Supermarkets 'not conning customers'
Supermarkets are not trying to cheat customers when multi-buy offers are not properly processed at the till, a retail analyst has told the BBC.
Steven Dresser, director of analysts Grocery Insight, said managing price promotions is a hugely complex issue.
"Retailers don't try to rip anyone off, they can't get away with it," he said.
Mr Dresser was speaking after a BBC Inside Out investigation discovered that some Tesco customers were being short-changed by out-of-date offers.
Examples of how the BBC was overcharged
- Rustlers Chicken Sub: Offer price - Two for £3 (original price £2.31 each) Price paid at till - £4.62
- Schwartz Barbecue Sauce Mix: Offer price - Two for £1 (original price 85p each) Price paid at till - £1.70
- Old El Paso Guacamole: Offer price - Two for £2.50 (original price £2.09 each) Price paid at till - £4.18
He told the BBC: "It gets complex when every single variant in an offer like pet food is involved in a multi-buy, which could include both dry and wet cat food.
"These are not located together, which makes it very difficult when overlaying the deal.
"Every single retailer has a consistency issue as to how well they manage these deals.
"Some stores are really good, with a good team and experienced management but for whatever reason, some are not so good - maybe people have left and not been replaced.
"In a nutshell, it is not simple as there are a lot of things in the mix."
Three for two
Mr Dresser added that labels showing which products were included in promotions had to be physically changed over, because introducing an automated system would be too prohibitive cost-wise.
"The majority of deals are honoured at the checkout," he added. "It's not right that the customer has to realise and go back but with the sheer numbers they are dealing with, it is always going to be a problem.."
The future of supermarket offers was debated last year with suggestions that promotions like three for two encouraged people to buy food they did not need and could lead to obesity.
Spokeswomen for both Sainsbury's and Aldi told the BBC that they had stopped using multi-buy offers in favour of keeping all their prices lower on a regular basis.
A Lidl spokeswoman said they kept price promotions to a minimum but added they do offer special promotions, offering certain discounts each week, as well as a limited number of multi-buy deals.
And a Tesco spokesman said while they were not stopping the deals, they were reducing them - again so they could reduce their prices.
He added that since the Inside Out story, a Duty Manager will now attend all price labelling complaints to make sure they are resolved immediately.
However, a Co-op spokeswoman said: "We have an ongoing promotional calendar that runs throughout the year, changing every three weeks and at any one time, there are different promotions across our 2,800 stores.
"Each promotional period will feature on average 800 offers and there are specific in-store procedures in place to ensure an effective change over between promotional periods"
Mr Dresser thinks that there is still demand for the offers from the customers.
"They are definitely reducing the wider promotions but it depends what sort of customer you are.
"If you don't want to buy eight yogurts then the offers may not be for you, but if you have a family and want to buy in bulk then you will be in favour of them.
"It would be a simpler world if there were not multi-buy offers but the stores always follow the customer and the indications are they still want these deals as Sainsbury's has not grown at a huge rate since they stopped doing them.
"I think they are here to stay - the key is how they are managed."