Good Food Blog
Special offersPosted at 12:02PM, 16 November 2009 by Stuart Walton - Food and wine writer
Who among us can resist a special offer? Even where all our strongest cynical instincts are telling us that the big high-street stores are not in the business of giving us something for nothing, the psychology of discounts, multi-buys, standard-priced £1 items and introductory offers remains weirdly compelling.
It will now be a race to make sure I get through the mayonnaise before its best-before date
I got chatting to another customer in a checkout queue just recently, and we discovered that our baskets both contained things we hadn't come in for, didn't need, or weren't even aware of wanting. He'd got two packs of mature Cheddar, more than he knew he could get through in weeks, while I'd got two jars each of mayonnaise (which had been on my list) and marmalade (which hadn't).
The whole racket is contributing to food waste. Where you can freeze the extra items, I suppose it makes sense to stock up while the going's good, but cheese? Mayonnaise? It will now be a race to make sure I get through the mayonnaise before its best-before date. I could have it on my breakfast toast, except that I've an industrial quantity of marmalade now to use up - and I don't actually care for toast and marmalade.
Among the junk that arrives with the post each week are special-offer leaflets from the supermarkets. I should just put them in the recycle box, but somehow feel constrained to keep them on file, glancing through them while writing shopping lists and carefully discarding them when the offer periods end. Let's see - I could have two boxes of Terry's All Gold chocolates for the price of one this week, or a sky's-the-limit quantity of Ainsley Harriott cup soup at half-price. Perhaps not.
Large numbers of people are wise to the scam of half-price wine, the favourite reduction still being from £7.99 to £3.99 on wines that were never going to be £7.99 in the first place. With food, though, which we actually need, we become more gullible. The only reason shops that sell everything for £1 are profitable is that quite a lot of what they sell could be bought for less than a pound elsewhere. The same is true of a lot of the special-price items in supermarkets. The pack of salad leaves with a £1 flash on it is 79p a little way up the street.
Multi-buys are a minefield. Two for the price of one is usually fair enough perhaps, but four for the price of three? You're about to be hoodwinked into spending three times what you had intended to. Psychology is all. Special offers and discounts are nearly always printed on a red background. This is because red objects (think of traffic lights) have the property of appearing to be nearer to us than other colours. They stand out from their surroundings and call attention to themselves, making their imperatives impossible to ignore and hard to resist. Brands often pay the supermarkets to have their products at eye-level, while the cheap ranges are usually way down near the floor, where you have to stoop to find them, lowering your standards as you lower your creaking frame.
Can you resist the lure of a special offer?