Sunday 20 October 2013

Second-guessing the Guesstimate: Getting the Unit-price Wrong at Tesco?

Following years persuading shoppers to attempt to compare like-with-like via the price-per-kilo addition to the shelf price, it would appear that a savvy shopper may also need to check the basic arithmetic of the multiplier...

According to an article in the Guardian, following the summer's 'strawberry court case', Tesco is once again allegedly getting its price-per-kilo labels on soft fruit wrong. Tesco's website apparently says its "Everyday Value" strawberries are £5.40 per kilo, but they are not. In reality they are a third more expensive at £7.14 per kilo.

The punnets are priced at £1.62 for 227g, with the label helpfully adding that the quantity of strawberries is equal to £5.40 per kilo. Now even those whose maths is pretty rusty can do a rough calculation – you get just over four 227g punnets in a kilo, so that is four times £1.62, which is rather more than £5.40
(i.e. £1.62/2.27 x 10 = £7.136).

The article lists several other instances, and quotes Tesco’s apparent replies to queries:
- “…as prices change all the time this figure is just meant to be a 'guide'."
- “…We'd like to reassure our online customers that no one has paid more for their berries than the listed price."

As often happens with corporate answers to consumer queries, answering the wrong question can be more damaging than correctly dealing with a genuine concern.

As most savvy customers increasingly familiar with price-comparison web-facilities will realise, a ‘per kilo’ conversion is a straight-forward arithmetical calculation that can presumably be locked to the SKU price in even the most basic computer systems i.e. there should be little scope for ‘human error’ once the new shelf-price is established…

Secondly, attempting to reassure the shopper that they have been charged the correct shelf-price is a reply more in keeping with the letter rather than the spirit of the law – a statement which is legally correct but misses the point that the shopper can be making a purchasing decision based upon the ‘per kilo’ comparison with other SKUs...

It might also be claimed that the ‘per kilo’ represents only pennies and should make little difference, except to a savvy consumer that has undergone years of persuasion that every little helps…

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