Tuesday, 30 June 2009

When a Discount Isn't a Discount

This month I feel obliged to warn you about highly misleading ‘discounts’ in the UK wine market.  The classic example is the ‘half-price’ offers that appear in most supermarkets, most of the time.  Typically we’re looking at a wine that is advertised as half price, down from £10 to £5.  Now you might think that’s a great deal and if the wine were worth £10 it would be.  The trouble is that the wine is worth £5 and not a penny more.  This is about manipulation of the law, which states that any product listed in a shop as discounted from a higher price must have been on sale at the higher price for a mere one month before it can be discounted.  So, the supermarket gets a new wine in that’s worth a fiver and sells it at £10 for a month or so, presenting this as the ‘normal’ price.  Then they put it down to £5 and call it half-price – watch out!  Having said that there are always genuine discounts in the supermarkets, but you should know the wine in question and know the price you are used to paying, which will help you realise if it’s a true discount or not.  It’s rare you get genuine discounts over 25% and always be very wary of half price deals.  Amazingly, if this weren’t cheeky enough, the supermarkets go further still and have actually broken the law on many occasions.  To name but one example; a recent Which? report found Marks & Spencer guilty of selling "half price" cherries for £2.49 (this dodgy practice doesn’t only apply to wine of course), when in fact they had only been sold at £2.99 previously.

Our second ‘discount’ is more targeted; Threshers’ permanent 3 for 2 offer.  They say that if you buy three wines you get the cheapest free; so if you buy three bottles that are listed at £6 each you pay £12 (£4 a bottle) and not £18 (£6 a bottle).  On the face of it this might look like a 33% discount, but beware!  This wine will actually be worth £4 and what they should say is that if you don’t buy three bottles you have to pay an additional 50% small volume premium!  Also beware of their Christmas vouchers, which offer 40% off all wines.  These vouchers are not valid in conjunction with the standard three for two offer so in fact this voucher is giving you a 7% discount off the real price.

To get real bargains you’re far better off looking for wines between £5 and £10 that have been recommended, won awards or are wines you know you like.  That’s a far safer bet than looking out for discounts that are often just marketing ploys.

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