We love to think we're saving money on our grocery shop, so multibuy deals look very appealing. However, when we're loading our trollies with extra groceries that we don't particularly need, there's a reasonable chance that we're being ripped off in the process.
Which? has discovered that a sizeable proportion of goods increase in price when they are offered as part of a multibuy deal.
Rip offsThe consumers' association looked at 115 products over the period of a year and discovered that some weren't as good a deal when they were part of the offer. Around 10% of products increased in price when they went onto multibuy and decreased afterwards, at some point during the year.
One example from the research was the Goodfella's Deep Pan Pepperoni pizza. It was for sale at Asda at roughly £1. However, when it went onto multibuy the price increased to £2.50 or £4.50 for two.
This is a bit of a hobby horse of the consumer group, which wants to see government action to tighten regulation on pricing. Back in May it revealed similar findings after a piece of research involving 700,000 products.
ResponseThe supermarkets responded that Which? had looked at a tiny proportion of their products, and did not get a representative view. They added that their multibuy deals were good value. Asda said its prices were "consistently low, with no surprises". Sainsbury's said: "We never seek to mislead customers. We always clearly display the price." Tesco added: "We work hard to offer value, through low prices and promotions." And Waitrose said: "All our promotions offer genuine savings."
Supermarkets may like multibuy deals, but we're going off them. Some 73% of people told Which? that they'd rather have a discount than a multibuy. We don't like the requirement to do mental arithmetic; we don't like that we're encouraged to buy things we may not want or need; and now it emerges that they may not save us any money anyway.
However, they look set to stay. Which? found that the products were on multibuy for 46% of the first half of 2012, compared to 37% in the first half of 2011.
So how can you be sure you're getting a good deal?Unfortunately, the only foolproof method is to know roughly the price of everything in your trolley - at a standard price. This is hard to keep an eye on, but it's worth having a rough ball-park for the things you buy regularly, so multibuy deals aren't a complete mystery.
Alternatively if you have a smartphone you can do a quick price comparison before you buy, or check alternatives in store. If, for example, you are being offered a multibuy on three cartons of orange juice, is it a better price than a four carton pack?
However, the golden rule is to only buy those things you actually want. Even if the multibuy offers good value, it's essentially worthless to you if you end up with a lot of things going off in the fridge because it was too good to turn down.
So what do you think? Do you like multibuy deals? Do you think they offer good value? Let us know in the comments.