered by sales pitches every which way I turn, I find that the huge increase in information available to me online both in terms of direct and sponsored advertising has enabled me to get better value for money at greater convenience than would otherwise have been the case.

    And I don't lack for personal service either. An internet search often leads me straight to a local independent retailer (I bought a dishwasher yesterday from a local, family firm after looking at my options in all of the big out of town stores). I walk down our high street and compare prices at greengrocers and butchers while meeting plenty of people on the way.

    Our retail sector certainly isn't perfect, but I honestly believe that it is a better place for the sensible consumer.

  • Comment number 43.

    RP, I love it when you are at your most sarcastic and flippant.

    There's nothing wrong in spending £80 on a jumper which has a normal price of "£150" even though it cost £5 to make an no-one ever paid £150. Just because it has a nice label or design.
    The value somebody attribute to something goes beyond money. They may rack up a mountain of credit card debt against future earnings. But they also treasure the big purchase more and make it last longer.

    An £80 'best' jumper will last longer than 5 £20 'throw-away' ones. Not because of it's cheap child labour quality, but because if the person wearing it.

  • Comment number 44.

    #40 Agreed, postage in this internet economy is the biggest scam. Mostly because of the royal mail.
    Take for example an online retailer named after a river. Free deliver (2-4) business days will arrive the same time as £3+ first class post. It doesn't matter how fast it goes through the warehouse. It still has to go through the slow delivery network - and then you will end up collecting it from a depot because you are out when the postman comes.

  • Comment number 45.

    Would be a start if existing legislation was enforced. It is annoying that Sale prices are often pure lies, and the original price was lower or never charged. A certain upmarket supermarket, recently had price reductions on Wines, underneath the price reduction ticket, was the original price, which was lower.... And how many market traders now sell things by the bowl, so you do not know how much you buying anymore. Shops that lie about their duties under the Sale of Goods Act, i.e. You need to speak to the manufacturer, or no refunds despite it being faulty within 6 months. Shops that do not display unit prices clearly or at all, Tills were you can not see the price displayed and the increasing rarity of a receipt especially in small corner shops.

  • Comment number 46.

    to 38:

    I agree except that there is no incentive for the government to act; they get a slice of the action in the form of VAT and taxing the profits.

    I will give but one example of where the public are ripped off something rotten:

    If you own a car newer that the mid 90s, the key will have a transponder inside it. These cost less than £1.00. Go to a dealer for a replacement and the cost of a replacement key can be several hundred pounds and no one bats an eyelid.

    We are led to believe that the price reflects the 'security' aspect of the technology except that is simply untrue. How do I know this ? I'm a master locksmith and one of the pioneers of transponder based security products.

    The car manufacturers do everything they possibly can to ensure that you HAVE to return to them for replacement keys and fobs. This has zero to do with security, value for money etc. It has everything to do with ripping off their customers.

  • Comment number 47.

    @ Ian

    'You are talking a good talk and sound quite believable.'

    So, you are saying that I sound credible. Thank you.

    'I suspect you work in the "strategic" education establishment or at the management level and are quite removed from the "coal face"'

    To avoid being too specific I worked (until recently) in a 'challenging Inner London school' as a maths teacher.

    'That sounds great yet what I can see from personal experience is that average kids that learn the basics (OK, rota learning if you wish) and in the old fashioned way, so derided by the modern educationalists, tend to perform far better that ones taught using those latest fads.'

    And from my experience it's the other way around (although I wouldn't call them fads, just like I wouldn't call email a fad because 'the post was good enough in my day'). For more detail see this article which is along the lines of what I'm saying:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-11258175

    'Have you ever marked maths SATS/GCSE exam paper?'

    See above.

    'Points are given for half-answers, incorrect answers that show logical thinking, showing part solutions etc. etc.'

    And why not? Reasons why this is not a bad idea include:

    - In 'the real world' you don't necessarily have the same time pressure as exams, particularly when shopping
    - Understanding is more important than reproducing a method and I would argue rote methods rarely promote understanding as well as some more recent ways.
    - We all make slips, even the very bright.

    'Little wonder if people see £9.99 they think it is £9 rather than £10....'

    There is a leap of faith takening in your thinking to connect this idea with your previous point. My post stated that I don't actually think very many people are 'fooled' by this but that it is just market practise - it might not have the impact that it did when some whizz in marketing came up with it for the first time.

    'You just contradicted yourself in here. That was the whole point of John_from_Hendon's post'

    Not really, my point was that is was the same in his day though and it is not the result of modern methods in education. You interpretation of my very brief comment is understandable but not what was intended. Hopefully, I have now made my point crystal.

    'You wouldn't care re-reading AP's blog by any chance...? Or is OFT research not authoritative enough for you?'

    Again, my point was that this is not due to a lack of arithmetic in schools 'these days'. I agree that many contracts and products are confusing but that this is true for all ages not just the young because of a lack of arithmetic in schools as John implies.

  • Comment number 48.

    As the governments have never had a plan past saving the banks the small business community will need to figure out how to survive. Higher taxes will certainly continue to reduce retail sales but the government does not understand how the economy works and wants everyone to believe that their wealthy friends are the driving force when in fact it is and has always been the middle class, but this is more about political corruption than economics.
    The greedy banks continue to make loans difficult or non-existant for the retailers while they hoard the money provided by the government. Should have let them fail and things would be better by now...nationalized banking system was the only rationale thing to do but we are talking about corrupt governments and rational thought has no place in those decisions. Buy local..and if you can find it, locally made....the bankers are more concerned with unemployment in Asia than in the UK.

  • Comment number 49.

    #35 potatolord

    you remind of the days I would ask if i could just drink the 50% extra that was free.

    happy days

  • Comment number 50.

    Indeed.
    Transparency would be nice.
    A gas supplier details cubic metre useage on a friends bill. This is then converted into KW.
    However, a quick look at the "spot wholesale gas price on the international exchanges", shows that consistently they are charged between 300 and 1000 times the "spot wholesale price". Quick example. 1.10 per cu metre on bill, $5 per 1000 cu metre on wholesale market (at the time in question).
    So YES, BRING ON GAS PRICING TRANSPARENCY!

    As for shop and high street prices, most sale prices this year are the FULL RETAIL PRICE discounted by a small margin.

    Last year and in previous years, most outlets discounted their current shelf prices.

    After all, few shoppers are ever willing to pay the manufacturers RRP (recommended retail price)!

    B&Q, M&S, to name two are in this league. Others are more competitive.

    Some of you may laugh, but its amazing what you can buy in Aldi or Lidl for a fraction elsewhere and even if you don't use it all, or it wears out after a few uses, you've probably only paid a fraction of what it might be elsewhere.

    Robert, great points.
    Moral of your piece in TWO WORDS - "SHOP AROUND"!


  • Comment number 51.

    I agree with most of what's been written. I've looked at some special offers in the supermarkets and it's still cheaper to buy them as individual items, it kinda makes you wonder if the people who come up with the ideas actually follow them through to a logical conclusion. Course what they're hoping is that most people are in a hurry and can't be bothered to do the arithmetic to see if they are getting a bargain. As for 3 for 2 it only really works if the items you buy all cost pretty much the same. As for clothing well there are plenty of discount shops around as well as the net but again that means people putting in the effort to check things out. I know people who aren't bothered about "this years fashion" and pretty much buy all their clothes out of discount shops and they get brand names at a fraction of the price you pay in the big stores on the High St. Same with the net and certain websites, again the money's there to be saved if you can be bothered to take a bit of time to track things down. I don't think I've paid full price for a Cd or DVD in years as again I use the net. I've heard of people who used to go to the States on holiday who would take an empty suitcase and fill it up with brand name clothing and Cd's they bought there at a fraction of the cost they would have paid in the UK. So there are ways round things if people can be bothered to think about it. I also agree with the comment that if there's nothing in it for the private sector they're not bothered. Where I live there's hardly any snow, yet the private bus company that has the franchise has cancelled some services and rescheduled others with no real explanation and used the alleged bad weather as an excuse.

  • Comment number 52.

    "Rip-of Britain" (ROB, very clever) is on BBC 1 at 9.15 am every weekday just now.
    So it's kind of official then.
    Well done BBC, it took a while.
    I heard that BMW calls Britain "treasure island."

  • Comment number 53.

  • Comment number 54.


    I have bought two electrical items this year a Hover Mower and an Electric Travel Kettle respectively from Argos and Lakeland, both very reasonably priced and both do their job very well except for one small fault they share:
    They cannot be switched OFF. Yes! The ON/OFF buttons do not work!
    (They have to be disabled at the mains.) Pretty basic stuff the on/off button.

    Is no one checking the Standard/Quality of electrical goods coming in from China today. These two items could be lethally dangerous or is it a Cunning Plan by the Commissars to sort us out once and for all.

  • Comment number 55.

    47. At 13:42pm on 02 Dec 2010, marky_makry wrote:

    "And from my experience it's the other way around (although I wouldn't call them fads, just like I wouldn't call email a fad because 'the post was good enough in my day'). For more detail see this article which is along the lines of what I'm saying:"

    OK, please explain to me the following real life situation.

    Scenario:
    Very average comprehensive in the large city. Two Maths teachers, A and B, two top set classes (over two years), class levels comparable across the subjects. Both teachers taught the same classes for the same period of about three years. Both teachers are well regarded in the school.

    Teacher A is a modern liberal educationalist. His pupils work in groups, there are exchanges of ideas, teacher mostly facilitates the work rather than teaches, maths is fun, discipline is loose, classroom noisy.

    Teacher B stands in front of the class explaining the building bricks of the new topic, classroom is quiet as everybody listens, teacher ensures everybody understands the issues, pupils ask questions that are answered in detail.

    GCSE results. Teacher A: 1 A grade (re-marked after appeal), c. 20 Bs, sprinkle of Cs, Ds and Es, one fail. Teacher B: 22 As (including 7 A*s), 8 Bs.

    Go figure.

  • Comment number 56.

    Well reminds me of yesterday's shopping trip to Tesco's. Where 180 Pg tips are currently on offer for £3.60. But 180 PG Tips with a FREE monkey toy will cost you £4.50.
    Concept of FREE??????

  • Comment number 57.

    Some of our biggest companies have relied on confusion pricing for years.... mobile phone tariffs, energy price tariffs... as well as those 'hard to get out of' contracts and agreements.

    Ryanair's development of the £5 flight --- but £160 to have the plane door opened when you get there.... type 'marketing' is just the latest of the various ways companies have found to obfuscate the basic price and what the customer gets for it.

    Then you have Banks advertising bonza rates and then leaving existing customers of junk rates ..... Everything is arranged in a kind of horrible mirror image of how it ought to be arranged; and how many ordinary people wrongly feel it still is...... which makes themlittle more thansheep to be shorn in the eyes of the companies, really.

    I don't know why the Office of Fair Trading are bothering, other than the obvious reason that they want to ensure they keep their non-jobs-- they even say themselves they're going to let everyone off anyway-----

  • Comment number 58.

    41. At 13:24pm on 02 Dec 2010, hughesz wrote:

    20***

    No way are children better educated at maths..

    My daughter is likely to get a A at GSCE . I showed her my old "O" level paper from 82 and she could not do a single question.

    Dream on...

    Hmmm. Run this test of yours after she's been preparing for your O-Level paper for two years. Then we'll have a fair trial. Until then, I'd reserve your conclusions.

  • Comment number 59.

    @ Ian

    I assume you are a teacher yourself and that you might even be teacher B.

    Hear are my thoughts:

    'two top set classes'

    The ones that benefit most from these methods are those that are not in the top sets. They often have NO comprehension of how the rote methods work, whereas those in the top sets will generally get the tacit principles underlying the old methods.

    In my opinion, teacher B trained them to pass exams very well. Is this education? Too big to answer here. My view is that with any but bright students this is not helpful even two months down the line as they cannot apply methods without clear guidance.

    If you are a teacher then you'll know that the teacher themself can have as much impact as the method they employ. Did you ever watch the programme about getting adults to read (a while ago)? Not exactly the same, but I'd wager he could teach cows to walk downstairs!

    A sample size of about 40 is statistically not that significant either.

    To go back to my original point (which is in danger of getting lost in a debate about education) - modern teaching methods of arithmetic have little (if anything) to do with peoples ability to get ripped off (which was the thrust of John's original post).

  • Comment number 60.

    Also,

    'discipline is loose, classroom noisy.'

    'classroom is quiet as everybody listens'

    Your two scenario's don't have adequate control - too many different variables. It would be a tall order to argue that it was the mathematical methods taught that made the difference in grades.

  • Comment number 61.

    The lefties won't want to hear this but the problem is that most people have too much and can afford to waste a lot of it. They just can't be bothered weighing up prices. You can tell this just by looking at the size of them and the their furniture bulging with unworn shoes, etc. However after a few years of austerity that is necessary to pay for the unaffordable excesses of the last government customers will not be so easily fooled. And all I can say about people who don't believe that there really are genuine offers in shops, is that they either do not do any shopping or their mathematical ability is non-existent.

  • Comment number 62.

    18. At 11:16am on 02 Dec 2010, marky_makry wrote:

    @John_from_Hendon

    "I blame the design of the Nation's education policy?"

    Ok 'nit picker' try my fixed typo...

    "I blame the design of the Nation's education policy!" Is that any better for you?

    As all you can say against my substantive point is the I mistyped a '?' for a '!' I don't fell inclined to take any of your subsequent post as having any validity or indeed any actual content.

    I happen to have good access to mathematics teaching for over 75 years and on any rational evidenced based analysis the content of the syllabus has been reduced substantially from that in Matriculation, O level and A level. I have seen postgraduate teaching certificate candidates who are unable to do proportion sums (for example being unable to produce a rescaled recipe from for 6 people to for 4 people or to work out how to resize the list of ingredients for a cake from a 8in to 7in cake tin.

    I know what was in the A level maths syllabus in the 60's and what is in it today. I have seen so many 'proper university' courses that have to run remedial maths courses that were not necessary a few years back.

    Maths has bees substantially cut down as a deliberate act of policy.

  • Comment number 63.

    53. At 14:20pm on 02 Dec 2010, Hawkeye_Pierce wrote:
    Max Keiser in the Guardian has a plan:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/dec/02/jp-morgan-silver-short-selling-crash

    The word around the campfire is that there is not enough real silver (if it was called in tomorrow ) to cover all the money invested in it......That's just a rumour by the way, don't go lynching your brokers !

  • Comment number 64.

    @25 DibbySpot:

    "May you live to see the end of the DFS sale." {:-)]

  • Comment number 65.

    > He more-or-less called me a blithering idiot.

    So it was Philip Green then, was it? Well, at least he's not a banker.

  • Comment number 66.

    @John_from_Hendon

    'Ok 'nit picker' try my fixed typo...'

    Not nit-picking. I was pointing out the irony of someone bemoaning education standards with a BASIC grammatical error after their whinge. I haven't bothered to point out any other mistakes. It's just that if I was going to moan about something I'd make damn sure I didn't mess up myself with such immediate proximity.

    'As all you can say against my substantive point'

    At this part of your entry you haven't made a point. You've made a statement. You try to argue it further down and I provide a rebuttal that explains why virtually everything you wrote is wrong. But of course 'I don't fell [I assume you mean 'feel'] inclined to take any of your subsequent post'. How convenient.

    It is post 18 in case you now wish to read it, in full, in light of what's been said.

    To summarise my point here and now - people of your generation get 'conned' as much as any other and how you learned arithmetic had very little to do with it.

  • Comment number 67.

    60. At 14:56pm on 02 Dec 2010, marky_makry wrote:

    "Also,

    'discipline is loose, classroom noisy.'

    'classroom is quiet as everybody listens'

    Your two scenario's don't have adequate control - too many different variables. It would be a tall order to argue that it was the mathematical methods taught that made the difference in grades.

    -------------------------------------------------------

    Sorry, you are not going to get away with those cheap points. It would be difficult to employ the modern teaching methods that involve "exchange of ideas" and group work in complete silence. Wouldn't it...?

    These modern methods are alleged to apply particularly well to the gifted and talented as Teacher A keeps stressing from his courses and literature.

    In any case, Teacher B keeps getting maximum C grade scores in the crucial Set 3 (out of 6 - crucial for the A to C rankings as you would know from your teaching experience) helping to bring the school's score above 70% every year.

    Why wouldn't the example be statistically accurate? We are comparing two similar sets of pupils and two different teaching methods. I can only conclude statistics is not your strong point....

    Also, how many teachers you know who would get 1 E, 4 Fs and a 3 Gs from the bottom set (Set 6) of 12 pupils? They are not usually put forward for GCSEs....

    And no, Teacher B is not me -I don't tend to blow my own trumpet.

  • Comment number 68.

    63. At 15:15pm on 02 Dec 2010, AudenGrey wrote:
    re JP Morgan short on silver
    ======================
    The article suggests that they have held this short position for several years. Should they not have gone bankrupt by now?

  • Comment number 69.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 70.

    I do believe consumers should be alert and aware of the tactics used by sellers. After all, we are not babes in the wood. What amazes me is how few customers vote with their feet and shun suppliers who use dubious tactics. It seems that the British consumer just whinges a bit and goes back for more fleecing.
    But, what amazes me is that so many companies seem to prefer to spend huge sums on hiring staff or marketing firms in order to try and trick the public. The same sum used to genuinely lower prices would surely bring in more buyers and enhance the company image. The public may be slow to learn but they recognise honesty when they see it.

  • Comment number 71.

    63. At 15:15pm on 02 Dec 2010, AudenGrey wrote:

    "The word around the campfire is that there is not enough real silver (if it was called in tomorrow ) to cover all the money invested in it......That's just a rumour by the way, don't go lynching your brokers !"



    No, that's absolutely true - for gold too.

    A lot of 'investment' in gold and silver is made through ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds) 'to save the problems of storage and security' in holding the physical gold yourself.

    They are another form of Derivative and why anyone should put their money in these things and believe they're actually going to get their gold when it all goes pear-shaped is beyond me. They must be bonkers!

  • Comment number 72.

    Well let's have our own "changing the product mix" and talk about those big bank bosses and their attitudes to paying such huge amounts to themselves and their cronies. (As we were the other day).

    In a world where people are SO quick to be SO cynical as to look at most retail "offers" with such ridicule as "Two for the recently much-hiked price of one" and "50% off a price charged for half a day in our branch in Outer Mongolia", why do they think Jo Public will trust and want to do business with those who get such huge bonus payments?

    The world has changed from the days of Captain Mainwaring and the public has become more cynical in response of ever-increasing cynicism from the business persons. It not just the bank managers that have changed - the customers have too. They've had to in order to cope with the changes forced upon them by the bankers.

    The public is much less trusting than it used to be.

    All that means that we need to have someone with the guts to start the move of the pendulum back again. Wouldn't it be great to have a high-street retail bank that is open, up-front, straight with people and gives decent customer service?

    It would probably be swamped with ordinary folk who just want somewhere they can trust and believe in to put their money.

    But the good old business-expert bank bosses aren't going to change - they want to maintain the status quo. Must keep up that gentleman's club, 'inner ring' of big bank boss types. Hell, won't fit in here if I don't get paid by the millions, so I can't afford to give customers value-for-money.

    When are we going to get some real innovation in the financial industries?

    Or for that matter in retailing, either?

  • Comment number 73.

    I can't help thinking that retailers are behind the curve on this issue. After what we have witnessed in the past few years, I am sure the majority of consumers - now less trusting - are wise to these silly tricks.

  • Comment number 74.

    The two most used (abused) phrases used by retailers to try and gull we plebs are "up to" as in up to 50% off and "from only". The former is usually in tiny almost microscopic type whilst the latter is normally the exact opposite. In fact one well known floorcoverings retailer has in a recent press advertisement, put the "up to" sideways in the vertical bar of the 5. The colour of the 50% being dark blue and the "up to" a shade lighter. But let's face it if a retailer can afford to have a 40-50% promotion, what kind of margins are they making outside of these promotions?

  • Comment number 75.

    @ Ian

    'Sorry, you are not going to get away with those cheap points. It would be difficult to employ the modern teaching methods that involve "exchange of ideas" and group work in complete silence. Wouldn't it...?'

    It's more the loose discipline part that I am homing in on.

    'These modern methods are alleged to apply particularly well to the gifted and talented as Teacher A keeps stressing from his courses and literature.'

    I disagree with Teacher A here. I think bright pupils are more able to get by with whatever in arithmetic as they find it elementary. It is really more geared towards those less able to whom black box approaches aren't going to aid them beyond school.

    'Why wouldn't the example be statistically accurate? We are comparing two similar sets of pupils and two different teaching methods. I can only conclude statistics is not your strong point....'

    Ho ho ho. You've set yourself up here. Clearly, statistics is not your strong point. If it was you would have noticed that I described it as not statistically SIGNIFICANT. The word 'accurate' does not feature in my comment. Important? Yes - statistical significance allows you to get a sense of how robust a set of statistics is. You're sample is 40 students. In a population of however many million students it is not big enough to draw any reasonable conclusions.

    Also, I can deduce that you're not very good at science either. In experiments, having too many variables invalidates conclusions as you cannot be certain how different parts interact. Your example includes, different students (similar ability - but ignoring lots of other factors, e.g. gender, behaviour, groups of friends), different teachers, different levels of discipline and different methods of teaching. There is too much going on in too small a sample to deduce what caused the difference in grades.

  • Comment number 76.

    I took my car to the local main dealer for an MOT last month. They offered me a "Free vehicle health check". Fine, if its free I'll take it. Funnily enough, they identified £1200 of repairs that needed doing, including a complete rear breaking system (even though they were good enough to pass MOT!).

    I took my car to my local independant guy, and surprise surprise, he said I have 10 - 20k miles left on the breaks and none of the other repairs needed doind either.

    Obviously this goes beyond being slightly misleading, in to down right fraud, but it does illustrate to what lengths even large companies will stoop to make a quick buck.

  • Comment number 77.

    71. At 15:42pm on 02 Dec 2010, the_fatcat wrote:

    'They must be bonkers!'

    Don't you mean 'bankers'?

  • Comment number 78.

    #66. marky_makry wrote:

    "people of your generation get 'conned' as much as any other and how you learned arithmetic had very little to do with it"

    Your display all of the stupidity and arrogance of ignorant youth! You are unable to understand that your education has been designed to raise ignorance and stupidity to the level of a pass in every subject. You have been educated to be ignorant so I am not at all surprised by your inane and stupid postings.

  • Comment number 79.

    @71 the-fatcat

    Apparently the bulk of central bank gold sales over the past 9 years have not added significantly to the overall supply of gold. The exercise has been conducted to balance the amount of gold leased by investment banks - thus protecting the investment banks and avoiding the need to enter the market and push the price up.

    If you are interested, the link is http://www.24hgold.com/english/home.aspx. See Chris Powell - GATA.

    Makes you wonder if the gold traded by ETF's really exists. Bullion dealers are beginning to ask the same question!

  • Comment number 80.

    Well, just goes to show that the retailer has the customer by the nuptuals. And the other story today the FSA says RBS not guilty m'Lud. A case of the same Masonic Lodge perhaps?
    Regards, etc.

  • Comment number 81.

    Everyone loses when we fall victim to sharp practice. Would a plumber who pays artificially high prices for his goods not pass that increase on to his customers? The question we should be asking is why our so called Government watch dogs are allowing these things to carry on knowing that they are breaking the law in many cases.

  • Comment number 82.

    14. At 10:55am on 02 Dec 2010, DebtJuggler wrote:

    Yep. The so called 'principles' of outta control capitalism. And it doesn't look like changing anytime soon. About 20 years ago I thought that the massive transfer of wealth from poor to rich, sell off of community shared assets, and grinding people into the dirt would eventually result in a grassroots backlash and change the course of this stupidity. Not so. And there's still some way to go. But people get motivated when they get hungry, and with the rising costs of food and water, obscene scramble to control agricultural resources, expanding demand in Asia, and increasing pressure on finite resources, maybe that day is fast approaching.

  • Comment number 83.

    78. At 16:05pm on 02 Dec 2010, John_from_Hendon wrote:

    'Your display all of the stupidity and arrogance of ignorant youth!'

    Your well argued and concise response has definitely shown that.

    'You are unable to understand that your education has been designed to raise ignorance'

    Right, ok [reaches for door handle]...

    'You have been educated to be ignorant'

    What's your excuse then?

    'so I am not at all surprised by your inane and stupid postings.'

    My teachers might take exception to that notion. Although, it does explain why they were always stroking a fluffy, white cat and sporting eye patches.

  • Comment number 84.

    I believe it is first time that Clothing industry have faced such situation, where Retailers have to face their customers to pay up for increase in cost, becuase of cotton price, labour cost, vat etc
    Beyond any doubt all retailers are resisting and are reluctant to increase retail prices, which pushes the manufacturer into corner, to supply on even lower margins.
    But for consumer it is every day thing to see prices being racked up by changing "product mix" e.g. coffee
    Retailers know how to play with our bargain hunting impulse and they are good doing very good.
    For Clothing industry inflation is leading to durable, high quality garments. If consumer has to pay more retailers are serving to convince that they are giving better quaility garment then before. Perhaps it is end of disposable fashion.

  • Comment number 85.

    "Of course there will be considerable consumer detriment, a squeeze on spending power - especially for those on lowest incomes. "

    How many people does that include. Hardly insignificant, is it? All those laid off police, council workers, ...... BBC people, ....... And the Uni Humanities/Arts staff yet to come.....

    Then there are those who vote with their feet and refuse to 'spree' in preparation for fuel increases, food increases etc,

    Buying power is just like a pyramid.
    Now what does that remind you of?

    Do y'think the traders and their nutty investments might be pushing retailers towards the cliff?

  • Comment number 86.

    fashion.....
    best to be out of fashion and clear of debt.....
    after the news that RBS has been cleared of "wrongdoing" by the FSA, I doubt whether the FSA is fit to call the judgement on this : it has its very own murky past.
    And does OFT give value for money as well?
    Government quangi such as these are a waste of money and a sop to politician's consciences
    All morals thrown out of the window when money is to be made.
    lets not mention sweatshop labour abroad.
    lets not mention the coalition's failure to rein in the horrible behaviour of creditcard companies after vulnerable people have blown their credit limit on that musthave piece of junk sewn together by children in India.
    What is required are substantial fines for misbehaviour in the financial sector.
    Not just your money back when the Financial Ombudsman rules in your favour.
    Not a quango, legislation enabling the courts to fine "wrongdoers".
    And more BBC programmes such as RIP OFF BRITAIN hurrah for Angela Rippon et al, lets have a daily financial programme 15 mins long featuring you Robert Peston and these gorgeous women relentlessly pointing out to consumers all the risks, your audience will supply a constant stream of material to be investigated. Much more useful to big society than the greedy property and makeover shows.

  • Comment number 87.

    "But it is interesting that such offers seem to be thin on the ground or non-existent in Germany and Denmark which I have recently visited - or did I just miss them? "

    As far as I know they're illegal in Germany on the very reasonable ground that a two for one offer is really just 50% off if you buy two. So it's not really "buy one get one free" and they don't like the deception involved.


  • Comment number 88.

    19. At 11:17am on 02 Dec 2010, Jack Sanderson wrote:

    Didn't your mum teach you how to shop?

    Get a 'message list' and stick to it. If it isn't on the list you don't need it. Walk on.

    See a nice jumper etc? Walk on. Is it still nice next week?

  • Comment number 89.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 90.

    @78 John_from_Hendon

    Whilst I totally agree with your sentiments, I regret the abusive nature of your response.

    In all sincerity - as an educated man, can't you see that it just devalues your credibility.

  • Comment number 91.

    Nice article Mr. Preston. Really clarifying.

    No just another useless "mantra" about the EU debt crisis.

  • Comment number 92.

    Not wishing to take away from the lively debate re UK educational standards but isn't today and England not winning the chance to host the 2018 World Cup a good day to bury the whitewash re RBS?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-11898059

  • Comment number 93.

    Do a quick search on Scott Adams and "confusopoly"...amusing, accurate and easy to understand.

    In gulliver's travels (Lilliput?), they fined you for theft, but hanged you for lying, because they said "a man can defend himself against theft, but has no defence against misinformation".

    Another failure of governance in pursuit of "growth".

  • Comment number 94.

    Welcome to the world of free market capitalism, free to choose whatever you like as long as they want to sell it to you.

    In the meantime the markets rise on an ECB promise to buy sovereign bonds because, well because they have to. I'm loving this, bad news is good news, good news is bad news!!! The markets rise on an ECB promise because it means the markets won't have to buy dodgy bonds and they can speculate in the knowledge the ECB is taking the toxic "Stuff." More freedom, you can invest where you like as lonng as its where the markets tell you.

    For the last few weeks I been trawled round shops by my wifein search of Christmas fayre and really is noticable how all the shops stock the same "stuff" en masse. Feedom of choice my butt.

  • Comment number 95.

    Probably worth mentioning the "free Sky+HD box" that you get with a one-year Sky subscription.

    Only in the small print do you find that it's a useless (it doesn't play, pause or record) without a Sky subscription of at least £10 a month.

    Free, but useless.

  • Comment number 96.

    My Local supermarket has a clever ruse for fruit and veg to make it very difficult to compare prices on pre pack versus loose produce - it never uses the same measure for pricing, for example a pack of 4 apples might be priced at £1.99, but with no price per Kg (or Lbs) whereas the loose is priced by weight, and of course there are no scales around to compare......I always buy loose and when I have made an effort to compare it's much cheaper

  • Comment number 97.

    73. At 15:51pm on 02 Dec 2010, TonyH wrote:
    I can't help thinking that retailers are behind the curve on this issue. After what we have witnessed in the past few years, I am sure the majority of consumers - now less trusting - are wise to these silly tricks.

    ==========================

    If they didn't work then they wouldn't use them, they have oodles of data to show they do - as one loses effect or is copied by competitors they move on to the next one.

    Huge amounts of research go into understanding why consumers behave as they do, it is incredibly effective, because one thing consumers really don't understand is themselves and why they behave as they do.

    One fundamental is everyone likes to think they are getting a bargain - either because they have won but also equally as they think others have lost (this is the perma closing down sale reasoning).

  • Comment number 98.

    RWWCardiff, glad to see you agree with me about RBS and FSA.
    Must again plug RIPOFF BRITAIN, watch today's episode on iplayer, especially the section on debt management plans and IVAs.
    Where is the legislation which will force credit companies to make and accept reasonable repayment offers from individuals without the intervention of debt management companies?
    How many more 18 year olds in UK land up in x thousand pound debt because unscrupulous retailers, banks etc have lured them into contract and credit agreements to purchase must have rubbish ?
    Come on Robert, lets have a primetime financial showdown show, preferably after the six o'clock news with you, Angela et al, do some good BBC, help those teenagers , elderly people etc who need you to explain the awful way they are being conned out of the little money they possess.

  • Comment number 99.

    With regard to "rip-offs" I have now reached the age where I don't have to worry about the latest fashions or the latest gadgets. Why do people buy goods at a given price when, if they are prepared to wait, they can buy the same items at half that price in the "sales" a couple of months later. Presumably these "sales" prices still allow the retailer to make a good profit. This demonstrates how much of a "rip-off" the original prices were in the first place. Just be patient!

  • Comment number 100.

    All society now runs on the premise "fleece the poor and ignorant." You see it in retail, travel, finance, housing. its a top down system where the unhappy many are kept ignorant enough to prop up the laughing few. Society is more "Metropolis" now than it has ever been.

 

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