Tesco has announced a deal that it claims is the UK's first automatic price comparison coupon. The supermarket will automatically compare the price of a large number of goods in your basket with those at three other supermarkets. If you could have bought them cheaper elsewhere, you'll automatically get a coupon for the difference.
So is this something genuinely new? Can you now guarantee your shopping is always cheaper at Tesco?
The dealThe deal is called the automatic Price Promise. It will compare prices on branded and own-label goods with the same or equivalent products from Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury's.
If the basket would have been cheaper elsewhere, you will automatically receive a coupon for the difference in price, up to a maximum of £10. If you shop in-store it will be produced at the till. If you buy online, it will be emailed to you.
One of the high points of the deal is that it will also cover promotions including 'half price' and 'buy one, get one free' offers at Tesco and at other supermarkets. However, it will not include 'meal deals', combination offers (such as buy strawberries and get the cream free) or bulk buys across departments (like a discount if you buy any six bottles of wine). It will also ignore multiple offers. So, for example, if you were able to buy three bread rolls for £1 or five for £1.50, it wouldn't be included in the calculation.
Chris Bush, UK Managing Director at Tesco, said in a statement: "It gives our customers complete confidence that they won't lose out by shopping at Tesco. We know that most of our customers already save money by shopping at Tesco. On those few occasions where they could have got a better deal elsewhere, we'll make sure we give them back the difference."
So is this a good deal?There are a couple of down-sides to the deal. For starters, the fact that the deal is limited to £10 means that if you could have gotten a better deal to the tune of more than £10, Bush is wrong, you would have been better off elsewhere.
The second point is that although a large number of goods are included in the deal (including the Tesco Everyday Value range) - not everything is. So you cannot guarantee that absolutely everything you buy will be covered by the promise. There is a huge list of exclusions on the Tesco website, which excludes entire departments, from CDs and DVDs to phones and clothes.
To qualify you need to buy a minimum of 10 different products, at least one of which is comparable.
And finally, you have to spend the voucher within 28 days.
Is it a breakthrough?For Tesco it's something new. It essentially offered all this before in its Price Promise, but you had to go online after your shop and input details from your receipt in order to do the calculation.
Tesco isn't just claiming that this is a good deal. Bush also says: "We're the first major retailer in the UK to compare our prices against the branded and own label prices of our competitors and give customers an automatic coupon for the difference."
It can make this claim because Sainsbury's Brand Match offers an automatic coupon for the difference at the till, but it only compares the first ten branded items - so it can exclude a large proportion of the shopping and any own-brand goods. Sainsbury's also compares against Asda and Tesco but not Morrisons. Plus it requires a spend of £20, the total is limited to £10, and it needs to be spent within 14 days.
Meanwhile, Asda's Price Guarantee covers a vast range of products, and is incredibly generous - offering the difference if Asda isn't 10% cheaper than Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrisons and Waitrose. However, in order to benefit you need to take the receipt home and input the details the following day. It also excludes promotions that make it difficult for products to be compared. Plus you need to have bought eight comparable items, the voucher can only be used in store and it expires after 28 days.
Which is best?They all, therefore, have their advantages and drawbacks. If you have the time to spend inputting the details from the receipt, then the Asda deal remains the most generous. However, of the automatic deals, Tesco's appears more inclusive.
Of course the only way to ensure you are paying as little as possible for your shopping - in all departments, including all promotions, and on branded and own-brand goods, is to do the leg work yourself.
You can save time and do this online, and by working a bit harder can shave 10% off the cost of your shopping.
If you don't have the time or energy for this, then you have to resign yourself to paying more at least some of the time. But wherever you shop, the price promise, price guarantee or brand match will at least offer a couple of quid off your shopping - which is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
Just don't believe the hype that any one of these deals will always ensure you're paying as little as possible for your groceries: the only person who can make sure of that is you.